The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s benefits are greater than its costs

Power transmission lines along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail adjacent to Sunset Hills Road between Wiehle Avenue and Reston Parkway. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Acting secretary of the Virginia Department of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Voyles’s Oct. 2 Local Opinions essay, “The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is bad for Virginia,” misrepresented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The facts are common sense and do not support Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) position.

The RGGI fee is not a tax. The RGGI sells allowances to individual generators for the right to emit one metric ton of carbon dioxide. The revenue is earmarked for specific programs, such as energy efficiency and flood mitigation. The cost of the allowances incentivizes non-carbon-dioxide-emitting electricity production.

The continued operation of fossil-fuel-fired plants is needed to maintain reliable electric service. However, that does not authorize the Virginia government to ignore the contribution of emitted carbon dioxide to the acceleration of climate change or the costs to Virginians of more severe storms as well as ocean rise. The Youngkin administration nowhere identifies the base amount of electricity-generation carbon dioxide emissions that it deems appropriate. Mr. Youngkin comes from an environment of double-entry accounting: He should apply the same logic here to account for benefits from the RGGI, not just costs.

RGGI revenue supports energy efficiency matters and climate change resilience. Energy efficiency reduces demand for electricity. The lower the demand, the lower the need for fossil-fired generation. That’s how the market works. A governor with a business background ought to know that. Conversely, the better funded the energy resilience efforts, particularly for coastal Virginia communities, the better their ability to resist the damage caused by climate change.

This was the understanding of the Virginia legislature. That statutory language and justification hold just as true today.

David P. Yaffe, Arlington

The Youngkin administration alleges the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in Virginia “is not effective,” despite that Virginia’s RGGI program slashed energy-sector air pollution by 14 percent in its first year alone. Virginia is a relative newcomer to the RGGI. In the decade-plus the program has been in operation, RGGI states have reduced climate-warming emissions 90 percent faster than the rest of the country while growing 31 percent faster economically.

The results of this program are clear: cleaner air and better health outcomes and billions of dollars of revenue that has helped drive down electricity costs while boosting clean energy deployment.

Adam Ebbin, Alexandria

The writer, a Democrat, represents Alexandria in the Virginia Senate, where he sits on the Commerce & Labor Committee, which oversees energy regulation in the commonwealth.