Youngkin is Marching Virginia Backwards
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) reduces carbon emissions and provides vital funding for coastal resilience and energy efficiency. Youngkin’s scheme to withdraw from RGGI will take Virginia in the wrong direction.
2020- Climate Victory: Virginia’s General Assembly passed the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act and joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap-and-trade program to cut carbon. It was a HUGE WIN for VA! Learn more>
July 1, 2022- Youngkin Will Push to Illegally Pull VA from RGGI: Younkin is appointing two new members to the Air Pollution Control Board, giving him an anti-climate majority. In July, they will likely vote to illegally withdraw Virginia from RGGI.
WHAT’S NEXT? Court battles may ensure, as well as chaos for Virginia’s carbon cap-and-trade market and loss of vital flood mitigation aid. CCAN Action Fund is working with allies to head off Youngkin’s scheme.
We’re Mobilizing Grassroots Pressure to STOP Him.
Republican Gov. Glen Youngkin is a Trump-style anti-climate radical who wants to withdraw the state from RGGI. We’re not going to let that happen!
RGGI: Polluters Pay & People Profit
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a cooperative, market-based effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. It represents the first cap-and-invest regional initiative implemented in the United States.
What does RGGI do?
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions- RGGI is a market-based effort to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.
- Raises funds to help Virginia communities–Since VA entered RGGI our state has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to help Virginians adapt to climate change and save money.
- Funds flood resilience work throughout the state–As our climate crisis worsens, Virginians from Hampton to Winchester and beyond are seeing flooding impact their lives. Local governments have already been awarded RGGI funds that they are counting on. Don’t shut off the tap now!
- Helps everyday Virginians lower their energy bills–Virginians who are most at risk for high electricity bills are often not able to get the help they need through existing government programs. RGGI funds fill that gap by allowing Virginians to weatherize their homes so they can save money and reduce their carbon footprint in the process. Learn how impactful this has been here.
Why protest Youngkin policy now?
- Virginians want climate action!
- Voters support the state’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative carbon cap-and-trade program (67% to 26%) and the Virginia Clean Economy Act (67% to 28%), a law requiring the state to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050.
- Climate action is good for business– the state is projected to receive over $370 million in the first two years of participating in RGGI!
Youngkin's Backwards Logic
Click on each talking point for our rebuttal.
Simply put, the VCEA mandates that Virginia reach a carbon-free power grid by 2050, and RGGI is the most cost-effective way to meet that goal. If the Air Board removed the state from RGGI, Virginia would still be beholden to its VCEA targets. RGGI is a market-based program that gives states flexibility to determine the best way to use proceeds to benefit their residents and gives utilities flexibility to find the most cost-effective ways to meet emissions limits. Virginia is also already benefiting from the proceeds from the program: the state is projected to receive over $370 million in the first two years of participating in RGGI.
While true, this data does not suggest that Virginia can afford to leave RGGI. Much of those emissions reductions were accomplished by reducing Virginia’s reliance on coal for electricity and replacing coal with natural gas. However, most of those gains in emissions reductions have been achieved by this point; Virginia has only a handful of coal plants left in operation, and they run at limited capacity. So while progress was made from 2010 to 2020 in reducing emission rates per MWh, the fuel-switching that drove those reductions cannot deliver many more reductions. Instead, a program like RGGI is necessary to continue that progress in reducing emissions and accelerate it by encouraging more clean electricity.
First, one of the grant programs that RGGI funds is an energy efficiency program that helps reduce energy costs, especially for LMI residents. VCN has a breakdown here that illustrates the critical role RGGI plays in reducing costs for Virginians through efficiency and weatherization improvements. While Youngkin likes to emphasize that RGGI adds an additional few dollars to the average Virginian’s monthly electric bill, the average Virginia family could save nearly $1,000 in electricity costs by making weatherization improvements. As VCN points out, RGGI funding is essential to make this weatherization possible, especially for LMI families.
Additionally, if the concern with RGGI is that costs are passed on to consumers, Virginia doesn’t need to necessarily scrap the entire program. As noted in this Mercury article, Virginia originally designed its RGGI participation program as a “consignment auction” where some auction proceeds would be redistributed to ratepayers to reduce cost impacts. This is how Maryland and three other states handle their participation in RGGI. Virginia could shift to this style of participation in RGGI, still reap the benefits of reducing carbon emissions, and direct funding back to ratepayers instead of to grant programs.
First, if Youngkin (and Dominion) are concerned about high emissions allowance prices, and the impact those prices could have if they are passed on to ratepayers, the obvious solution is to procure more electricity from clean energy sources and avoid the allowance costs.
Second, Dominion includes the costs associated with RGGI participation when it bids to supply power to the PJM grid. This means that the additional RGGI costs cause pollution-emitting sources to be dispatched less for power generation.
Additionally, as stated earlier, if the problem Youngkin wants to raise with RGGI is that costs are passed on to ratepayers, the solution isn’t to scrap the program, but to examine whether a “consignment auction” would better meet the states’ goals to reduce impacts on Virginia residents than the efficiency and resilience grant programs the RGGI funding currently goes to.
Youngkin’s main talking points are based on a report he ordered from DEQ earlier this year on a cost-benefit analysis of RGGI. His main talking points from the report are outlined above (and can be found in a press release here).