Environmental groups file notice of appeal as fight to keep Virginia in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative continues

July 31, 2023

Tasha Durrett, SELC Communications, 571-405-1101, tdurrett@selcva.org
Dan Radmacher, Appalachian Voices Communications, 540-798-6683, dan@appvoices.org
Faith B. Harris, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, 804-920-3761, fharris@vaipl.org

RICHMOND, Va. — Two months after Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board voted to remove the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, environmental groups are working to stop this from happening.

Today, the Virginia Register published the final regulatory action that will remove Virginia from RGGI at the end of year. Also today, the Southern Environmental Law Center initiated a challenge to this action, on behalf of Appalachian Voices, the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, and Virginia Interfaith Power and Light by serving the responsible officials with a notice of appeal.

In the notice, the groups have informed the Air Pollution Control Board, and the Department of Environmental Quality and its director, that they will challenge this action in Fairfax Circuit Court.

“Members of the Air Pollution Control Board were repeatedly informed that they did not have the authority to reverse a legislative mandate for Virginia to participate in RGGI — only the General Assembly has that authority,” said Peter Anderson, Director of State Energy Policy for Appalachian Voices. “They acted anyway, ignoring the law and all of the benefits that Virginia has gained from RGGI.”

Virginia joined RGGI in 2021 after the General Assembly passed a 2020 law requiring Virginia’s participation in the successful regional program. Other states in the program are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Since becoming the first Southern state to participate in RGGI, 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.

“Virginia Interfaith Power & Light and our partners continue to advocate for the morality of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” said Rev. Dr. Faith Harris, Executive Director for Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. “Virginia’s participation in RGGI is a practical and positive solution to just some of the problems created by greenhouse gas emissions on climate, and it is a proven method to help the Commonwealth meet its 100% renewable goals. This administrative process is an unprecedented usurping of the General Assembly’s power to address the climate crisis and protect all Virginians from climate disaster.”

In 2021, after an industrial group challenged Virginia’s RGGI regulation, SELC filed an amicus brief on behalf of Harris’s organization, Appalachian Voices and Wetlands Watch, helping to defend Virginia’s participation in RGGI. The court dismissed the challenge in its entirety and Virginia’s participation continued uninterrupted.

“As people of faith, we are committed to being responsible stewards of the Earth,” said Andrea McGimsey, Executive Director of Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a multi-state collaboration that has cut a huge amount of pollution from power plants, while protecting Virginians from the increasing impacts of climate change. RGGI helps us leave a better world to our children and grandchildren, and we will continue to vigorously defend Virginia’s participation in this successful, bipartisan program.”

“Virginia’s participation in RGGI is a process that is working. Homes are being weatherized, communities are being protected from flooding, jobs are being created, local economies around the commonwealth are being enhanced, and greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollutants are being reduced”, said Billy Weitzenfeld, Executive Director of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals. “Eliminating a successful program that is helping all Virginians is misguided and a huge mistake.”

Now that the notice of appeal has been served, the groups have 30 days to file a petition of appeal with the Fairfax Circuit Court, detailing the specific claims.

“Throughout this process, the administration has brushed aside serious questions concerning their lack of authority to take this action, and ignored the thousands of Virginians who have steadfastly opposed this misguided process,” said SELC senior attorney Nate Benforado. “We are disappointed it has come to this but look forward to presenting our arguments to the court.”


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. appvoices.org

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 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. southernenvironment.org