SELC statement on Youngkin Administration’s Executive Order to Remove Virginia from RGGI
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Yesterday Governor Youngkin issued an Executive Order directing a regulatory process to end Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program designed to fight climate change that has already brought in $228 million to Virginia from the sale of carbon emission allowances—with more than 60% going directly to help low wealth families and communities.
Following a multi-year regulatory process, the General Assembly passed bipartisan legislation in 2020 that requires Virginia’s participation in the program. Undoing the program would require a new law; it cannot be undone through an Executive Order directing an unlawful repeal.
In response to the Executive Order, SELC Senior Attorney Nate Benforado issued the following statement:
Virginia is on the frontlines of tackling climate change and providing help to communities most at risk from it, but this progress is under attack in Richmond. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has brought in millions of dollars that are being deployed across the Commonwealth to help communities deal with flooding and to lower energy bills for Virginians who need it most.
This strongly supported and successful program cannot be undone by a simple pen stroke. The General Assembly gets to decide the laws in Virginia, and the Executive Order—which asks state officials to develop an illegal repeal—is a dead end. But for a new Governor who has pledged to help Virginia communities struggling with climate change, this is a shocking and troubling first action out of step with what Virginia communities need.
Virginia is the first Southern state to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a successful regional effort to curb carbon pollution from power plants, with proceeds from carbon allowances going directly to help communities on the frontlines of climate change. Participating states in RGGI have seen their carbon emissions drop 90% faster than the rest of the country, with public health improving in those states by an estimated $5.7 billion.