Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) carbon tax is now fully authorized under a new state regulation, and the deadline to appeal that regulation has passed with no appeal filed. Only the one-vote Republican margin in the two General Assembly chambers keeps Virginia out of RGGI at this time.
With full participation in RGGI a key Democratic campaign promise in the November elections, the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy has prepared a summary document providing additional information on just what that entails and how the RGGI process might work in Virginia. You can read or download that report at the link provided below.
This is too important an issue to be decided by regulation. The Virginia General Assembly has acted correctly in voting on RGGI membership (voting no, so far). It will be equally within the legislature’s purview to vote yes in 2020 for Virginia to move forward.
Voting yes would be a mistake. The stated goal of RGGI, reduced carbon emissions from electrical generation plants, is already being achieved. There is little or no marginal benefit to Virginia from RGGI membership and the carbon taxes imposed will harm the economy. It will just be one more General Assembly-initiated increase in homeowner and business electric bills.
In fact, RGGI’s carbon taxes will be only one way a new Democratic legislature might boost your energy costs. Probably the best reason to ignore RGGI is that the environmental activists have moved beyond it, with bigger plans and higher consumer costs in the making. A 2019 bill labeled “Clean Energy Mandates” represented Virginia Democrats’ version of the various Green New Deal proposals around the country, and would have prohibited:
- All new fossil-fuel generation in Virginia (natural gas as well as coal)
- New fossil fuel import or export facilities in Virginia which is a coal exporting state.
- Fossil fuel exploration or drilling in Virginia.
The bill would have required that 80% of electricity be generated from clean sources by 2028 and 100% by 2036, a far more aggressive goal than RGGI. Similar promises are appearing in 2019 Democratic campaign literature, here in Virginia and around the country. Some version of the 2019 clean energy bill will likely pass in 2020, especially if Democrats get a majority in both Houses of the General Assembly.
New Jersey had been a RGGI member, dropped out, and is now back in as of June, with its stated goal being 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. While New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s announced the return to RGGI last month he showed the Democrat’s true colors when he decried all the “lost carbon tax revenue” due to former governor Chris Christie’s withdrawal from RGGI. YES, RGGI is about carbon, but it is also ABOUT TAXES.
Virginia is part of an interstate wholesale electricity marketplace, PJM Interconnection LLC, which does not overlap with the RGGI states. RGGI will not force Virginia utilities to buy power only from other RGGI states, and in fact the non-RGGI states will often be the source. The carbon emissions may merely migrate to those other states, a process called “leakage.”
The Virginia Manufacturers Association and the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance had opposed the regulation during its adoption and filed notices of intent to appeal it to the Richmond Circuit Court. Both groups confirmed in late July that no appeals would be filed after all. The next signal will come from the voters.
Virginia coal and natural gas-fired power plants are the target of the regulation, which seeks to rapidly reduce the reliance of Virginia’s electricity generation plants on fossil fuels. Virginia’s participation in RGGI starts with a cap of 28 million tons of CO2 emissions from the covered facilities, to be reduced by 30% over ten years. All electric customers large and small would feel the higher prices.
The most recent RGGI auction was held June 5, with a price for CO2 allowances set at $5.62 per ton, up slightly from the previous auction and the highest price since $7.50 at the end of 2012. Virginia’s regulation calls for the revenue from the purchase of allowances to return to utilities and eventually back to ratepayers, but another new provision in the state budget designates it as state general fund revenue. Most other RGGI states spend the money on various programs, cementing its status as a carbon tax.
Both the House and Senate considered and rejected 2019 bills to take the funds away from ratepayers and spend them on environmental priorities but there is little doubt that if Democrats take over both Houses, these bills will pass.
REMEMBER: Your vote counts. Educate yourself and vote for candidates who will stand up to the left-wing environment socialist control freaks currently in charge in Richmond. Virginia should not join RGGI.
Source: Voters Should Say “No” to New Carbon Tax, by Stephen D. Haner, Jefferson Policy Center