NORFOLK, Va. — Virginians can weigh in on a plan to withdraw the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program aiming to reduce emissions in 11 East Coast states.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin is trying to withdraw Virginia from RGGI by repealing a regulation that allows the state to participate, a move Democrats and other groups say goes against the state law and circumvents the General Assembly.
In December, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board voted in favor of that regulation, moving it to review by Youngkin and Virginia's executive branch, then a 60-day public comment period.
The comment period, available on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website, will close on March 31 at 11:59 p.m.
The RGGI program puts a cap on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that will get stricter over time across 11 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
Power companies have to acquire allowances for every short ton of carbon dioxide they emit, which are distributed at quarterly actions. The proceeds go to energy-efficiency programs for low-income Virginians and the Community Flood Preparedness Fund.
The legislation inciting Virginia's entry into RGGI, the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act, became law in 2020 and the state participated in its first auction in March 2021.
Because of that law, it's legally ambiguous if Virginia can leave RGGI without new legislation and not solely by regulatory action.
Despite this, the Youngkin administration pressed forward with the regulation, arguing the law authorizes but doesn't require the state to participate in the program.
The regulation's approval by the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board came more than a month after the public comment period closed on the Youngkin administration's Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA), the first step in changes to the state's regulations.
During the period, which lasted from Sept. 26 to Oct. 26, 838 public comments were submitted, 51 of which were in favor of the notice and 730 of which were against, according to Travis Voyles, the acting Virginia secretary of natural and historic resources.