November 7, 2019

Virginia’s New Democratic Majority to Make Environment a Priority

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Democratic control of Virginia’s Legislature could be a boon for clean energy and environmental policy in the Commonwealth but may prove challenging for power producers and gas pipeline proponents. The shift is likely to solidify Virginia’s participation in a multistate carbon market called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an action previously blocked by Republicans, Bloomberg Environment reports.

With a Democratic Legislature to back him, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) could have a more bullish climate agenda, said Kate Konschnik, director of the Climate and Energy Program at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. If next year’s budget under the new Legislature enables the state to fully participate, the Commonwealth would likely take part in its first RGGI auction in 2021, Konschnik said.

“Virginia is a big energy producer, particularly compared to its northern neighbors with the notable exception of Pennsylvania,” Konschnik said. Virginia would enter RGGI with a budget of 28 million tons of carbon dioxide—more than one-third of the initiative’s total budget in 2018, before some adjustments for banked allowances, she said.