Virginia Governor-Elect Ralph Northam Announces Historic Legislation to Formally Join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Use the Proceeds for Public Benefit

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CCAN Action Fund Have Championed a Bipartisan Push for This Bill for Four Years and Now Welcome Northam’s Game-Changing Support. Terry McAuliffe joins Northam in Announcement

Statement from Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the CCAN Action Fund:

 “The word ‘historic’ is often overused as an adjective in policy discussions. But, in the fight against climate change, today is an historic day for Virginia and for the American South. We wholeheartedly applaud Governor-elect Ralph Northam’s (D) announcement that he will support legislation to formally join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and invest the proceeds into programs that benefit the public. This announcement is the boldest single legislative commitment ever made by a Southern governor in the fight to reduce global warming pollution. It marks a new era for Virginia and the nation. Even as federal efforts tragically shrink on climate change, state efforts are heroically growing — and Ralph Northam is now proof of that.


Starting in 2014, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and its 20,000 supporters statewide, have been advocating for precisely this type of legislation, previously called the Virginia Alternative Energy and Coastal Protection Act.


From Maine to Maryland, RGGI has been an overwhelmingly beneficial program in boosting state economies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against global warming. By supporting legislation to formally join RGGI, Governor-elect Northam is getting off to the best possible start in finally bringing Virginia into the serious fight against sea level rise, climate injustice, and in favor of clean energy. We look forward to seeing the details of the bill and working with the administration and the General Assembly to secure its passage. ”

BACKGROUND: The idea of joining RGGI and using the proceeds for coastal adaptation and clean energy development in Virginia was first proposed to legislators in 2014 as part of CCAN’s “Safe Coast Virginia” report, authored by former CCAN policy advisor James McGarry. CCAN, more than any other group, has championed this approach, working in a bipartisan way over the past four years. Special thanks should go to former Virginia House Delegate Ron Villanueva of Virginia Beach, a Republican. For three consecutive legislative sessions, Del. Villanueva championed a very similar bill to join RGGI and use the proceeds for public benefit, including investments to fight coastal flooding due to sea-level rise. Democratic state Senators Donald McEachin, Linwood Lewis, and Mamie Locke have also sponsored the bill.

Northam’s predecessor, Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), announced in his final months of office a plan to link with RGGI by executive order. However, the order lacked the authority to establish provisions for how the carbon market revenue could be used, leaving open the door for polluting companies to use the programs as their own revenue stream. Northam’s announcement today declares that the executive order will continue to move forward while the Governor-elect works with the General Assembly to pass legislation to formally join RGGI and use the proceeds for public benefit.


Denise Robbins, Communications Director, 608-620-8819,

Mike Tidwell, Executive Director, 240-460-5838,

Harrison Wallace, Virginia Policy Coordinator, 804-305-1472,