Opinion — Withdrawing from RGGI is good for Virginians

Published 3:15 pm Friday, December 17, 2021

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Last Wednesday, Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced his intention to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is an 11 state, cap-and-trade program designed to reduce carbon emissions, which funds various environmental and energy policy priorities through a carbon allowance auction.

RGGI sets the total amount of carbon dioxide that power plants can emit, and then utilities buy the rights to emit that carbon at auction. While cap and trade has been used successfully in the past to control pollutants that cause acid rain, carbon is a different element altogether.

It was well documented long before Virginia joined the program that it would have a negligible impact on climate change. Said simply, the changes in emissions are too minuscule to move the needle. Virginia is part of a power grid that extends outside of the RGGI region, so they meet electricity needs by running power plants that aren’t subject to RGGI’s caps.

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While the benefits are negligible, the costs are not. Virginia families and businesses are paying more for power, fuel and everything else. Dominion Energy recently received authority to increase the amount they charge to cover RGGI costs by 83%.

RGGI is an energy tax, charged directly to the consumers, now averaging $52 annually for a typical residential customer. The costs for average industrial users is now over $2,800 per month. In 2021, Virginia sold $227 million in CO allowances which are passed to ratepayers through their electricity bill.

What’s worse is that on top of the cost increases imposed by RGGI on ratepayers, Virginia’s version of the Green New Deal, the Virginia Clean Economy Act, passes along additional costs to consumers in order take Virginia to 100% clean energy by 2045.

Virginia’s participation in RGGI is authorized, but not mandated, by statute. The Governor through executive action can direct Virginia’s participation in RGGI. Virginia needs a reliable and affordable supply of electricity and families should not have to worry that hitting the light switch will break the bank. Burdensome costs passed directly to consumers from RGGI disproportionately impact low- and fixed-income families.

New redistricting maps were unveiled last week by the Supreme Court. I have included the links for all three maps, and they can be viewed here:

Congressional Map Link: https://www.virginiaredistricting.org/legdistricting/comments/plan/513/1

Senate Map Link: https://www.virginiaredistricting.org/legdistricting/comments/plan/514/1

House Map Link: https://www.virginiaredistricting.org/legdistricting/comments/plan/515/1

The Court is accepting written comments by emailing Redistricting@vacourts.gov and they must be submitted by 1 p.m. on Dec. 20.

There are also public hearings on Dec. 15, 1-4 p.m. and Dec. 17 1-4 p.m. Sign up must be at least 24 hours before the hearing and can be done two ways. You can use the Public Hearing Registration Link at https://www.vacourts.gov/courts/scv/districting/redistricting_information.pdf. Or you can send an email to Redistricting@vacourts.gov. The email must include requester’s name, email address and telephone number and indicate in what area of the Commonwealth of Virginia the person resides.

In response, requester will receive an email from: AVSupport@vacourts.gov.  That email will contain additional details on how to sign into the hearing and other information. Speaking time is no more than three minutes and the special masters will be present to listen to all comments. All comments will be made publicly available.

Another great resource for redistricting is the Virginia Public Access Project. You can visit the website at https://www.vpap.org/redistricting/voter-impact/.

Ralph Northam announced new grants that will advance Virginia 90% to the goal of achieving universal access to broadband and high-speed internet, placing Virginia on track to being one of the first states successfully charting a path to universal access to broadband.

The announcement comes as Virginia allocates more than $722 million to provide universal broadband infrastructure in 70 localities. The funding, from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) and the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA, will support 35 projects, connecting more than 278,000 households, businesses and community anchor institutions to high-speed internet, and leverages more than $1 billion in private and local investments, pushing the total broadband investment in Virginia above $2 billion over the past four years.

In this application year, VATI received 57 applications from 84 localities that partnered with 25 internet service providers, requesting more than $943 million in funding.

The awards that include the 59th District are the West Piedmont Planning District Commission and River Street Network with an $87,003,888 award and $65,421,347.00 leveraged. The project will build fiber broadband to 24,641 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Amelia, Bedford, Campbell, Charlotte, Nottoway, and Pittsylvania counties when combined with other projects. And the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and Firefly with a $79,027,930 award, an $208,969,670 leveraged. The project will build fiber broadband to 36,283 unserved locations and achieve universal coverage in Albemarle, Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Campbell, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, and Powhatan counties when combined with other projects. The project was supported by CSX through the Commonwealth Connect Fund.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles expands walk-in availability as part of new hybrid service plan. Beginning Wednesday, Dec. 17, DMV customers may choose to walk-in for service on Wednesdays, in addition to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (in offices with Saturday hours), at all 75 customer service centers (CSCs). Appointments will still be available on Mondays and Fridays. Hours vary by office location.

DMV launched its hybrid service model, with alternating days of appointments and walk-ins, October 5 with a pledge to Virginians to evaluate data and adjust as necessary to provide optimal service. A month of evaluation showed that, in addition to continued strong support for appointments, an added day of walk-in service would further enhance customer service options.

Service options other than a CSC include, Online- More than 50 services are available at dmvNOW.com. Mail- Popular services such as driver’s license and vehicle registration renewals may be completed by mail. Drop-off -Customers needing a title after purchasing a vehicle from an individual (not a dealer) may drop off their applications and supporting documents at a CSC. DMV Select- Vehicle-related services are offered through our partner offices. DMV Connect- Appointments can be scheduled for nearly every DMV service with the agency’s mobile teams Customers who have scheduled an appointment and instead decide to walk-in for service should cancel that appointment to make it available for other customers. Customers with Wednesday appointments Dec. 15 or later will be automatically rescheduled for a new date near the original appointment.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.