Home Climate change Environmental Groups Sue to Keep Virginia in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

Environmental Groups Sue to Keep Virginia in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

"The General Assembly passed a 2020 law requiring Virginia’s participation in the successful regional program"

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From Appalachian Voices, along with the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Southern Environmental Law Center:

RICHMOND, Va. — Today on behalf of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, Appalachian Voices, and Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a petition in Fairfax Circuit Court challenging the Youngkin administration’s effort to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, better known as RGGI.

In the petition, the groups say the state Air Pollution Control Board, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and its director, Michael Rolband, do not have the authority to end the state’s participation in the carbon trading program.

Virginia joined RGGI in 2021 after the General Assembly passed a 2020 law requiring Virginia’s participation in the successful regional program, becoming the first Southern state to participate in RGGI. In just over two years Virginia has already made substantial gains in reducing and controlling air pollution from power plants, while bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars to help low-income households save on energy bills and support localities planning for and protecting against recurrent flooding.

Two of the participants in today’s action were also part of an amicus brief that SELC filed in 2021 in defense of the state’s participation in RGGI.

Rev. Dr. Faith Harris, executive director at Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, reiterates that RGGI is working and should continue to be part of the state’s plan to combat climate change.

“Without our participation in RGGI, Virginians will be exposed to increased greenhouse gas emissions and more severe climate impacts with little or no support for their mitigation from the state,” Harris said. “The weatherization and flood preparedness funds created due to our participation in RGGI were sound and practical solutions to stabilize Virginia’s economy in the face of rising energy costs, sea levels, temperatures, and severe weather conditions. RGGI is working for Virginia, and Virginians know it.”

Peter Anderson, Director of Energy Policy for Appalachian Voices, said, “Our participation in RGGI has been effective in achieving significant pollution reductions while benefiting communities from Hampton Roads to the coalfields through investments in energy efficiency and in flood mitigation programs. RGGI is a climate solution that is very popular with Virginians, but more importantly, it is the law.”

With this withdrawal, Virginia will continue participating in RGGI through the end of 2023. What happens then is unclear.

“Virginia’s participation in RGGI provides critical funds to the Virginia Weatherization Assistance Program through the Weatherization Deferral and Repair (WDR) program,” said Billy Weitzenfeld, Executive Director of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals. “This allows eligible low-income families to receive necessary repairs that are out of the scope of normal weatherization services. If these roof, plumbing and electrical repairs were not done then the home would be deferred and weatherization services would not be provided. This would leave thousands of Virginia citizens with unsafe, unhealthy and unaffordable homes as well as eliminating an opportunity to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency services.”

Andrea McGimsey, Executive Director of Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, said, “RGGI is a highly effective program that cuts planet-warming pollution and protects Virginians from the worsening impacts of climate change. Given the intense warning signs we’ve received this summer, from record-setting heat to the horrifying wildfires affecting more and more Americans, it makes no sense to pull out. As people of faith, with this lawsuit, we are standing up for climate justice and all life on our beautiful planet — our one and only home.”

SELC Senior Attorney Nate Benforado reiterates that Virginians want RGGI.

“It is critical that we continue our participation in RGGI, a proven climate solution,” said Benforado. “Virginians know that we need this program and that we have no time to waste. We will be doing everything we can — as quickly as we can — to enforce the law and maintain this successful program.”

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About Association of Energy Conservation Professionals
AECP was formed in 1992 as a volunteer resource, whose membership consisted of Weatherization programs from around the state of Virginia. Today AECP is actually two organizations. AECP is a non-profit trade association that serves as a support and resource group for the Virginia Weatherization Assistance Program and the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals/Educational Service (AECP/ES) is a non-profit energy education organization that provides a variety of energy education to the general public. https://aecpes.org/

About Virginia Interfaith Power & Light
Virginia Interfaith Power & Light is the state affiliate of a national organization, Interfaith Power & Light, which is dedicated to bringing together all faith communities to mobilize a religious response to climate change through energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. With over 4,000 active supporters across the state, VAIPL has engaged with more than 200 faith communities and congregations. https://vaipl.org/

About Appalachian Voices
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future. https://appvoices.org

About Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions unites people of faith and people who share our values to develop local solutions to the climate crisis. FACS works primarily in Northern Virginia, encouraging moral climate policies from a nonpartisan perspective. https://faithforclimate.org/

About Southern Environmental Law Center
The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region’s air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 200, including more than 100 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. https://southernenvironment.org

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