Virginia is part of a regional program that is cleaning the air we breathe, while also bringing money to the Shenandoah Valley for flood preparedness. But Virginia’s membership in this multi-state effort is threatened.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), commonly known as ‘Reggie,’ is steadily reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in Virginia and in the 10 contiguous member states.

RGGI is a market-based approach to climate protection. It works by establishing a cap on allowable emissions from power plants in the member states. Power plants comply by either reducing their emissions or by buying additional allowances at auction. Over time, the cap becomes stricter, and the overall power plant emissions in RGGI states continuously declines.

The sale of allowances generates a great deal of money for Virginia and the other member states. In fact, Virginia’s RGGI membership has generated $523 million for Virginia since 2021, the year Virginia joined RGGI.

Much of Virginia’s RGGI income is dedicated to flood preparedness and community resilience, both greatly needed, given that our warming climate is generating more frequent, more intense storms. In fact, both the town of Front Royal and Shenandoah County have received RGGI grants to help these areas better prepare for flooding and better protect citizens and property from flood damage.

Front Royal has received a $90,000 grant through RGGI that will enable the town to better predict flood stage levels and potential flooding hotspots, as well as ensure that future growth planning is informed by flood risk. (The grant will fund the updating of hydrology studies of local watersheds by incorporating increasing precipitation rates). Through FEMA’s Community Rating System, Front Royal will be able to apply for reduced flood insurance premiums for properties within the new floodplain boundaries.

And Shenandoah County has received RGGI funds to train Certified Floodplain Managers. This investment means Shenandoah County will be able to manage floodplain issues in ways that better protect Shenandoah County residents and property.

RGGI’s benefits are far-reaching. Electricity rates in RGGI states have dropped by almost 6%, while rising almost 9% throughout the rest of the country. And RGGI states are reducing climate-warming emissions 90% faster than non-RGGI states.

Despite the win-win nature of RGGI, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants to pull Virginia out of the program. He attempted, unsuccessfully, to get the General Assembly to repeal the law it passed in 2020 that brought Virginia into RGGI.

Now, Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board, which includes four Youngkin appointees, is proposing a regulation to withdraw Virginia from RGGI. Many argue that Youngkin is acting illegally, since a regulatory agency lacks the authority to overturn Virginia law.

Youngkin has consistently shown that he is much more interested in serving wealthy fossil fuel companies than he is in serving Virginia and its citizens. But citizens can act to help ensure that Virginia stays in RGGI by submitting comments to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board by March 31. For more information, contact the Virginia Sierra Club.

April Moore, a resident of Shenandoah County, is chair of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network

(1) comment

Brad Skipper

Thank you addressing this governors overreach! The RGGI is a sensible approach to managing and mitigating pollution, and that should be an imperative for all of us. We only get one planet, and we need to learn to stop killing it. Thanks!

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