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Court rules suit challenging Youngkin move to drop Virginia from RGGI can proceed

Chris Graham
climate change pollution
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A Floyd County court ruled on Monday that a suit against the state to challenge Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s move to disengage Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative can proceed.

The suit, filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, alleges that the Air Pollution Control Board and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality do not have the authority to remove the state from the RGGI.

Virginia had joined RGGI in 2021 under Youngkin’s predecessor, Ralph Northam, a Democrat, after the General Assembly passed a 2020 law to require the state’s participation in the pact.

Advocates point out that the carbon cap-and-invest program, in three years of implementation in Virginia, had brought nearly $830 million to the state to fund flood resiliency projects and energy efficiency programs for low-income Virginians, while also cutting power plant pollution by almost 25 percent.

Virginia dropped out of the RGGI on Dec. 31, 2023, after the Youngkin-majority Air Pollution Control Board had voted to repeal the regulation earlier in 2023.

In a ruling handed down on Monday, the Floyd County Circuit Court ruled that AECP has standing to challenge the decision to remove Virginia from RGGI, and that two of the chief claims in the suit – that the Air Pollution Control Board, DEQ, and its director do not have the authority to remove the state from RGGI, and that the administration didn’t support the decision with the evidence required by the Virginia Administrative Process Act – can move forward.

In a victory for the Youngkin administration, the court denied the plaintiff’s request that the state’s action be suspended while the lawsuit is pending.

A hearing in the case has been set for Sept. 16.

“We are pleased with today’s decision, which allows this case to move forward and will ensure the administration’s decision to leave RGGI, which we have repeatedly alleged is unlawful, will be reviewed by a court. We look forward to the next steps in this action and will work as expeditiously as possible to get Virginia back in RGGI,” SELC senior attorney Nate Benforado said in a statement issued after the ruling.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," 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, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].