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Virginia Approves Carbon Cap and Trade Plan

Steve Helber



Virginia is one step closer to implementing a cap and trade program. Regulators in Richmond Thursday gave the preliminary stamp of approval on a plan to reduce carbon emissions.



Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board unanimously approved a plan to cap carbon pollution beginning in 2020. The goal would be for Virginia’s power plants to reduce emissions by 30 percent over the following 10 years.


Michael Dowd is Director of the Air and Renewable Energy Division for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality. He says Thursday’s vote is a game changer.  


“It is bringing us into the world of carbon regulation where heretofore Virginia was not a player. We will now be a player,” Dowd said. “We are a state that’s subject to lots of potential damage with climate change in the coming years and we’re finally joining the world of carbon regulation.”


Instead of developing its own market for carbon allowances, Virginia would join an existing one that states like Massachusetts, New York and Vermont participate in. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has nine northeast and mid atlantic state members


“And they’ve been around for about ten years. And we would be linking to their program for a much larger carbon market,” explained Dowd.  


The plan is now open to public comment before a final version goes back to the board for approval. Dowd predicts the regulations will be finalized next year.


Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe directed Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to create a cap and trade system back in May, as President Trump looked likely to roll back the Clean Power Plan.


Since then the U.S. has also withdrawn from the Paris Climate agreement. McAuliffe recently traveled to Europe to represent Virginia at a global climate conference.


In a statement responding to Thursday's decision from the Board McAuliffe wrote that Virginia does not "have the luxury of waiting for Washington to wake up to this threat - we must act now."


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.