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by Brandon Jarvis

At a chamber event in Hampton Roads last month, Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin announced that he plans to use an executive order to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Virginia’s outgoing Democratic attorney general says that he cannot do that in an opinion released Tuesday.

“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 said Tuesday.

RGGI is a market-based cap-and-invest initiative. Within the 11 states participating in RGGI, regulated power plants must acquire one RGGI CO2 allowance for every short ton of CO2 they emit. The RGGI states distribute allowances at quarterly auctions, where they can be purchased by power plants and other entities.

After joining the initiative in 2020 with 10 other states, Virginia made more than $227 million during the first year. Last week, the latest quarterly numbers were released showing Virginia bringing in $85.6 million. The money is intended to be reinvested in toward low-income energy efficiency programs and a Community Flood Preparedness Fund.

Youngkin expressed concern with the cost of this program being passed onto Virginians through Dominion Energy rate increases. His comments in December confirmed that.

“Just this week, Dominion Energy announced that they will seek to double the carbon surcharge that is being applied to ratepayers under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” Youngkin told the crowd. “RGGI describes itself as a regional market for carbon, but it is really a carbon tax that is fully passed onto ratepayers. It is a bad deal for Virginians. It is a bad deal for Virginia businesses and as governor, I will withdraw us from RGGI by executive action.”

In the opinion released Tuesday, Herring wrote: “The Governor may not repeal or eliminate, through an executive order or other action, the enacted statutes and regulations pertaining to the Commonwealth’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and/or a market-based trading program like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or do away with the requirement that electricity producers hold carbon dioxide allowances that equal the amount of their carbon dioxide emissions.”

His opinion was requested by Democratic Delegates Charniele Herring and Rip Sullivan.

“It is my opinion that the Governor may not, solely through an executive order or other executive action, repeal or eliminate the regulatory requirement that electric utilities and other electricity producers hold carbon dioxide allowances that equal the amount of their carbon dioxide emissions,” Herring wrote in the closing of his opinion.

Spokespeople for Youngkin and Miyares did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

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By vascope