Virginia lawmakers table bipartisan cap-and-trade bill

Published 22:02 on January 20, 2016  /  Last updated at 22:02 on January 20, 2016  /  Americas, US  /  No Comments

Two Virginia lawmakers from opposing parties have tabled a bill that would push the state to join RGGI or to form its own regional cap-and-trade scheme, local media reported on Wednesday.

Two Virginia lawmakers from opposing parties have tabled a bill that would push the state to join RGGI or to form its own regional cap-and-trade scheme, local media reported on Wednesday.

Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) and Delegate Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) introduced the legislation, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a measure the pair estimates would help generate $250 million in new revenue should the state opt to become the 10th member of RGGI

The bill, called the Virginia Alternative Energy and Coastal Protection Act of 2016, also provides an option for the state to create its own regional carbon market.

A similar bill filed by Villanueva last year died in committee.

“Trying to do the right thing by the environment is not a Democratic issue, it’s not a Republican issue. It’s something we should all be concerned about,” McEachin said during a joint press conference with Villanueva and energy efficiency groups, the paper reported.

However, Dominion Virginia Power, the state’s largest utility, opposes Virginia joining RGGI as it says the move would result in higher power prices.

“We are reviewing the bill, but at first blush it looks like it would raise rates considerably in Virginia … at a time when Dominion’s residential rates are currently 32% below the average of states under the RGGI structure,” said Dominion Virginia Power spokesman David Botkins, as reported by the Times-Dispatch.

“RGGI states have a very different energy situation, including higher costs, different usage patterns, lower growth rates, and different generation mixes.”

Under the US Clean Power Plan, Virginia is required to reduce its power sector emissions by 23% below 2012 levels by 2030, whereas under RGGI it would likely be required to make deeper cuts.

According to the World Resources Institute, Virginia’s power plants have already reduced their CO2 by 22% between 2005 and 2012, due in large part to using burning more natural gas in place of coal, as well as lower overall generation.

“While electricity demand is projected to rise in the coming years, capitalizing on existing clean energy opportunities can allow the state to surpass its Clean Power Plan mandate.  The state has already locked in one-third of the total reductions needed through planned actions like scheduled coal plant retirements and investments in renewables and efficiency,” WRI said.

“Simply achieving its existing voluntary energy efficiency and renewable energy targets would reduce Virginia’s power sector CO2 emissions 27% below 2012 levels in 2030.”

By Mike Szabo – mike@carbon-pulse.com

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