For Governor Glenn Youngkin, the problem with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is that it’s a market that sends the wrong signals to the wrong people.
And so Youngkin and Democratic lawmakers, along with environmentalists across the state, are drawing battle lines on the 11-state carbon market, where power companies can buy or sell carbon credits. They can be buyers, if their CO2 emissions exceed a limit, or sellers, if they want to get some extra cash to emit less greenhouse gases than their limit.
Many Democratic lawmakers argue that a state law requires Virginia participation in RGGI and that only the lawmaker can remove Virginia from the pact. Youngkin says the law allowed Virginia to join RGGI, but did not enforce Virginia’s participation.
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The idea behind RGGI is that the price of those credits, along with the cost of buying allowances that allow public utilities to emit a limited amount of CO2, will influence decisions on the use of coal, oil and natural gas for run generators that produce electricity – and emit CO2.
Eventually, RGGI predicts that its market will shift utilities towards power generation with non-CO2 emitting sources.
But Youngkin, whose stint at multi-billionaire Carlyle Group saw the company shift to carbon-reduction investments substantially, does not accept this argument.
“We don’t have a hidden tax … which has been mis-sold and misrepresented as some kind of market-based incentive, because RGGI is not a market-based incentive,” Youngkin said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
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“In this case, the utility can decide but does not have to worry because it can pass it on directly to the consumer and to the consumer. No. Choice, ”she said.
“They have to buy energy from the monopoly utility.”
That he was preparing for a big enough bill.
Last year the State Corporation Commission agreed with Dominion’s view that it would spend about $ 168 million to buy RGGI credits and that to cover that cost the bill for a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month would need to increase by 2. , 39 dollars.
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“We have to recognize that public services in this case are monopolies … they were told they had to buy these shares and all they do is pass them 100% to the consumer, who has no say,” Youngkin said.
But this year Dominion requested, and the SCC agreed, to suspend the supplement, noting that Virginia was on track to withdraw from RGGI. Dominion said it could cover previously spent sums through base rates.
Youngkin said he will not renew Virginia’s contract with RGGI when it expires in December 2023.
In the meantime, he wants the State Air Pollution Control Council to repeal the 2020 amendments to its C02 trade regulations that require utilities to purchase CO2 allowances, i.e. RGGI permission to emit a limited amount. of greenhouse gases.
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The board can do this because it is part of the executive branch led by the governor, he said.
The Democrats in the General Assembly are lost to disagree. In a letter to the Air Board last week, 61 of them said the agency’s powers are limited because the General Assembly created the Air Board.
“You have only the powers that the General Assembly grants you,” said the letter.
The letter from the Democrats also cites the law that allows participation in RGGI – Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act – adding that “it is clear our intent for Virginia to participate in RGGI.”
RGGI generated $ 378 million to support low-income energy efficiency and flood protection programs in Virginia, the Democrats said.
Youngkin sees it differently:
“The bill that was passed … it said you could do it, it allowed you to put it into effect. He never imposed it, “Youngkin said.” He allowed it, he never imposed it.
The bill states that the director of the Air Board “is authorized” to run the program to sell shares that can be used in RGGI’s trading system or something similar. He says the director “will try to sell 100 percent of all shares” unless it means a net loss of benefits for consumers.
Youngkin said he read that because it allows the Air Board to remove the requirement that public services purchase benefits, “and so we can – as a government, the General Assembly – work and if we are to provide funding for flood resilience. , then we go to provide funding for flood resilience.
“We don’t have a hidden tax that has been badly sold and misrepresented.”
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