Energy & Environment

Youngkin says he will withdraw Virginia from regional carbon initiative

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) on Wednesday pledged to withdraw the state from a regional carbon market comprising 10 coastal and New England states.

In a speech at the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Youngkin denounced the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) as a “carbon tax that is fully passed on to ratepayers” and said he would remove Virginia from the compact by executive order after taking office in January, according to a recording shared with The Hill.

Youngkin specifically cited a request by the state’s primary electric utility, Dominion Energy, seeking to recover RGGI costs from customers.

“I promised to lower the cost of living in Virginia and this is just the beginning,” he added.

Virginia joined the RGGI as part of an amendment by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act, which the state General Assembly passed in 2020.

Utilities in states participating in the market pay the state for credits to offset emissions past a ceiling. The revenues are used for energy assistance to low-income residents.

In a statement Wednesday night, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) maintained this means Youngkin cannot unilaterally exit the market.

“The Virginia Clean Energy Economy Act is law which cannot be undone by executive fiat [and] our Commonwealth should and legally must meet these important clean energy targets,” Beyer said in a statement.

“RGGI brings millions of dollars to Virginia to help with that transition, a transition that also is vital to addressing the coastal flooding the Governor-elect promised to combat. An executive order that costs Virginia dearly in the middle and long term is not a good financial move, and it isn’t the kind of pragmatic approach that Virginians expect from their elected leaders in either party.”

Republicans in the state legislature, who took control of the state House of Delegates in November, have similarly vowed to roll back environmental legislation that Democrats passed during the two-year period when they held a trifecta in the state government.

Del. Todd Gilbert (R), who has been tapped as the state’s incoming House Speaker, said in November that one such law, the Clean Economy Act, would be a target in the upcoming 2022 session.

“What [environmental legislation] did was, by the State Corporation Commission’s estimation, make the average Virginia family pay $800 more a year in energy bills,” Gilbert said at a news conference last month. “That’s certainly another area we’d like to revisit because we think that went way too far.”

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