A Virginia-based law firm has filed a legal action against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration for withdrawing from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed a petition on behalf of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, Appalachian Voices, and Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions in Fairfax Circuit Court challenging the Youngkin administration for withdrawing Virginia from the RGGI.
The petition argues that the state Air Pollution Control Board and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality do not have the authority to end the state’s participation in the carbon trading program.
The groups further argue that Virginians will lose money afforded to them by the RGGI that currently allow them to access disaster relief funds for home repairs.
“The weatherization and flood preparedness funds created due to our participation in RGGI were sound and practical solutions to stabilize Virginia’s economy in the face of rising energy costs, sea levels, temperatures, and severe weather conditions. RGGI is working for Virginia, and Virginians know it,” said the Rev. Faith Harris, executive director at Virginia Interfaith Power & Light in a press statement.
RGGI a ‘Direct Tax’ on Households
In July, when Virginia first withdrew from RGGI, Mr. Youngkin praised Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board decision.
“Today’s commonsense decision by the Air Board to repeal RGGI protects Virginians from the failed program that is not only a regressive tax on families and businesses across the Commonwealth but also does nothing to reduce pollution,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Youngkin said the RGGI fees that power companies paid to purchase carbon offsets were ultimately passed down to their customers as a tax.
“Funds collected by the sale of these offsets are spent on Virginia government programs. Participation in RGGI is in effect a direct tax on all households and businesses, and there is a zero incentive for power producers to reduce carbon emissions,” the governor’s office said.
Virginia joined RGGI in 2020 after the Democrat-controlled General Assembly authorized legislation to do so, including the Virginia Clean Economy Act and the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act.
The General Assembly voted 53–45 in favor of participating in RGGI.
The program has been implemented in 12 eastern states and sets a regional limit on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. Each power plant has to pay for each ton of CO2 it emits at quarterly auctions.
Proponents of RGGI say it helps to lower CO2, improve air quality, and sends half of the money from the auctions to benefit Virginia’s residents via the Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which supports resilience efforts in Virginia.
Typical repairs performed through weatherization repair program include roof replacements or repairs; heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system replacements or repairs; and structural repairs, often related to water damage.
SELC lawyers say if the Youngkin administration wanted to end RGGI, it should have gone through the Virginia Legislature instead of the Air Pollution Control Board.
Youngkin appointed seven of the Air Pollution Control Board members who voted to end RGGI in Virginia, and if the decision is not reversed by the court, the reversal will take effect Dec. 30.
“It is critical that we continue our participation in RGGI, a proven climate solution,” Mr. Benforado said in a statement. “Virginians know that we need this program and that we have no time to waste. We will be doing everything we can—as quickly as we can—to enforce the law and maintain this successful program.”
The Epoch Times reached out to Mr. Youngkin’s office for comment.