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Reviews | The benefits of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative outweigh its costs

Virginia Department of Natural and Historic Resources Acting Secretary Travis Voyles of the October 2 Local Opinions Essay, “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is Bad for Virginia,” misrepresented the Regional Initiative on greenhouse gases (RGGI). The facts are common sense and do not support the position of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (right).

The RGGI fee is not a tax. The RGGI sells allowances to individual producers for the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide. Revenues are earmarked for specific programs, such as energy efficiency and flood mitigation. The cost of the allowances encourages the production of electricity that does not emit carbon dioxide.

Continued operation of fossil fuel power plants is necessary to maintain reliable electrical service. However, this does not allow the government of Virginia to ignore the contribution of emitted carbon dioxide to accelerating climate change or the costs to Virginians from more severe storms as well as rising oceans. The Youngkin administration nowhere identifies the baseline amount of carbon dioxide emissions from power generation that it deems appropriate. Youngkin comes from a double-entry accounting environment: he should apply the same logic here to account for the benefits of RGGI, not just the costs.

RGGI revenues support issues of energy efficiency and climate change resilience. Energy efficiency reduces the demand for electricity. The lower the demand, the lower the need for generation from fossil fuels. This is how the market works. A governor with a business background should know that. Conversely, the more energy resilience efforts are funded, especially for Virginia’s coastal communities, the better their ability to withstand damage from climate change.

This was the understanding of the Virginia legislature. This statutory language and justification is just as true today.

David P. Yaffe, Arlington

Youngkin administration alleges Virginia’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative “is not effective,” despite Virginia’s RGGI program reducing energy sector air pollution by 14% only in its first year. Virginia is relatively new to RGGI. Over the decade-plus of the program, RGGI states reduced global warming emissions 90% faster than the rest of the country while increasing economic growth 31% faster.

The results of this program are clear: cleaner air and better health outcomes and billions of dollars in revenue that has helped reduce electricity costs while stimulating the deployment of clean energy.

The writer, a Democrat, represents Alexandria in the Virginia Senate, where he sits on the Trade and Labor Committee, which oversees energy regulation in the Commonwealth.

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