State News Highlights

Virginia  

Lawmakers Push for Cap and Trade Energy Law with a Focus on Conservation
By John Ramsey, The Roanoke Times
20 January 2016 @ 3:25 PM updated
 
Two legislators from opposing parties are trying once again to get the state involved in a regional cap-and-trade program they say would help the environment while raising money to help deal with rising sea levels at the coast and to fund programs aimed at making homes more energy efficient.
 
Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, and Del. Ron Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach, said Wednesday that their recently introduced bill would generate $250 million in new state revenue if Virginia becomes to 10th state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
 
The bill, called the Virginia Alternative Energy and Coastal Protection Act of 2016, leaves open the option for the state to create its own coalition of neighboring states for a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions. A similar bill filed by Villanueva last year died in committee.
 
At least half of the money raised as part of the cap-and-trade agreement would help coastal communities dealing with rising sea levels, while 30 percent would go toward programs aimed at making homes waste less energy.
 
“Trying to do the right thing by the environment is not a Democratic issue, it’s not a Republican issue. It’s something we should all be concerned about,” McEachin said during a news conference Wednesday morning with Villanueva and energy efficiency groups to promote the bill.
 
Dominion Virginia Power, the state’s largest utility, has been opposed to a move requiring the state to join the nine-state greenhouse gas initiative, noting that it could result in higher electricity rates. Those states have energy bills that are on average much higher than those in the Dominion Virginia Power territory.
 
The carbon-cutting targets within the initiative are more aggressive than the new federal rules known as the Clean Power Plan, which the state and utilities are in the midst of planning for.
 
“We are reviewing the bill, but at first blush it looks like it would raise rates considerably in Virginia … at a time when Dominion’s residential rates are currently 32 percent below the average of states under the RGGI structure,” said Dominion Virginia Power spokesman David Botkins. “RGGI states have a very different energy situation, including higher costs, different usage patterns, lower growth rates, and different generation mixes.”
 
Dawone Robinson, Virginia policy director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said the energy-savings programs that are part of the legislation would help the state’s poorest residents. A recent study at Virginia Tech found that efficiency upgrades could save many renters up to $54 a month in heating and cooling costs.
 
“We know conserving energy is low-hanging fruit and we’re here to provide solutions,” Robinson said.



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