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New Virginia state budget doesn’t address Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Chris Graham
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The new Virginia state budget is missing a provision keeping the state in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that had been in there when legislators passed their original spending plan in March.

This would appear to be the one legislative win in the 2024 budget season for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who as a card-carrying Republican apparently can’t let himself agree to anything related to efforts that would have a positive impact on the environment, at the expense of losing the financial support of his fossil-fuel overlords.

A joint statement from a group of leaders of the Virginia environmental community issued after the governor signed the new two-year state budget on Monday castigated Youngkin and Virginia Democrats alike for the failure to address the RGGI issue in the new state budget.

“At a time when we’re seeing extreme weather events happen more regularly, and as we head into what forecasters are saying will be another summer of scorching temperatures, it is incredibly disappointing that lawmakers aren’t doing everything they can to stand up to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s illegal RGGI repeal and gutting of a program intended to protect vulnerable communities from flooding and lower energy costs,” the leaders said.

“To be clear, Gov. Youngkin got us into this mess. But it is incumbent on lawmakers to do everything they can going forward to protect vulnerable communities from climate change and rising energy costs, and to secure a clean energy future,” the group said.

Democrats had inserted a provision into the 2024-2026 state budget that they had passed in March that would have required Virginia to rejoin the RGGI, a multi-state compact that aims to reduce carbon pollution in the member states.

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.

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

Youngkin, grasping for reasons to justify pulling Virginia from the RGGI, blamed high electricity costs, but both Dominion and Appalachian Power cited spikes in the cost of natural gas, which supplies more than half of Virginia’s electricity, for price increases to their customers.

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

That move is subject to a pending lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals.

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, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].