Richmond (January 29, 2019) — On Tuesday, the House of Delegates on a 51-48 party-line vote passed a bill to bar the Governor or any state agency from participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), without a two-thirds majority vote from each legislative chamber. Currently, nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participate in the market-based carbon cap-and-trade program.
The patron of HB2611, Delegate Charles Poindexter (R-Franklin), argued that the bill was intended as an effort to give a voice to the “people,” rather than a blatant denial of climate science. However, the two-thirds vote stipulation is significantly higher than the requirement for most legislative initiatives, and the bill would strip authority from the Governor in a state that has not elected a Republican to statewide office since 2009.
During the bill’s second reading on Monday, Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) questioned the patron on the floor, referencing a recent reportfrom the federal government that emphasizes the dramatic impacts of climate change on coastal communities.
Delegate Poindexter responded that the report was influenced by “deep state” operatives, and that “there is a lot of difference of opinions. We might want to look at some land sinking instead of the water rising.”
Speaking in opposition to the bill, Delegate Lopez said, “Virginia is ground zero for sea level rise. This is a climate crisis, with consistent floods in every corner of the state especially on the coast… RGGI would help Virginia by funding flooding solutions and improving economic development in every corner of the Commonwealth.”
House Democratic Caucus Leader Emeritus David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) noted, “The Governor has already proposed that 77 percent of the funds raised by participating in RGGI would go to coastal flooding and resiliency in the coastline.” He also added that electricity rates in RGGI states have declined by 6.2 percent, whereas they have increased by 6.9 percent in non-RGGI states.
The bill passed the House on Tuesday, with all Republicans supporting it and all Democrats opposing. A similar bill by Delegate Poindexter, HB2269, also passed on a party-line vote. That bill would require a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber to participate in any regional transportation sector emissions program, such as the Transportation and Climate Initiative.