The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative brings millions of dollars a year to Virginia businesses and, get this, has the Commonwealth inching in the right direction toward environmental sustainability.
But then there’s Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is pressuring the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board to consider an emergency resolution to remove Virginia from the initiative.
This would seem to run afoul of the requirement that the General Assembly sign off on removing Virginia from RGGI, but, details.
A group of pro-environment organizations are leading an effort to get the Air Board to effectively stand down.
“RGGI is a huge win for Virginia’s economy, health, and climate. We cannot afford to go backwards on addressing climate change,” said Wendy Philleo, executive director of Generation180. “Remaining a member of RGGI enables Virginia to boost our economy and protect our communities, while ensuring that all of us benefit from a clean energy future.”
A bipartisan two-thirds of Virginia voters support RGGI‘s climate, energy, and economy-focused initiatives. In only the first year of RGGI’s operation in Virginia, it slashed pollution, provided more than $110 million to improve energy efficiency initiatives in low-income communities, and delivered Virginians $34 million of health benefits through avoided hospital visits.
In a letter to the Board, authors point to the health and viability RGGI offers to Virginia’s economic prosperity for future generations. The letter was coordinated by clean energy nonprofit Generation180 and signed by health, housing, education, and conservation groups in Virginia who support:
- Improving public health: RGGI is good for Virginians’ health. Reduced fossil fuel burning means less air pollution, which worsens asthma and other respiratory diseases, particularly among children and the elderly. Cleaner air will help deliver up to $34 million a year in health benefits for Virginians as a result.
- Reducing air pollution: In just its first year, RGGI helped the Commonwealth cut pollution from coal and gas plants by over 13 percent, improving air quality and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.
- Investing in the community: The latest RGGI auction of carbon credits raised more than $74 million for the Commonwealth, adding to the overall total proceeds of more than $301 million to date, funds which are already being reinvested into our communities.
- Economic development: RGGI will bring clean jobs and economic investment in Virginia. An estimated 45,000 new jobs have been created in RGGI states and $4.3 billion in economic value added to local economies since it began.
- Lowering electricity bills: RGGI reduces Virginians’ electricity burden by focusing on energy efficiency. Virginia faces some of the highest electricity bills in the south, but RGGI funds dedicated to energy-efficiency upgrades are helping Virginians save money on their energy bills.
The RGGI consortium of 11 Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states has achieved significant climate progress and economic gains. Since it began in 2009, hundreds of millions of dollars have been generated and reinvested in local communities while carbon emissions dropped by 50 percent.
RGGI has helped other states reduce utility reliance on fossil fuels, which insulates customers from rising fuel costs. It has also improved public health by reducing premature deaths and respiratory illnesses, and saving approximately $5.7 billion in health care costs.