Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Environmental Quality
Air Pollution Control Board
Regulation for Emissions Trading [9 VAC 5 ‑ 140]
Action Repeal CO 2 Budget Trading Program as required by Executive Order 9 (Revision A22)
Stage Final
Comment Period Ended on 8/30/2023
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8/30/23  11:21 pm
Commenter: Chris Bast

DEQ Lacks Authority to Withdraw from RGGI


I served the Commonwealth as Chief Deputy Director of DEQ from 2018-2022. My responsibilities as Chief Deputy included advising Director Paylor, Secretary Strickler, and Governor Northam on climate change, clean energy, and environmental justice issues. I also worked directly with Mike Dowd and the Air Division to design and implement policies, programs, and various regulatory and non-regulatory approaches to reducing climate pollution and improving public health and the environment. Core to these responsibilities was facilitating Virginia's entry and participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. I am keenly aware of the executive, legislative, and regulatory history of the Virginia Carbon Rule, the several approaches to initiating a regulatory framework for control of carbon dioxide emissions in Virginia, and the executive, legislative, and regulatory intent and the record supporting Virginia's participation in RGGI. I have made public presentations across the United States on this topic and I have participated in convenings of RGGI stakeholders and in meetings of the RGGI participating states and RGGI, Inc. I participated in policymaker deliberations on this topic with the General Assembly, the Office of the Governor, and the Office of the Attorney General. 

It is with this background and context that I remind you of what you already know to be true and what your own agency record shows to be true: DEQ and the Air Pollution Control Board do not have the authority to withdraw from RGGI without legislation and doing so is unlawful. 

During the nearly twenty years of David Paylor's tenure as Director of this agency, DEQ operated under one hard and fast mantra: we follow the science, and we follow the law. This action to withdraw from RGGI flaunts both the unrelenting science of climate change and the will of the people of the Commonwealth as expressed in law passed by their elected representatives. The legislative direction is clear. The intent of the law is concise. Nowhere has this agency, nor any other that I know of, interpreted the language of the law in the way that you have to justify this action. The gymnastics that this administration has forced DEQ staff to perform to justify the reversal of an action that was years in the making, directed by the General Assembly, and strongly supported by the regulatory record and the courts is shameful. 

Governor Youngkin is not a dictator. He does not get to run Virginia nor its agencies like a business of which he's the CEO. That's not how government works. The duly elected representatives of the people spoke very clearly with legislation directing Virginia's adoption of the Carbon Rule and participation in RGGI. 

In the long history of DEQ, the agency has rarely lost in court - and that's because the agency has stayed true to its mantra of following the science and the law. I'm sad to see this day. But I will not be sad to see you lose in court this time, as you surely must. 

CommentID: 220032