Ahead of a Feb. 5 court hearing, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has filed a supporting brief arguing for Virginia’s continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Last year, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), representing four organizations, filed a lawsuit challenging Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s repeal of regulations that govern Virginia’s participation in RGGI.
In a Nov. 3 ruling, the Fairfax Circuit Court dismissed three petitioners, all conservation organizations, for lack of standing. The case was transferred to Floyd County, where the remaining plaintiff is based, and an initial hearing is scheduled to take place Feb. 5.
In its amicus curiae brief, CBF supported the petitioners’ request to suspend Virginia’s withdrawal from RGGI while the case is pending. The brief emphasizes the importance of RGGI in providing consistent and dedicated funding to community flood prevention projects that prioritize nature-based resiliency solutions across Virginia. These projects reduce the impacts of sea level rise and flooding as well as improve water quality.
Virginia joined RGGI in 2020 through legislation passed in the General Assembly. The program, implemented in 12 Eastern states, sets a regional limit on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Each power plant must pay for each ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) it emits at quarterly auctions. The emissions cap lowers over time, leading to cleaner air and less pollution to waterways while reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.
The proceeds from RGGI’s auctions directly benefit Virginia’s residents: 45 percent of the revenue in Virginia goes to the Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which supports resilience efforts from the Eastern Shore to southwest Virginia, particularly in communities that may not be eligible for a loan.
In just two years, RGGI raised more than $600 million, and Virginia has awarded approximately $97.7 million for community flood prevention projects.
These projects support combatting the impact of severe storms that increase stormwater runoff, increase nutrient and sediment loads to the Bay watershed, and threaten to drown critical wetlands as well as destroy properties.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Staff Attorney Patrick Fanning issued the following statement:
“Virginia’s participation in RGGI is critical to addressing climate change and protecting communities from flooding. We will continue to support efforts to keep Virginia in RGGI, as well as efforts that prioritize nature-based resiliency projects.”
“RGGI was the only dedicated source of funding for community, nature-based projects that prevent flooding and reduce pollution. It was a critical piece in not only protecting the environment against the reality of rising seas and climate change, but Virginians as well. Our brief urges the court to allow this important program to continue operating while the case proceeds.”