By Leaving RGGI, Virginia Disappoints Businesses and Becomes More Vulnerable to the Climate Crisis
Virginia risks backsliding on its climate goals, forfeiting valuable funding, and harming vulnerable communities if it exits the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, said Ceres Senior Director of State Policy Alli Gold Roberts.
Following a vote today by the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board to withdraw Virginia from the multistate pollution reduction program, Roberts issued the following statement:
“When Virginia lawmakers voted to join RGGI, they had strong support from companies that had already witnessed the program’s success and experienced its benefits for more than a decade in states along the East Coast. Virginia has only just begun to reap these rewards, yet it has already received tens of millions of dollars to help fund critical programs to fight the effects of the climate crisis and support a more resilient economy. This money has been used to expand energy efficiency offerings to low-income households and protect coastal Virginia from flooding—all while helping the entire East Coast reduce power plant pollution.”
Roberts added: “It is disappointing to see the Youngkin administration move to exit this program, especially since the governor has been outspoken about the need to protect Virginia from sea level rise. RGGI provides the money to do just that, while cutting back on the emissions that are fueling the problem..”
Virginia joined RGGI in 2020 after a vote by the legislature to authorize the program. Legal experts contend the legislation bound Virginia to participate in the program and have challenged the administration’s plan to leave without legislative action.
Companies have been among the leading advocates for Virginia’s participation in RGGI. After Virginia joined the program in 2020, more than a dozen companies, institutions, and trade associations with headquarters or significant operations in the Commonwealth wrote to express their support, including Mars, Nestle´ and IKEA. Businesses have continued to publicly champion RGGI and other Virginia climate policies that were adopted in previous legislative sessions.
“Joining RGGI will not only protect our communities from the harmful impacts of climate change but will also help Virginia take advantage of the opportunities that accompany the transition to a low-carbon economy,” the letter said. “In joining RGGI, Virginia will take part in a proven, market-based program for reducing carbon pollution from our region’s electricity sector in a manner that protects ratepayers.”
RGGI has proven successful in the 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that have joined the market-based program since its launch in 2009. Participating states have seen their economies grow faster than the national average, while electric bills grew more slowly and greenhouse gas emissions from power plants were reduced. States have used funds from the program to invest in energy efficiency, clean energy, and other climate-related programs, allowing for jobs in these industries to flourish while helping companies and households to lower their utility bills, cutting pollution, and reducing strain on the power grid.
“We urge the Youngkin administration to heed the concerns of the private sector, think about the many benefits of the program, and reconsider its plan to exit RGGI. Companies and investors are looking for bold climate policies that support and invest in a more sustainable economy, and RGGI is a solution with a proven track record of success,” Roberts said.
The Youngkin administration is planning a public comment period this winter on the proposed withdrawal from RGGI. Residents, businesses, and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to weigh in on the program.
Ceres is a nonprofit organization working with the most influential capital market leaders to solve the world’s greatest sustainability challenges. Through our powerful networks and global collaborations of investors, companies and nonprofits, we drive action and inspire equitable market-based and policy solutions throughout the economy to build a just and sustainable future. For more information, visit ceres.org and follow @CeresNews.