Republican Delegate promotes Virginia joining RGGI carbon emissions trading system

Virginia and emissions trading
Virginia to support emissions trading

December 22, 2014. Hampton Roads Delegate Ron Villanueva joined an at-risk Norfolk resident and an environmental leader in calling on the General Assembly to pass the Virginia Coastal Protection Act in 2015 which requires Virginia to become a fully fledged member of the US North East’s carbon emissions trading system.

VIRGINIA BEACH – On a tele-press conference Monday, December 22nd, Delegate Ron Villanueva (R – Virginia Beach) formally unveiled his groundbreaking legislation to protect coastal Virginia from rising sea levels.

Joined by clean energy and flood control advocate Dawone Robinson, Virginia Policy Director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Norfolk city resident Chris Scanton who has been frequently impacted by recurrent flooding, Del. Villanueva outlined forthcoming legislation called The Virginia Coastal Protection Act.

“It is our job as legislators to protect the safety of our constituents and their property,” started Del. Villanueva. “Rising sea levels fueled by climate change now represent one of the single biggest risks to that safety in coastal Virginia.” Delegate Villanueva continued: “Coastal leaders have been saying for years that we need significant revenues dedicated to addressing this risk. My bill provides a good start and I hope it leads to more solutions to address this problem, both public and private.”

While mayors, Navy officials, and legislators from both parties acknowledge that immediate action and significant money is needed to prepare for the growing impacts of sea level rise on Virginia’s coast, the state currently has no dedicated source of funds to do so. The Virginia Coastal Protection Act would solve this problem by joining Virginia into a market-based system called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Virginia’s participation in emissions trading would raise $200 million or more annually by the year 2020. The bill specifies that half of the RGGI revenues would be dedicated to fund sea level rise and recurrent flooding adaptation projects in Hampton Roads.

“Living in Norfolk, the second most vulnerable area in the country to sea level rise fueled by climate change, my home and the homes of my friends and family are already at risk,” added Norfolk resident Chris Scanton. “We are living on the front lines, and I appreciate Del. Villanueva’s leadership in introducing this legislation.”

The rate of sea-level rise on Virginia’s coast is close to the fastest in the nation. Coastal residents regularly change their routes to work or school to avoid flooded roads. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists paints a grim picture for the future. According to the UCS, minor tidal flooding driven by sea level rise will be so common by 2045 that it could happen about every other day.

Dawone Robinson, Virginia Policy Director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said, “Those who live and visit Hampton Roads know that flooding has become one of the most challenging policy solutions facing coastal Virginia. The Virginia Coastal Protection Act is an urgently needed, must-pass bill for the 2015 General Assembly.”

Del. Villanueva also sits on a newly created special subcommittee tasked with reviewing and developing potential policy options to help Virginia comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan. He has described The Virginia Coastal Protection Act and the potential of Virginia joining into RGGI as a practical, cost-effective method of compliance with the federal rules.

“Some experts have stated that a multi-state approach to carbon reductions, like RGGI, is best for ratepayers. I’m interested in starting the conversation and I hope Virginia seriously considers taking this approach,” said Del. Villanueva. “I’m in favor of finding solutions and at the end of the day the problems will still exist if we don’t address them today.”

In addition to funding coastal climate resilience efforts, the bill specifies that the other half of the emissions trading revenues associated with Virginia’s participation in RGGI would fund economic development in southwest Virginia and clean energy and energy efficiency investments all over the Commonwealth.

“The Virginia Coastal Protection Act is truly a win-win for the entire state,” said Robinson. “The bill provides funding for important programs during a time of harsh state budget cuts and serves as a viable option for Virginia to meet its carbon reduction goals.”

This article is based on the original that appeared on Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s website