Herring says Youngkin can’t pull Virginia out of carbon market by executive action

Coal fired units at Dominion Energy’s Chesterfield Power Station would close by 2024 under the...
Coal fired units at Dominion Energy’s Chesterfield Power Station would close by 2024 under the Clean Economy Act that passed the General Assembly in 2020.(Ryan M. Kelly/ For the Virginia Mercury)
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 8:55 PM EST
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An official advisory opinion from outgoing Democratic Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin cannot withdraw the state from a regional carbon market solely through executive action.

“The Constitution of Virginia does not grant the governor the power to suspend laws, and in fact, it requires the opposite that ‘the governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed,’” wrote Herring in a Jan. 11 letter.

Herring’s opinion, which was requested by Democratic Dels. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax, also cites an opinion he issued in January 2014 that “the Virginia Constitution prohibits the governor from unilaterally suspending the operation of regulations that have the force of law.”

Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an 11-state carbon market that requires carbon-emitting power plants to purchase allowances for their emissions in quarterly auctions, has become a major political flashpoint as Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin prepares to take office Jan. 15.

Joining Virginia to RGGI was one of Democrats’ top environmental priorities when they took control of all branches of state government in 2020. Virginia began participating in auctions at the beginning of 2021 and over the course of the year took in $228 million in revenues, which state law dictates must be divided between flood protection and low-income energy efficiency programs.

At a December lunch held by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, however, Youngkin announced he intends to withdraw the state from RGGI, citing its costs to ratepayers and businesses.

“It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses. I promised to lower the cost of living in Virginia and this is just the beginning,” Youngkin said at the time.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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