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Rallies to defend the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Demonstrators in Richmond rally to support RGGI
Appalachian Voices
Demonstrators in Richmond rally to support RGGI

About 50 demonstrators in Richmond changed, "Defend RGGI!" while others gathered in Roanoke, Harrisonburg, Woodbridge and Virginia Beach to protest Governor Glenn Youngkin's plan to leave the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That 12-state market discourages production of carbon dioxide, provides money to make homes more energy efficient and aids communities hit by climate change. Sarah Ahmed with the League of Conservation Voters told a crowd in Richmond.

“When flooding and extreme weather is getting worse, and when households are struggling with rising costs, what is Governor Glenn Youngkin focused on? Trying to take away resources that do exactly two things – protect communities from the impact of climate change and lower electric bills for low income families through energy saving home improvements.”

In its first year, the state got more than $227 million from RGGI, but the Youngkin administration calls the cap-and-trade market a “carbon tax” that boosts energy bills in Virginia.

Critics say this is just the first of many battles to come – that the administration will strip away other parts of the Clean Energy Act that encouraged conservation, development of offshore wind and solar energy. State Senator Jennifer McClellan thinks that would be a mistake and will not be good for the economy.

“I can’t tell you the number of businesses that we heard from while we were drafting the clean economy act who said, ‘We want clean energy!’ Whether it was data centers or Lego, there is already a demand for clean energy, and oh by the way, it’s just the right thing to do to help protect and save our planet.”

And State Delegate Schuyler Vanvalkenburg argued a majority of voters support efforts to reduce the risks of climate change.

“You saw it with the federal government a couple of weeks ago. People know we need to get things done, and you’re starting to see this kind of broad set approval across a majority of Americans.”

He and McClellan say the Clean Energy Act is already proving a strong stimulus to Virginia’s economy, with solar panels appearing across the state and a new economic sector emerging in Hampton Roads to supply the offshore wind industry.

“It was already estimated that the Clean Energy Act would create 13,000 jobs," she recalls. "You could see that job growth right away, even in the middle of COVID – a 6.5% job growth in the solar industry in 6 months," Vanvalkenburg adds.

And supporters of RGGI say the money it’s generated is now being used to help communities in southwestern Virginia recover from flooding.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief