Climate 411

New federal policies can supercharge Virginia’s energy and climate goals

Mom helping young son charge electric car

Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s the beginning of a new year and this year – despite some opposition – can be the year Virginia turns the corner to embrace a clean energy economy future.

Virginia has already taken critical steps in its clean energy transition to make communities more resilient and to address climate change. Steps like joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – a multistate program under which power companies pay for the pollution they create – passing legislation like the Virginia Clean Economy Act to establish a 100% clean energy standard and commit to a zero-carbon-emissions electricity grid by 2050 and having deployed nearly $100 million in RGGI funds for flood risk reduction from Roanoke to the Eastern Shore in less than two years, with more to come.

Major federal legislation recently passed in the form of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will supercharge those efforts with increased funding for infrastructure projects, clean energy initiatives and tax incentives, climate resilience, and other programs that address the climate crisis and create good jobs. In 2021 there were already 92,315 Virginians employed in clean energy jobs. Clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs and young people overwhelmingly want to work in industries that are serious about addressing the climate crisis.

Virginia is only beginning to see the funding opportunities flowing from these unprecedented federal investments. Here are three examples highlighting how the BIL and IRA are having an impact:

1. Electric Vehicles and charging stations

The IRA makes buying electric vehicles (EVs) easier and cheaper, with thousands of dollars in tax credits to buy new and used EVs. The bill also includes tax credits for electric heavy duty trucks, like the ones produced at the Volvo Trucks New River Valley Plant. Switching to zero and low-emission vehicles will help lower air pollution from Virginia’s highways and roads and save Americans money at the pump.

To support the increase in EVs on the road, the Commonwealth is planning an EV charging network with stations along busy transportation corridors across the state, funded with $5 billion from the BIL.

An additional $106 million from the BIL could fund over 883 DC Fast Chargers. Using these resources to build a robust EV charging network will increase EV vehicle adoption in Virginia, driving down climate pollution and creating jobs.

2. Clean School Buses

A popular BIL program is the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, which has awarded nearly $30.8 million to 11 school districts in Virginia to replace existing diesel school buses with 78 electric models. Electric buses reduce air pollution inside and outside a bus, making them safer for children and communities by emitting little to no greenhouse gas emissions and making black diesel fumes a thing of the past.

Demand for the program and its electric buses is so high it has spurred the EPA to increase funding to nearly $1 billion.

3. Cleaning up our electric grid

Virginia’s electric power sector will also benefit from federal investments. The IRA modified and extended tax credits for renewable energy projects, like deployment of wind farms and solar arrays, and states with strong, binding pollution limits like RGGI will have greater incentives to use these tax credits to their advantage.

Once-in-a-generation federal investments will help build the clean, reliable and affordable power grid of the future. It only takes one extreme weather event like the unexpected and unplanned deep freeze in Texas a year ago to wreak havoc on older, existing power grids.

Virginia’s clean energy future

Virginia cannot afford to miss this opportunity to leverage federal dollars for necessary electric power sector investments, to be a climate leader and grow jobs in the clean economy.Smart state policies will work in tandem with the federal investment programs, increasing their impact. Analysis from EDF shows that federal programs like the IRA will spur at least 10 times the amount of investment from the private sector.

It is encouraging to see many state agencies recognizing the opportunity and engaging to secure federal funds to invest in Virginia – proving that investing wisely in the clean economy to benefit all Virginians does not need to be a partisan issue. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment and we need the Governor, legislature, business leaders, and local officials all working in unison to ensure these crucial funds are accessible and easy to apply for, especially for businesses, counties, towns, schools, and other community organizations. Virginia’s clean energy future depends on it.

Posted in Climate Change Legislation, Energy, News, Policy / Comments are closed

Make no mistake: Current “regulatory reform” efforts in Pennsylvania could threaten vital environmental protections

pollution from a smokestack

Photo credit: Pexels

Healthy air, clean drinking water and pollution-free lakes and rivers are, unsurprisingly, broadly supported priorities across Pennsylvania. Environmental regulations are put in place to protect these very priorities – to safeguard the health of Pennsylvania communities and their environment from toxic pollutants and other damages. While much more progress is needed, new regulations can help address a myriad of environmental challenges, like the recently finalized rule setting limits for two types of toxic PFAS substances, known as “forever chemicals,” which will help address Pennsylvania’s widespread PFAS drinking water contamination.

It is well-established that the benefits of environmental protections to human health and the economy are significant. Looking at federal clean air protections, a comprehensive US EPA analysis projected that the benefits of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which cut a variety of air pollutants across sectors, exceed the costs of meeting the standards by a factor of 30 to 1. The study valued the benefits at $2 trillion in 2020 alone, including from the prevention of 230,000 unnecessary deaths. Additionally, an analysis by NRDC found that the monetized health benefits of the Clean Air Act were $160-320 billion in 2020 in Pennsylvania.

But once again, some legislators are debating how to curtail expert agencies’ ability to put forth regulations that protect Pennsylvanians. This time, they are considering a dangerous amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would shift the balance of power toward polluters and powerful companies and away from experts, the public and stakeholders who help inform their development. This could impact environmental protections in addition to protections designed to support and protect labor, consumers, childcare centers, health care providers, schools, and more.

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With strong climate policies, Governor Shapiro can help Pennsylvania win the future

As Pennsylvania turns a new page into 2023 with new leaders at the helm, Gov. Josh Shapiro and the legislature have an immense opportunity and responsibility to usher Pennsylvania into its future — winning the clean energy jobs the state needs, protecting consumers from fossil fuel-driven price shocks on their electric bills, and dramatically cutting the climate and air pollution that harms Pennsylvanians.

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Posted in Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs / Comments are closed

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. 

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

How RGGI cuts carbon and costs

This summer, electricity bills across the U.S. are poised to climb higher as a consequence of volatile fossil fuel costs and climate change impacts like extreme heat.

Rising natural gas prices, affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are expected to drive up costs in the U.S., including in places like Pennsylvania and Virginia where a significant number of households and businesses are reliant on natural gas for electricity. On top of this, extreme heat around the country is expected to drive up demand as people work to cool down with more air-conditioning use while heat, storms and other climate change-fueled impacts continue to increase the risk of blackouts.

In short, this summer is showing us the value of moving toward a clean, reliable and resilient power sector. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based, multi-state climate program throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, has been driving progress on a cleaner power sector for over a decade now. Since the program began in 2008, RGGI states have reduced carbon pollution from power plants by over 50% and increased renewable energy generation by 73%.

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Why RGGI is a Good Deal for Virginians

Solar panels surrounded by picturesque scenery.

With unprecedented droughts, wildfires, floods and heat waves impacting communities nationwide, it’s clear that climate change is not a threat in some distant future – we’re dealing with its ramifications today. Virginians know this well, having experienced eight different billion-dollar disaster events (three tropical cyclones, four severe storms, and one winter storm) in 2021 alone. Consequently, it’s imperative that we act immediately to address the climate crisis. Virginia took a major step toward doing just that by linking to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2021 – a step Governor Youngkin has, alarmingly, indicated he wants to reverse.

Leaving RGGI risks derailing Virginia from continued progress to reduce climate pollution and will eliminate funds for existing programs that help protect Virginians from devastating floods and that save electric ratepayers money by lowering their energy usage.

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

RGGI is a proven program for combating climate pollution while investing in solutions that will make Virginia more resilient. Here are five reasons that make clear RGGI is a good deal for Virginia.

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