The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative legislation created a platform to reduce CO2 pollution in the Commonwealth and thereby protects Virginia citizens from environmental, health and economic harms associated therewith. As a result, while generating capacity has increased in the Commonwealth, emissions have declined and the program has supplied revenue to help Virginians to mitigate and adapt to climate disruptions. Scholarly research from in state Institutes of Higher Education shows that Virginian’s are concerned about climate issues and that low income residents will benefit financially with energy efficiency programs funded through the RGGI platform. George Mason and Yale studies indicate that almost 75% of Virginia citizens believe global warming is happening, that it will harm future generations, and that CO2 should be regulated as a pollutant. Researchers at VCU estimate that in 10 years of operation, the RGGI would fund energy improvements for at least 100,000 low income home owners. That would translate into several hundred dollars a year in energy savings per household while also reducing emissions and creating jobs in low income areas. Cash strapped municipalities already feeling the impacts of climate change are likewise benefitting from flood resiliency funds for planning and infrastructure projects. Some 40 municipalizes have received funding for desperately needed projects. In the two years the program has operated, Virginia has received $523 million from the RGGI. About half has gone to energy efficiency and weatherization with 45% going to communities with flood issues. Clearly, the RGGI is a win win for Virginia.
The General Assembly enacted the RGGI legislation and efforts to repeal it there have failed. It therefore should stand. Instead of backtracking and repealing the RGGI, we should continue on a forward path and be more proactive on the climate front. Focusing on clean renewable energy is key. While Virginia was slow to ramp up renewable electric production, we are now leaders. And the reason for that is HUGE consumer demand. Virginians and the companies that do business here want clean renewable energy. In fact, companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon are doing business in Virginia because they were able to source clean energy. If we want to continue to attract corporate icons that are increasingly climate conscious, our policies must also reflect a climate wise stance.