For Immediate Release:
Friday, March 17, 2023
Lee Francis | Deputy Director
Virginia League of Conservation Voters
(804) 225-1902 | email@example.com
RICHMOND – Thursday, March 16, Virginia lawmakers joined with public health and environmental advocates to voice opposition to Governor Youngkin’s ongoing, unlawful efforts to repeal Virginia’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This comes the same day the State Air Pollution Control Board is accepting in-person public comment on this misguided repeal effort.
The General Assembly voted to join this program in 2020 and it has returned nearly $590 million in revenue to Virginia so far to fund vital flooding resiliency and energy efficiency efforts while slashing power plant pollution, efforts that are helping bolster our state’s clean energy advances.
Legislative attempts to repeal our membership in RGGI in recent years have been unsuccessful thanks to Democrats in the State Senate who passed our Commonwealth’s strongest climate action policies in 2020 and 2021 and who have helped defend that progress from attack in back-to-back legislative sessions.
“March Madness just started today, but Governor Youngkin’s got his own March Madness going on, and it’s called taking us out of RGGI. I can’t think of anything more ill-advised than that,” said Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Fairfax). “When it comes to clean energy, the Commonwealth’s the first seed in the South, we’re at the top of the bracket, the real leaders who are creating clean energy jobs, lowering pollution rates and securing a better tomorrow for Virginians all across the state.”
“Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has quickly emerged as a strong benefit to the Commonwealth. Lowering carbon emissions contributes to global efforts to impact climate change and also results in better health outcomes for vulnerable communities,” said Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Richmond). “Additionally, the hundreds of millions of dollars generated by RGGI have helped our efforts in coastal resilience, flood disasters, and the development of energy-efficient low-income housing. RGGI benefits our environment and coastal communities, and improves quality of life throughout Virginia.”
“The importance of Virginia’s participation in RGGI cannot be overstated; It is by and large the most consequential piece of legislation I sponsored during my two decades in the Virginia legislature. The critical reduction in carbon emissions and investments in energy efficiency and coastal resiliency that have resulted from the hundreds of millions of dollars in RGGI revenues would not have happened without our participation – and it is nearly impossible to see how this progress or these investments would be maintained without it,” said Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomac). “Not only is the legal authority of the Governor to remove Virginia from RGGI in question, but to do so would put the future of our flood-prone and environmentally vulnerable communities in serious jeopardy.”
Environmental advocates recognized the success of RGGI and the leadership of lawmakers who have helped defend our climate action progress.
“RGGI is working, two-thirds of Virginians support it, and Governor Youngkin lacks the legal authority to take us out of this vital program,” said Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. “We’re grateful for the leadership of our allies in the Senate for defending our climate action policies at the legislature and for standing with us today in solidarity against Youngkin’s reckless push to abandon our state’s climate commitments.”
“RGGI has had a real, lasting effect on creating more affordable and energy-efficient housing throughout Virginia,” said Chelsea Harnish, executive director of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council. “Since joining RGGI in 2021, Virginia has received over $250 million to make affordable housing safer, healthier, and more comfortable for residents. From Wytheville, to Fairfax, to Harrisonburg, to the eastern shore, these dollars are making a difference.”
Representatives with Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action spoke to the clear health benefits of staying in RGGI due to reductions in harmful power plant emissions – pollution that can lead to chronic respiratory illnesses and other negative health outcomes when left unchecked.
“In 2021, over 200 medical journals worldwide called for urgent action to slow climate change. Locally, a group of health professionals that I am part of–the Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action–recognizes the health problems that come with environmental degradation,” said Danny Walden, a fourth year medical student at VCU, who leads the local chapter of Medical Students for a Sustainable Future. “This growing chorus recognizes that many of us – Virginians included – are suffering from the health effects of climate change, and that RGGI is part of the solution.”
“We should be able to live in a world free of exposure to toxic agents and other hazardous environmental conditions but we know that is nearly impossible. However, we can do our part to minimize the pollutants that are around us,” added Dr. Vivienne Pierce McDaniel, President of the Central Virginia Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association. “As a registered nurse it is incumbent on me to advocate for environmental health especially for those who reside in underserved at-risk populations where access to safe, quality care is lacking after developing conditions caused by environmental toxins.”
Speakers also included the next generation of Virginians who will be impacted most by climate change’s increasing severity.
“Leaving RGGI concerns me and it concerns my fellow classmates,” said Philip Ignatoff, a senior at the College of William and Mary, who leads his school’s Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter and has helped drive public comments in support of staying in RGGI. “There’s clear consensus among my peers that Virginia needs a serious carbon reduction plan that’s good for Virginians and the environment.”
This event was held in partnership with the Virginia LCV Climate Action Team, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, Virginia Conservation Network, Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action, Environmental Defense Fund, Chesapeake Climate Action Network VA, Sierra Club VA, Wetlands Watch, Advanced Energy United, Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, Climate Cabinet Action, Climate Equity Working Group, and National Resource Defense Council.
The Virginia League of Conservation Voters serves as the political voice of the state’s conservation community, working to make sure Virginia’s elected officials recognize that our natural heritage is an environmental and economic treasure for all. Virginia LCV works with conservation leaders across Virginia and strives for a conservation majority in state government. We secure good public policies on the state level and hold public officials accountable for their positions on environmental issues. For more information, visit www.valcv.org.