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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Virginia General Assembly Considers RGGI Budget Amendments

According to research from Virginia Commonwealth University, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative created 2,115 local jobs in Virginia. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — Virginia’s General Assembly will consider budget amendments to reenter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin pulled the state out of RGGI at the end of 2023, and now experts said the holes in the budget left by RGGI funding going away are not being filled. Money from the program was used to fund climate mitigation work.

Jay Ford, Virginia policy manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the state saw many benefits when it was part of RGGI.

“We were reducing fossil fuel emissions that were being created here in Virginia,” Ford pointed out. “There were some clear reductions as a result of our participation. So, we’re improving air quality and we are helping expedite that transition to a clean economy.”

Virginia residents mostly favored staying in RGGI, but Youngkin has said the reason for pulling out was in his view, it was a “hidden tax” for ratepayers. Ford estimated homeowners paid around $2 a month from their electric bills for RGGI and argued the trade-offs were worth it.

Between 2021 and 2023, RGGI revenue generated around $828 million for Virginia. Ford thinks not rejoining the initiative could slow down Virginia’s ability to reach the Clean Economy Act’s climate goals, and warned other effects could be costly to communities.

“On the ground in communities around the state, if we don’t get back into RGGI, there’s a real potential that the work to prepare the Commonwealth, and prepare our communities for climate impacts, could grind to a halt,” Ford contended.

Virginia used RGGI money to help towns and cities fund their climate resilience plans. The state used 25-million RGGI dollars to establish a Climate Resilience Fund. There have been 107 “billion-dollar disasters” since 1980 in Virginia, with long-term costs totaling between $20 billion and $50 billion.

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