news state senate committee rejects bill to remove virginia from regional greenhouse gas initiative

Senate committee rejects bill to remove Virginia from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

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A State Senate committee voted Tuesday to reject a bill that would remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources voted 8-6-1 to reject Senate Bill 1001, introduced by Republican Richard Stuart, which would repeal the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act, legislation passed in 2020 that entered Virginia into the RGGI.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has made getting Virginia out of the multi-state pact enacted in 2009 a top priority in his administration. Most notably, last month, Youngkin’s cronies on the State Air Pollution Board approved a proposed regulation that would allow Virginia to exit the RGGI.

But an advisory opinion from former Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued before Youngkin took office last January offered a legal rationale challenging the governor’s ability to unilaterally withdraw Virginia from the pact.

“The Virginia Constitution is clear: the governor does not have the authority to single-handedly repeal or eliminate a law or regulation that has been passed by the General Assembly. It is time we all work together to fight climate change and leave a better, healthier planet for future generations,” Herring wrote in the January 2021 advisory opinion.

The Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act, passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020, authorized the Department of Environmental Quality to establish “a carbon dioxide cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions…[and] authorizes the Director of DEQ ‘to establish, implement, and manage an auction program to sell allowances into a market-based trading program consistent with the [Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative] program and this article,’” Herring wrote.

Herring explained in his advisory opinion that, according to the separation of powers doctrine, “the Constitution of Virginia does not grant the Governor the power to suspend laws, in fact it requires the opposite that ‘[t]he Governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’”

Thus the legislative effort in 2023, to try to repeal the legislative article that has Virginia in the RGGI.

The Senate vote to kill this effort is noteworthy, but the fight to keep Youngkin from trying to force Virginia out of the RGGI is far from over.

“We are grateful to our champions in the Senate for doing the right thing for Virginians and climate action by rejecting this misguided repeal effort, but also know our work isn’t over,” said Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. “We have to continue to defend this program from the Youngkin administration’s ongoing attacks as they seek to override the legislative process and put polluters ahead of what’s best for our state.”

Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, Want to reach me? Try [email protected].