Press Release

Air board votes to move forward with Virginia’s withdrawal from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Supporters rallied for RGGI ahead of meeting, vow to continue fight

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 7, 2022

CONTACT
Jessica Sims, jessica@appvoices.org, 804-356-1228

Richmond, Va. — Today, the seven-member citizen Air Pollution Control Board voted 4-1 (with 2 abstaining) to move forward with Virginia’s withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate program that has resulted in approximately $452 million of critical funding for communities and localities across the commonwealth. The action at today’s meeting is controversial as advocates assert that legislation would be required to remove the commonwealth from the program, rather than administrative action.

Notably, air board members Hope Cupit and Dr. Lornel Tompkins abstained from the vote, citing concerns with the legality of the proposal, and board member Stacy Rijal voted against it, citing the need for data and more information to reach a decision. The proposed regulation to move forward with the commonwealth’s withdrawal from RGGI now moves to a stage of executive review, followed by a 60-day public comment period on the proposed regulation.

Before the board meeting, advocates rallied outside in support of RGGI with a rally themed “Governor Youngkin: Stop Playing Games with Our Future.” The rally’s theatrical elements and dynamic speeches from Kidest Gebre, organizing coordinator & Communicating Our Power fellow with Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, and Sarah Ahmed, statewide field director of Virginia League of Conservation Voters energized the attendees, many of whom then observed the air board meeting.

Although advocates were prohibited from responding to the proposed regulatory action or Acting Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Voyles’ presentation in support of it, supporters of RGGI delivered moving statements about climate change impacts during the public comment portion of the meeting’s agenda.

In spite of the administration’s directive to remove Virginia from the program, public support for RGGI continues to grow.

“Gov. Youngkin’s ongoing attempt to withdraw Virginia from RGGI via regulatory action is unlawful,” said Emily Piontek, Virginia energy democracy field coordinator with Appalachian Voices. “The governor’s actions are blind to the very real benefits this program is delivering to communities in need, and blind to the widespread support for RGGI that the public has repeatedly shown, including at the rally today. RGGI is helping Virginia proactively respond to the climate crisis, including by helping those most impacted by it. This would be much harder to do if Virginia did not receive the critical funding that RGGI supplies.”

“Governor Youngkin has proven time and again that his allegiances are with the fossil fuel industry, not the people of Virginia,” said Victoria Higgins, Virginia director for Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Participation in RGGI is a commonsense policy that reduces air pollution, keeps us on track to meet our climate goals, and provides necessary funding to address the flooding we see today and that we know will get worse in the coming years. Because of RGGI’s overwhelming public support, Youngkin failed to repeal this popular policy through the legislature. It is appalling that the governor has now turned to using unelected members of a citizen board to enact his extremist agenda. This transparently undemocratic and illegitimate attempt at repeal reveals the lengths to which Youngkin will go to drag Virginia backwards on climate.”

“Virginia’s citizen boards are our first line of defense against projects that threaten the air we breathe and the water we drink and threaten our collective health and wellbeing,” said Lee Williams, founding member of RVA Interfaith Climate Justice League. “Communities plagued by poor indoor and outdoor air quality, inefficient drafty housing and flooding need protection and deserve the infrastructure investment dollars RGGI brings to these vulnerable communities. It’s fiscally irresponsible and morally bankrupt for the governor to throw away the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative brings to our state, and shift the burden for these vital programs to the backs of taxpayers, nonprofits and NGOs.”

“The simple fact is that Virginians, through the General Assembly, have decidedly committed that Virginia will participate in RGGI,” said Mary Rafferty, executive director of the Virginia Conservation Network. “Neither the Air Board, governor, nor the DEQ has the authority to take away millions in climate relief from Virginians.”

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