The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Virginia Joins, Pennsylvania Still Debating

Photo courtesy of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Virginia finalized its regulations to become the eleventh member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) on the same day Pennsylvania’s House of Representative’s passed a bill that would make it harder for the state to join.

RGGI is a collaborative effort by many northeastern states to reduce power sector CO2 emissions through a pollution allowance cap and trade program. It is a market based approach that includes quarterly auctions of allowances. Generators have the option of cleaning their operations or purchasing allowances, whatever is cheaper, thereby maximizing the economic benefits of the program. Proceeds from auctions go to state programs that provide funding for clean and energy efficient projects among other environmentally friendly initiatives.

On Wednesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia will become the eleventh and southernmost member of the cooperation. “This initiative provides a unique opportunity to meet the urgency of the environmental threats facing our planet while positioning Virginia as a center of economic activity in the transition to renewable energy. Our commonwealth is ready to lead the way in ensuring that the path to reducing carbon emissions is equitable and protects the health and safety of all Virginians” said Gov. Northam. The State intends to use their share of auction proceeds for energy efficiency programs benefiting low-income residents and flood prevention strategies. The State will officially become a member on January 1, 2021.

Pennsylvania officials are not all in agreement on whether the state should join RGGI. On Wednesday the Pennsylvania House approved a bill that would bar the state’s Department of environmental Protection (DEP) from joining RGGI without General Assembly approval. Last month Governor Tom Wolf ordered DEP to generate the rules necessary to make Pennsylvania a member despite concerns from the business community. On the same day the House passed the bill, DEP released a report detailing the estimated benefits of joining the cooperative.

From coverage in Utility Dive:

The analysis indicated that participating in RGGI could save the lives of 639 Pennsylvanians by 2030 due to lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other power plant pollutants. In addition, participation will produce a net increase of more than 27,000 jobs and $1.9 billion to Pennsylvania’s Gross State Product, it found.

Governor Wolf has already stated that he would veto the legislation and continue pursuing membership in RGGI.

During Maryland’s 2018 General Assembly Session, the legislature passed a bill requiring General Assembly approval before Maryland could exit RGGI.

For more information on RGGI, visit their website.

RGGI press release on Virginia joining.