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State Republicans working to pull Virginia out of RGGI

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Republicans now in control of the House of Delegates want to roll back much of the environmental legislation approved by Democrats when they were in power. But, they're going to hit a blue wall in the Senate.

Republicans want a divorce from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That's the multi-state compact that Virginia joined when Democrats were in power. It's designed to reduce carbon emissions, although Republican Delegate Nick Freitas of Culpeper says RGGI locks Virginia into decisions made in other states.

"And as technology develops and as rules develop, all of a sudden we are bound by rules that are taking place in other states that aren’t keeping up with the latest green energy technology and puts us in a position where we end up I think subsidizing bad ideas or taxing energy in such a way that it hurts our ratepayers," he explains.

Supporters of the multi-state compact argue that Virginia stands to gain financially by staying in RGGI because power companies that don't meet emissions targets fork over cash for things like energy efficiency programs for low-income households and coastal resiliency projects. Michael Town is executive director of the League of Conservation Voters.

"That's really going to change a lot of people's lives and make it much easier for so many Virginia families to make ends meet," Town says. "On the coastal resiliency piece, it's still a drop in the bucket of what we need. But at least it's a head start and we're making progress."

Freitas has a bill that's working its way through the House, although the Senate has already killed a similar version.

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. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.