Legislation to join RGGI a win for clean air, necessary first step in addressing the climate crisis in Virginia

Bill will send hundreds of millions of dollars to benefit low-income communities

RICHMOND – Legislation from Senator Lynwood Lewis and Delegate Charniele Herring, Majority Leader of the House of Delegates, to finalize Virginia’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is gaining momentum at the General Assembly, with strong votes today moving both bills forward. 

Titled the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act (House Bill 981 and Senate Bill 1027), the legislation paves the way for a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution over the next decade and directs the state to divide revenue raised through RGGI on efficiency programs to benefit low-income populations and protecting frontline communities from sea level rise. 

“This bill will begin to right the wrongs of Virginia’s legacy of energy injustice,” said Harrison Wallace, Virginia Director of the CCAN Action Fund. “By investing in efficiency for low-income communities and helping all Virginians become more resilient to floods, we are building a stronger, more equitable Virginia.”

A highly successful, multi-state cap-and-invest program, with a decade-long track record of cutting air pollution and bolstering economic development and clean energy deployment, while also lowering the cost of electricity, joining RGGI is a no-brainer for the new, pro-climate action majority at the General Assembly, and is critical as we work toward comprehensive, holistic solutions to the climate crisis in 2020 and beyond.

“Voters want to see the General Assembly take steps to protect clean air and our future. This legislation will help Virginia address the climate crisis while also protecting vulnerable populations and frontline communities,” said Danielle Simms, interim political director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. “Joining RGGI won’t get us all the way there, but the legislature has the opportunity to lay the necessary groundwork we need to secure cleaner air for future generations and drive years of investment in programs that cut pollution and help Virginia communities from the impacts of flooding.”

“Virginians have spoken and they want the General Assembly to take action on climate,” said Kristie Smith, policy and campaigns manager for Virginia Conservation Network. “These bills are the result of years of extensive community engagement that address the climate crisis and provide critical investments in low-income energy efficiency and flood preparedness. We applaud the patrons for their leadership and urge members of the General Assembly to pass this legislation with the urgency the climate crisis demands. This is a first step in a series of actions that put Virginia on a path to 100% clean energy.”

Background:
In April 2019 the State Air Pollution Control Board approved a first-of-its kind regulation in Virginia to cut carbon pollution from our state’s biggest and dirtiest power plants by 30 percent over the coming decade and connect Virginia with the RGGI marketplace. The previous General Assembly blocked implementation of this regulation through language in the budget, and legislative action was still required to fully utilize the revenue generated in the carbon marketplace.

In December, RGGI states agreed on a new price per ton of carbon. Under the new model, Virginia will see upwards of $100 million per year of revenue once the legislature acts. With a new, climate action majority in place at the legislature, the General Assembly now has the opportunity to turn harmful power plant pollution into programs that safeguard Virginians from rising seas and reduce energy demand. 

Under this legislation, half of this revenue will go towards low-income energy efficiency programs, efforts that will help reduce energy usage and lower the cost of electricity for some of the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Another 45 percent will go toward protecting frontline communities impacted by sea level rise and flooding from extreme weather. The remaining funding will help state agencies oversee the program and also carry out statewide climate change planning and mitigation efforts.

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Media contact:
Lee Francis, Deputy Director
Virginia League of Conservation Voters
(804) 225-1902 | lfrancis@valcv.org