Board prioritizes Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s political agenda over the needs of Virginians
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA — Today, Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board decided to remove the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. In a 4-3 vote, the board carried out the wishes of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has targeted RGGI since taking office.
Prior to today’s vote, members of the public had an opportunity to comment on the proposed repeal and Virginians overwhelmingly expressed the desire to stay in RGGI.
“The Air Pollution Control Board’s action today suggests that Virginia is willing to abdicate its role as a climate leader in the southeast,” said Faith Harris, Executive Director at Virginia Interfaith Power and Light. “Participation in RGGI set Virginia on track to drastically reduce pollution emissions from energy production and demand through energy efficiency project investments for our neighbors from auction proceeds. Ultimately, we remain convinced that RGGI is the law.”
In 2021, SELC filed an amicus brief on behalf of Harris’s organization, Appalachian Voices and Wetlands Watch, supporting the defense of RGGI.
“Rather than acknowledging that Virginia’s participation in RGGI is required by law and is working as designed, this Administration has pushed forward with an ideological battle,” said Peter Anderson, Virginia Policy Director for Appalachian Voices. “We will continue fighting for Virginian communities impacted by climate change—which is all of us—and especially the most vulnerable communities, who have been benefiting the most from Virginia’s participation in RGGI.”
Of today’s decision, SELC Senior Attorney Nate Benforado said, “This is a disappointing day. With this action, the administration has decided it would rather circumvent the law than listen to the General Assembly and the clear voice of Virginians who know RGGI is working.”
Virginia joined RGGI after the General Assembly passed a 2020 law requiring Virginia’s participation in the successful regional program. Other states participating in the program are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Since becoming the first Southern state to participate in RGGI, Virginia has already made substantial gains in reducing and controlling air pollution from power plants, while bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars to help low-income households save on energy bills and localities plan and protect against recurrent flooding.
“Ironically, this disappointing decision comes on the day of another RGGI auction that will deliver tens of millions of dollars more to meet our flooding resilience needs.” said Skip Stiles, Executive Director of Wetlands Watch. “Were this decision to stand, Virginia would lose the only assured source of flood funding we’ve ever had. But remember, the General Assembly established our membership in RGGI and only they can take us out.”
The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region’s air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 200, including more than 100 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. southernenvironment.org
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future. appvoices.org