Virginians have spoken: The overwhelming majority oppose Governor Youngkin’s RGGI rollback


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On December 7, the Virginia Air Board voted to proceed with a proposed regulation ending Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a proven program in 12 states that cuts pollution and raises investments for communities.

Governor Youngkin initiated this harmful and unlawful rollback earlier this year, claiming that RGGI was a “bad deal” for Virginians. However, when the Youngkin administration asked Virginians what they thought about the program in a public comment period this fall, the overwhelming majority – 95% of respondents – said they want to stay in RGGI. 

Despite a clear message from Virginians to keep RGGI, the Youngkin administration is barreling ahead with the repeal anyway.

In the nearly 750 comments expressing support for RGGI, people across the Commonwealth –  including mayors, doctors, parents, faith leaders, young people and many more – shared a diversity of reasons for why RGGI is a good deal for their communities.

Those reasons deserve to be heard and amplified.

Here are 6 key reasons why Virginians support RGGI – in their words. 

1. Protects Virginia for future generations

RGGI has been taking aim at climate change for over a decade, cutting climate pollution from power plants in half in member states. These historic reductions in climate pollution have been achieved twice as fast as the nation as a whole. Virginia is projected to cut power sector carbon pollution by about 30% by 2030 through its participation in RGGI.

Virginians understand that climate change poses real threats to their families and want RGGI to keep slashing pollution:

“The safety and welfare of our children is at stake. We are witnessing the destructive impacts of increasingly severe weather, here at home in Virginia and across the country, turbocharged by global heating…Do the right thing and don’t try to withdraw Virginia from RGGI.” Paul Atelsek, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions

“As a young adult in my early 20s, I am afraid of the future I and my children will see. We are counting on you to do your part to fight climate change by remaining in the RGGI.” Katie Wenger

2. Builds vital flood resilience in communities across the Commonwealth

As devastating back-to-back summer floods in southwest Virginia underscored, lives and livelihoods across Virginia are at risk from more frequent and severe flooding. RGGI is the state’s only dedicated funding for flood resilience, raising over $235 million to help communities plan and implement strategies that reduce flooding.

Virginians in flood prone areas described the value of these funds:

“Communities across Virginia need to plan for, mitigate, and build resilience to the climate change impacts being felt today. The dedicated source of funding for the Community Flood Preparedness Fund provided by Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is critical to our ability to do the work of flood mitigation and resilience planning in our communities.” Justin M. Wilson, Mayor, City of Alexandria

“I have observed personally the effects of stronger storm events where my former family home is located on a canal in the Riverdale section of Hampton, Virginia. Three times in recent years, the home was flooded, and walls and floors needed to be replaced…RGGI provides funding to plan for and to prevent recurrent flooding, hugely beneficial to localities like the City of Hampton.” Tyla Matteson

3. Supports money-saving energy efficiency in low-income households

The other portion of investments raised from RGGI fund energy efficiency programs for low-income Virginians that help them save money on their electricity bills. Many other RGGI states, including Virginia’s neighbor Maryland, have also directed proceeds toward energy efficiency programs. Over time, these RGGI-funded programs have added up, generating a whopping $15 billion in savings on utility bills across participating states.

Virginians have seen these benefits firsthand:

“I spent many years helping low-income families insulate their homes and know what a critical difference a tight home can make to the economics of keeping their homes as well as staying healthy. I’ve talked to folks who have seen first-hand the benefits of the RGGI funding in their neighborhoods. Please don’t take away that hope from my fellow Virginians.” Donna Shaunesey

“Through Virginia’s participation in RGGI, our City is receiving essential funding to both weatherize homes and make us more resilient to the negative effects of climate change, and we can’t afford to have these programs disappear…” Megan Root, City of Roanoke

4. Grows Virginia’s clean economy

Virginia is ranked 10th in the nation for clean energy employment, and is poised for even greater clean economic growth with historic federal investments on the way. As more businesses transition to cleaner, more sustainable operations and invest in domestic manufacturing of clean energy technologies, they are looking for states with policies that provide certainty about the clean energy future.

Ceres, an organization working with the most influential capital market leaders on sustainability challenges, explained businesses’ perspective:

“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.” Alli Gold Roberts, Senior Director of State Policy at Ceres

5. Safeguards the health of Virginians

By slashing climate pollution, RGGI also cuts health-harming air pollutants, including soot and smog. In fact, a study found important health benefits from RGGI – reduced number of heart attacks, cases of asthma, and more.

As one Virginia doctor put it:

“RGGI has proven to reduce air pollution in the states where it is in force and in neighboring states as well. Virginia’s own Department of Environmental Quality has documented this fact. Less air pollution for Virginia means better health for Virginians…” Dr. Jerome Paulson, Pediatrician

6. And finally, Virginians know RGGI will help lower costs

While Youngkin has attacked RGGI for raising costs, the program’s track record has proven otherwise. Investments made through RGGI can help households save money on electricity by shifting the grid toward cleaner, more cost-effective energy resources, including solar and wind, that can hedge against volatile fossil fuel prices.

Meanwhile, Dominion Energy has hiked up Virginians’ monthly electric bills by nearly $15 for the next three years due to a rise in the cost of natural gas.

As this lifelong Virginian explained, the Youngkin administration should direct its energy to the source of the cost problem:

“If the Administration is truly concerned about high energy bills paid by Virginians, it will work to remove loopholes from our energy code that have allowed Dominion Energy to retain a whopping $1.2 billion in overcharges since 2015. Such excess by a so-called regulated monopoly is impermissible in almost every other state in the nation.” Sharon Shutler, retired attorney, U.S. Department of Justice and lifelong resident of Virginia

It’s clear that the Youngkin administration is wrongfully going against the majority of their own constituents who strongly support this commonsense program and the range of benefits it’s bringing to their communities.

As one supporter summed it up, “In today’s complicated world, few programs offer such bang for their buck.”

The RGGI repeal may be moving forward for now, but the process is far from over. There will be another public comment period on the rollback starting in February, where individuals have an important opportunity to make their voices heard.

Virginians can and must keep standing up for what’s right for their futures.

Act now: Tell Gov. Youngkin to keep Virginia in RGGI

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