Opinion — It’s time to get out of the RGGI

Published 8:05 am Saturday, December 18, 2021

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Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced his intention to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is an eleven state, cap-and-trade program designed to reduce carbon emissions, which funds various environmental and energy policy priorities through a carbon allowance auction.

In 2021, Virginia sold $227 million in CO allowances which are passed to ratepayers through their electricity bill.

RGGI sets the total amount of carbon dioxide that power plants can emit and then utilities buy the rights to emit that carbon at auction.

While cap and trade has been used successfully in the past to control pollutants that cause acid rain, carbon is a different element altogether.

It was well documented long before Virginia joined the program that it would have a negligible — at best — impact on climate change.

Said simply, the changes in emissions are too minuscule to move the needle.

Virginia is part of a power grid that extends outside of the RGGI region, so they meet electricity needs by running power plants that aren’t subject to RGGI’s caps.

While the benefits are negligible, the costs are not.

Virginia families and businesses are paying more for power, fuel and everything else.

Dominion Energy recently received authority to increase the amount they charge to cover RGGI costs by 83%.

RGGI is an energy tax, charged directly to the consumers, now averaging $52 annually for a typical residential customer. The costs for average industrial users are now over $2,800 per month.

What’s worse is that on top of the cost increases imposed by RGGI on ratepayers, Virginia’s version of the Green New Deal — Virginia Clean Economy Act — passes along additional costs to consumers in order take Virginia to 100% clean energy by 2045.

Virginia’s participation in RGGI is authorized, but not mandated, by statute. The Governor through executive action can direct Virginia’s participation in RGGI.

Virginia needs a reliable and affordable supply of electricity, and families should not have to worry that hitting the light switch will break the bank. Burdensome costs passed directly to consumers from RGGI disproportionately impact low- and fixed- income families.

As your Delegate, I’m ready to work with Governor-Elect Youngkin to make Virginia affordable for all Virginians.

Speaker-designee Todd Gilbert issued the following statement:

“I applaud Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin for his pledge to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Public policy must achieve results. If it doesn’t, then it’s not good policy.

“Virginia’s participation in RGGI was premised on the fact that it showed ‘leadership’ in combating climate change. The cost of RGGI to Virginia families and businesses is very real, while the impact of RGGI on climate change is negligible at best — a fact that was documented well before outgoing Governor Northam opted the Commonwealth into the pact. In fact, Virginia was reducing carbon emissions from power plants at a rate comparable to RGGI states before joining the cap-and-trade group.

“When a policy costs the public a significant amount of money for no tangible benefit, that policy should be examined carefully, and if practical, rolled back. Governor-elect Youngkin’s announcement is a perfect example of the common-sense decision making we’ve been missing for the past 8 years.”

I agree with Speaker-Designee Gilbert on this statement. Ratepayers aren’t getting anything for the money they’re being charged for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It’s time to get out. I look forward to working and fighting for you with my colleagues in the General Assembly with our mission to make Virginia the best place to live, work, worship and raise a family.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.