Virginia and North Carolina have one thing in common in addition to their shared border. Both have a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature dominated by reactionaries who want to take America back to the good old days when white men ruled the roost, women were for birthing babies and baking brownies, and black people knew their place. Both also have copious power plant emissions that negatively impact their residents.
Cap & Trade In Virginia
Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, has recently signed an executive order that directs the state’s environmental regulators to create a cap and trade plan for carbon emissions. “The threat of climate change is real, and we have a shared responsibility to confront it,” McAuliffe said. “Once approved, this regulation will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the Commonwealth’s power plants and give rise to the next generation of energy jobs. As the federal government abdicates its role on this important issue, it is critical for states to fill the void.”
If you think the name McAuliffe sounds familiar, it should. He has long been involved in politics at the national level before becoming governor of Virginia in 2014. He was chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005, co-chair of Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, and chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Other States With Cap & Trade Programs
McAuliffe’s order would add Virginia to ten other states that already have cap and trade programs in place. California, of course, was the leader in the field. Following in its footsteps, nine states in the Northeast created the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Authority To Regulate Power Plant Emissions
Last week, the Virginia attorney general ruled that the State Air Pollution Control Board has the authority to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants. President Obama used a similar ruling to create the Clean Power Plan, which McAuliffe vigorously supported. The current occupant of the Oval Office is doing everything in his power to undercut that initiative so the skies over America may once again be choked with carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.
“Unfortunately, the news out of this White House is alarming,” McAuliffe said, according to the Associated Press. “The citizens of our commonwealth want and expect us to confront this issue.” That’s not just political bluster. Earlier this year, a study by Yale University found that a majority of Americans in all 50 states and in 435 Congressional districts support the Clean Power Plan.
“As with administrative rule making, he has the authority to regulate carbon, but he can’t pre-dictate what the final results are going to be,” explains Walton Shepherd, a staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The standard he’d like to shoot for is to trade in existing markets, so presumably the stringency would have to be at or above those states in order to participate.”
Republicans Are Opposed
Republicans in the state legislature are none too pleased with McAuliffe’s move. Not surprising, since most of them are in the hip pocket of fossil fuel interests who are happy to poison people just so long as there are fat profits to be made.
“The governor is ignoring the legislative process by putting forward broadly expansive environmental regulations — a policy he never proposed to the General Assembly,” Speaker of the House William J. Howell said in an emailed statement. “We are carefully reviewing today’s announcement and will take every action necessary to ensure that the voices of Virginia’s citizens are heard, and that major policy changes are adopted through the legislative process.”
Climate Groups Approve
Climate activists are predictably ecstatic. Some even urge the governor to go further. “This is a perfect example of how states and local governments can ensure our nation takes climate action even as Donald Trump buries his head in the sand while the seas are rising,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.
Local group Chesapeake Climate Action Network was one of those calling for more aggressive action. “The governor can further cement a positive legacy on climate change by finally dropping his support for offshore oil drilling in Virginia and, most importantly, drop his support for two massive proposed pipelines to transport fracked gas from West Virginia to Virginia,” the group said in a statement.
Utility Company On Board
Oddly enough, Dominion Resources, the state’s biggest utility company, is happy with the governor’s initiative. It even supports the Clean Power Plan. “Dominion Energy has been preparing for carbon regulation for some time now and appreciates being a part of the stakeholder engagement process,” said Dominion spokesperson David Botkins. “It still looks like the regulatory uncertainty around carbon continues.” You got that right, Mr. Botkins.
Source: Inside Climate News
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