In a move that represents a key policy shift in the Commonwealth, Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin has announced that he plans to utilize executive authority to pull his state out of an interstate climate change pact known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), as the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
The decision was revealed last week during remarks Youngkin delivered to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting in Virginia Beach in which he described the program as little more than a tax on utility ratepayers and a hindrance to businesses in the state.
The compact itself imposes penalties on any entity exceeding predetermined emissions standards set by a group that represents the eleven member states, all of which sit along the country’s eastern seaboard, as Fox News notes.
The program was first approved in 2020 by the Democrat-controlled legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), and over the summer, a request from Dominion Energy – the largest electric utility in the state – to recover RGGI costs from its customers was approved.
Speaking to the Chamber on Wednesday, Youngkin reportedly said, “Just this week, Dominion Energy announced that they will seek to double the carbon surcharge that is being applied to ratepayers under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” adding, “It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses. And as governor I will withdraw us from RGGI by executive action.”
According to a recording of Youngkin’s statements obtained by The Hill, Youngkin proudly declared,
“I promised to lower the cost of living in Virginia and this is just the beginning.”
Youngkin’s pledge was heralded by Nicole Riley, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, who stated, “Virginia’s small businesses are managing several obstacles such as the labor shortage and supply chain disruptions. Small business owners need lawmakers to enact policies that promote job growth, not deter it, as they work on recovering their businesses to pre-crisis levels.”
“By removing Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin is sparing small business owners from an increased cost in their electric bills and other expenses they simply cannot afford right now,” Riley added.
Though Democrats have already argued that Youngkin cannot exit the pact via executive order, GOP lawmakers – who recently reclaimed control of the House of Delegates – are committed to undoing some of the environmental regulation enacted in the state over the past two years, proving once again that elections do indeed have consequences.