RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Governor Ralph Northam announced on Wednesday that Virginia is the newest member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The move comes shortly after Northam toured an offshore wind project in Virginia Beach following the signing of renewable energy legislation last Monday. It also puts the Commonwealth as the first southern state to join the initiative — which is aimed at combating climate change and reducing carbon pollution in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

“As the southernmost state to join RGGI, Virginia is sending a powerful signal that our Commonwealth is committed to fighting climate change and securing a clean energy future,” said Governor Northam.

“This initiative provides a unique opportunity to meet the urgency of the environmental threats facing our planet while positioning Virginia as a center of economic activity in the transition to renewable energy. Our Commonwealth is ready to lead the way in ensuring that the path to reducing carbon emissions is equitable and protects the health and safety of all Virginians,” he continued. 

In April, Northam continued efforts to make Virginia an energy-efficient state as he signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act making the Commonwealth the first southern state to transition to clean energy by 2050.

The act allows Virginia to use proceeds generated from the auction for community flood preparedness, coastal resilience, and energy efficiency programs benefitting low-income Virginians.

About 45% of the proceeds will go to community flood prevention and coastal resilience programs, and three percent will be used by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to further statewide climate planning efforts.

“Last April, after the culmination of a significant public process, Virginia finalized a regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said DEQ Director David Paylor. “The thorough public input process was essential in producing the carbon regulation the Commonwealth recently enacted.”

Paylor signed the final Virginia Carbon Rule on June 25 which cleared the way for the Commonwealth to join RGGI and is the next step to Virginia becoming a full member on January 1, 2021. 

Northam also established the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice with Executive Order Twenty-Nine. The Council is tasked with providing guidance and recommendations on the state’s rulemaking to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector.

Additional information is available here.

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