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Does Virginia Need RGGI If Emmissions Are Already Falling?


Should Virginia work with other states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Voters may end up deciding that issue this November.

Large-scale polluters can be big business. And so taking action against companies that contribute to greenhouse gas can be bad for business.

But House of Delegates Democratic whip Alfonso Lopez of Arlington says it’s worth the risk, and during a debate on the House floor earlier this year he invoked the musical Hamilton to make the point.  

“Taking action across multiple states would contribute to improved air quality for better public health across the region," Lopez said. "It makes sense for Virginia to be in the room where it happens, actively engaged”

But Stephen Haner at the Thomas Jefferson Institute says Virginia would be throwing away its shot of enjoying the reduced rates of carbon emissions that would happen anyway without paying the extra premium on energy bills. 

“Power companies are moving in this direction anyway. They are moving away from coal and they are reducing carbon emissions on their own. So I think it’s virtue signaling to try and basically say well we made them do it even though they are doing it anyway.”

Ultimately voters will end up making the call on this one. The Republican-led General Assembly has resisted efforts for Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. If Democrats take power this November, Virginia could join the group as early as next year.

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

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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