Va. governor signs budget that restricts carbon-reduction efforts

Va. governor signs budget that restricts carbon-reduction efforts
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Virginia’s recently signed budget includes language that restricts the state from spending funds on a multistate agreement designed to reduce carbon emissions.

The budget, signed over the weekend by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), includes Republican-introduced language that limits participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a pact initially started by Northeastern states in 2009 that creates a larger cap-and-trade market to reduce how much power producers can pollute.

Northam previously vetoed a bill from the GOP-led legislature that would have blocked the state from joining the initiative. The language introduced in the budget prevents Virginia from spending money on the initiative, according to The Washington Post.

Environmentalists had urged Northam to use a line-item veto to reject the budget language dealing with RGGI.

“This is a disastrous retreat. In choosing not to veto the measure, Gov. Northam is showing his subservience to big polluters and climate deniers,” the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said in a statement.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who committed the state to joining the pact when he was in office, tweeted, “This attack on the environment must be stopped.”

Northam’s office did not respond to requests for comment from The Hill but told the Post that the state’s Department of Environmental Quality would look into ways to reduce carbon on its own.

The RGGI language in the state budget could also signal trouble for another initiative, one that focuses on pollution from cars and trucks rather than power plants.

The program, known as "RGGI redux," targets pollution in states along the busy I-95 corridor, including Virginia, where transportation contributes to 45 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Expanding that agreement would be a heavy political lift, and environmentalists are questioning whether Northam — who has rebuffed calls to resign since February, when racist photos were discovered on his medical school yearbook page — can advance those types of progressive policies.

The NRDC said signing the budget without a fight “further erodes his capacity to lead.”