- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2017

With the certainty that a Democrat will run the state for the next four years, Virginia next week is expected to unveil its own ambitious plan to cut greenhouse-gas emissions with a cap-and-trade proposal similar to the ones already in place across the Northeast.

State officials next Thursday will present a new regulatory framework to Virginia’s pollution board. A publicly available draft shows that the state aims to cut its emissions threshold by at least 30 percent between 2020 and 2030, and that it plans to institute a cap-and-trade scheme under which polluters must buy credits for their emissions.

The proposal had long been in the works, but state officials held off releasing it until after Democrat Ralph Northam’s victory in this week’s gubernatorial election over Republican Ed Gillespie.

The draft lays out the priorities of the program, including to: “Develop a proposed regulation for the state Air Pollution Control Board’s consideration to abate, control, or limit CO2 from electric power facilities that … includes provisions to ensure that Virginia’s regulation is ‘trading-ready’ to allow for the use of market-based mechanisms and the trading of CO2 allowances through a multi-state trading program.”

The plan also will establish “abatement mechanisms providing for a corresponding level of stringency to limits on CO2 emissions imposed in other states with such limits,” the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality says in its draft.

If implemented as currently written, the program would be very similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a coalition of 10 Northeastern states, including Maryland. The system requires power plants to hold credits for each ton of greenhouse gas pollution, and each state sets its own limits.

In Virginia’s case, the limits would decline steadily between 2020 and 2030.

The credits are auctioned off on a regular basis. After the auctions, power plants are able to trade credits, meaning power facilities essentially must pay for their emissions. Plants that emit less pollution can recoup money by selling their credits.

Participating states say that the program has been a financial boon, in addition to an environmental step forward. Maine, for example, says it’s banked $51 million since 2008 from its quarterly credit auctions.

Most of the money raised by those auctions in RGGI states is funneled back into energy efficiency programs and investments in clean energy.

RGGI already has weighed in on Virginia’s plan, saying it follows in the footsteps of those already in place all along the East Coast.

“The RGGI states applaud Virginia’s progress towards establishing a market-based program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. As we evaluate Virginia’s proposed regulation, we are pleased to note that it appears consistent with the RGGI program in a number of key ways,” the group said in a statement. “The RGGI states have held productive and collaborative conversations with Virginia representatives as they crafted their regulation, and look forward to continuing those conversations as Virginia’s program design process advances.”

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