Virginia becomes first state in South to Join Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Virginia has become the newest member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a market-based collaborative effort among Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector, while driving economic growth.
RGGI members include Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and now Virginia.
“As the southernmost state to join RGGI, Virginia is sending a powerful signal that our Commonwealth is committed to fighting climate change and securing a clean energy future,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. “This initiative provides a unique opportunity to meet the urgency of the environmental threats facing our planet, while positioning Virginia as a center of economic activity in the transition to renewable energy. Our Commonwealth is ready to lead the way in ensuring that the path to reducing carbon emissions is equitable and protects the health and safety of all Virginians.”
RGGI is a regional cap-and trade-program designed to reduce climate pollution from fossil fuel power plants. Member states agree to a cap on carbon dioxide emissions, and power generators in those states must reduce pollution to meet the cap or buy additional allowances through an auction administered by RGGI, Inc. the nonprofit organization that coordinates participation in the program. Virginia has adopted a regulation that is similar to the regulations adopted by all other RGGI member states to implement the regional cap-and-trade program.
“RGGI provides a framework for meaningful action on climate change that begins to green the energy market and ensures that prices tell the truth about costs,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “This collaboration with regional partners will help us capture the environmental, health, and economic benefits from the clean economy for all Virginians.”
Legislation passed during the 2020 General Assembly session will permit Virginia to use proceeds generated from the auction for community flood preparedness, coastal resilience, and energy efficiency programs benefitting low-income Virginians. The Department of Housing and Community Development, in coordination with the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, will administer approximately 45 percent of the proceeds to community flood prevention and coastal resilience programs, and 3 percent will be used by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to further statewide climate planning efforts.
“Last April, after the culmination of a significant public process, Virginia finalized a regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said DEQ Director David Paylor. “The thorough public input process was essential in producing the carbon regulation the Commonwealth recently enacted.”
Paylor signed the final Virginia Carbon Rule on June 25 during a ceremonial bill signing with Northam at the final full meeting of the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice. This cleared the way for the Commonwealth to join RGGI and is the next step to Virginia becoming a full member on Jan. 1, 2021.
Northam established the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice with Executive Order Twenty-Nine. The Council, first established in 2011 under then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, is tasked with providing guidance and recommendations regarding Virginia’s regulatory rulemaking to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector.
The Council recommended Virginia join RGGI in its 2018 report to Northam.
Additional information about DEQ and Virginia’s participation in the RGGI program is available here.