Virginia governor’s move to withdraw from the cap and trade initiative. But foes of his plan point out that in just three years, hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to energy efficiency and climate mitigation in the state

After a tight vote by the state’s Air Pollution Control Board, Virginia has moved one step closer to exiting the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and fulfilling an executive order issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin the day he took office.

In theory, the board’s 4-3 vote on June 7 to repeal Virginia’s participation in the initiative, known as RGGI, opens the way for Youngkin, a Republican, to finalize a withdrawal by the end of this year. But legal challenges from environmentalists and others appear likely: Many argue that a board reporting to the governor cannot reverse a binding 2020 decision by the state General Assembly to enlist Virginia in the program.

RGGI (pronounced reggie) is a cooperative agreement in which 11 Eastern states take part in a market mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and arrest climate change. Under the accord, fossil-fuel-powered electricity generators with a capacity greater than or equal to 25 megawatts must purchase “allowances” commensurate with the emissions from their plants, giving the utilities an incentive to decrease those emissions over time. An overall limit, or cap, on the states’ emissions is reduced year by year as the allowances are traded within the market.

When state lawmakers brought Virginia into RGGI in 2020 under the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act, they added two major provisions: 50 percent of the money had to be spent on energy efficiency programs in low-income communities, and another 45 percent had to go toward helping communities adversely affected by sea-level rise and flooding.

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