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What is the future of the Clean Economy Act now?

As haze settled over Washington, D.C. and much of the Northeastern United States, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board voted to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Julio Cortez
A haze settles over Washington, D.C.

Environmentalists are worried about the governor rolling back environmental initiatives. But, they are still hopeful about meeting benchmarks in the future.
The Clean Economy Act set a pretty aggressive deadline for Virginia to eliminate carbon emissions from utilities by 2050. Since that law was passed back in 2020, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin has pulled Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Infinitive. And now, he's ditching emissions standards for automobiles.

"There's going to be six more governors between now and 2050, and I expect that we’re going to have many more governors than not that are going to want to do more on climate action," says Michael Town at the League of Conservation Voters. "In fact, with climate change every year getting worse and worse, the need to accelerate our clean energy goals, I think, is more important than talking about whether we should relax them."

Nate Benforado at the Southern Environmental Law Center says Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiave was working.

"We saw our emissions drop when we were in it, and now we are already seeing our emissions increase significantly without it," Benforado says. "So, it is really an important tool for Virginia to maintain, and I think it's one of many actions we've seen from this administration that is really taking us backwards and harming Virginia."

Environmental groups say the governor is engaged in executive overreach, and they're hoping the courts can reign him in. Meanwhile, the goals of the Clean Economy Act remain a legal mandate to eliminate carbon emissions for utilities by 2050.

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

Updated: June 7, 2024 at 4:03 PM EDT
*Editor's note: The Southern Environmental Law Center is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.
Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.