Virginia Gov. Proposes Cap and Trade Program, Praised for "Standing Up to Trump"

May 19, 2017


National Governors Association (NGA) Chairman Terry McAuliffe speaks during the opening session of the NGA's Winter Meeting in Washington.
Credit Cliff Owen / AP

As the federal government looks to roll back the Clean Power Plan, Virginia’s Governor is stepping in. Terry McAuliffe says the state will plow forward on its own to lower pollution, and combat climate change. 



Governor Terry McAuliffe says that Virginia will be one of the states most harmed by rising sea levels, and that failing to take action will leaves us vulnerable to both private and public land damage. 


“Louisiana is the most vulnerable to sea level rise, but we’re second,” said McAuliffe. “And I’d say we’re even more important, no disrespect to Louisiana, but we do have the largest naval base in the world.”  


McAuliffe leaves office at the end of this year, and he’s given state regulators until then to come up with specific regulations to help Virginia curb emissions. 


“So in essence we will be doing a type of cap and trade and we’ll do a reduction of about 2.5-percent a year,” said McAuliffe this week. “I think we hit the best of all worlds. I can do this within my authority. It will save the Commonwealth money.” 

Related Content: Why Coal Still Has Clout in the Commonwealth 

Cap and trade programs create a market for emissions. Companies are given a certain amount of carbon they can spill into the air. If they don’t max out they can sell that extra to other companies that want it. 


California regulates emissions this way, as does a regional collaboration of New England and Mid-Atlantic states. McAuliffe envisions Virginia as potentially playing a role in that regional market, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. 


Analysts say that effort has been largely successful at reducing emissions, lowering energy bills, and creating jobs. 

But Virginia’s Republican lawmakers, and candidates for Governor, are criticizing McAuliffe for pushing the initiative without legislative support. They say it could harm the state’s economy by tamping down on the coal industry in southwest Virginia. 

Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest utility company, says it’s committed to reducing carbon emissions and have been preparing for regulation. 

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