Air Board votes 4-3 to remove Virginia from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Politics, Virginia

Air Board votes 4-3 to remove Virginia from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

virginia map
(© josephsjacobs –

The State Air Pollution Control Board voted on Wednesday to approve a regulatory repeal of Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The 4-3 board vote comes at the direction of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who targeted RGGI on the campaign trail in 2021 and issued an executive order calling for the state’s removal from the environmental initiative on his first day in office in 2022.

In a statement on Wednesday, Youngkin said the decision by the board “protects Virginians from the failed program that is not only a regressive tax on families and businesses across the Commonwealth, but also does nothing to reduce pollution.”

Yeah, that one deserves a fact check.

Since becoming the first Southern state to participate in RGGI in 2020, Virginia has made 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.

The board vote was met with sweeping condemnation from environmental advocates.

“This Initiative is working to reduce energy costs for Virginians, and withdrawing from it undermines the Commonwealth’s economy,” said Kim Jemaine, director at Advanced Energy United. “In the first two years of participation, RGGI generated $252 million for weatherization and energy efficiency projects, chiefly for low-income Virginians. RGGI has been particularly impactful for the over 200,000 low-income residents who pay a disproportionate amount of their income toward the cost of energy.”

By 2030, the statewide impact of these RGGI resources, according to Advanced Energy United, are projected to total over $2 billion in the form of jobs, investments, and financial savings.

About 73,000 Virginians are currently employed in the energy efficiency workforce.

“The investments made through RGGI are already creating thousands of in-state jobs,” Jemaine said. “All of these benefits are threatened by this withdrawal, so on behalf of Virginia’s hardworking families and businesses, we are urging the Air Pollution Control Board to reconsider its decision.”

“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.”

“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.”

“This is a disappointing day,” Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Nate Benforado said. “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.”

“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.”

“Today’s vote by Gov. Youngkin’s rigged Air Board is a blatant end-run around the legislature and a handout to big polluters at the expense of Virginia communities that are now on their own to combat dangerous flooding,” said Michael Town, executive director, Virginia League of Conservation Voters. “This shortsighted repeal effort will also lead to a heavier energy burden for vulnerable Virginians already struggling with household costs.

“If Youngkin spent half the time doing the right thing for his constituents that he does trying to grab national attention, he might have noticed that Virginians overwhelmingly support climate action and want to see us stay in this vital program that’s already yielding positive results for our Commonwealth in the form of cleaner air and direct investments that make Virginians’ lives better,” Town said.

“As a firefighter, going to bat for families on the worst days of their lives is a part of the job. This includes saving loved ones from the dangerous floods that have only gotten worse due to climate change. I support RGGI, because protecting communities from flooding is critical to fighting back against these extreme weather events. As a parent the most important thing we can do is leave our planet and community better than we found it for our kids,” State Sen. Jeremy McPike (D-Woodbridge) said. “Gov. Youngkin’s anti-RGGI agenda is cruel and leaves vulnerable communities unprepared for the extreme heat and hurricane season that’s to come. These actions are not legal, and it’s why electing climate champions should be top of mind for voters this year. We’re the leaders who’ll end Youngkin’s petty anti-climate agenda for good and keep our communities safe.”

“Any administrative action by Gov. Glenn Youngkin to end Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is an illegal attempt to circumvent the legislative branch. RGGI is law,” said Blair St. Ledger-Olson, legislative director for Climate Cabinet Action. “RGGI has been a universal success because while lowering pollution rates, it also helps Virginians save on their energy bills. RGGI is a political win-win for Virginia, and yet, we’re seeing a Governor who is putting his national ambitions before creating a cleaner, safer future for our commonwealth. Thankfully, election season is around the corner, because accountability for this anti-climate governor is sorely needed.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page,