Virginia’s new Republican governor is moving to withdraw his state from a regional carbon emissions-trading exchange to which 10 coastal and New England states currently belong, a move that promises to be a major setback for the left-wing environmentalist agenda.
On Jan. 15, the day he took office, Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed Executive Order 9, which directs state officials “to re-evaluate Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and immediately begin regulatory processes to end it.”
The RGGI—some pronounce the acronym as “Reggie”—describes itself as “a cooperative, market-based effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.”
Such systems aim to reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide, the gas expelled from our lungs when we exhale, that is released into the atmosphere, on the controversial theory that it contributes to global warming. The system imposes limits on how much CO2 is emitted by each state, and when industry actors exceed their limits, they can purchase the right to produce that excess gas for a fee. These emission coupons, or credits, have a value and can be traded, and the companies involved pass on the extra costs to their customers.
Virginia’s participation in RGGI “risks contributing to the increased cost of electricity for our citizens,” Youngkin’s order states. “Dominion Energy stated that RGGI will cost ratepayers between $1 billion and $1.2 billion over the next four years.”
The benefits promised by RGGI “have not materialized, while the costs have skyrocketed.”
RGGI is deeply flawed, experts say.
The Institute for Energy Research faulted RGGI in 2015, saying its “loopholes and structural problems conceal the true economic costs and circumvent actual emissions reductions.” In 2017, Vox reported that while RGGI “raises money to fund good programs,” the quantity of “carbon emissions covered by RGGI is relatively small.”
In 2018, the Cato Institute denounced RGGI, the country’s first mandatory cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. A Cato report found RGGI “shifted jobs to other states” and resulted in “no added emissions reductions or associated health benefits,” and that the revenue spent on “energy efficiency, wind, solar power, and low-income fuel assistance had minimal impact.”
“RGGI allowance costs added to already high regional electric bills” and led to “a 12 percent drop in goods production and a 34 percent drop in the production of energy-intensive goods.”
But left-wing activists claim RGGI is a success and denounce Youngkin’s order.
Nate Benforado, senior attorney at the Charlottesville-based Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a statement that the RGGI puts Virginia “on the frontlines of tackling climate change” and that Youngkin’s order “asks state officials to develop an illegal repeal.”
“This is a shocking and troubling first action out of step with what Virginia communities need.”
Benforado was echoing U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) who previously said a governor can’t pull the state out of RGGI without legislative approval.
Republican state lawmakers in Richmond, who wrested control of the House of Delegates from Democrats in the November 2021 elections, say they will undo costly environmental legislation passed by the Democrats.