Will Youngkin plan cut off IW grant funding?

Published 5:33 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Isle of Wight County is slated to receive just over $68,000 from a state grant funded by Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a multi-state cap-and-trade agreement to reduce pollution from fossil-fuel-burning power plants.

But the money hasn’t been paid out yet, and any future funding may disappear under Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration.

Youngkin, in December, pledged to use his executive power to withdraw Virginia from the RGGI, referring to the agreement as a “carbon tax” and “a bad deal for Virginians.”

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On Jan. 15, his first day in office, Youngkin signed an executive order to “re-evaluate” and “immediately begin regulatory processes to end” Virginia’s RGGI participation. The order directs the director of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, in coordination with the secretary of natural and historic resources, to provide “a full report re-evaluating the costs and benefits of participation” within 30 days, and develop “a proposed emergency regulation” to repeal the requirements of Virginia’s carbon dioxide emissions trading program detailed in section 9VAC5-140 of the state’s administrative code.

In 2021, Virginia became the 11th and the southernmost state to join RGGI, which requires electric companies to meet a cap on carbon dioxide emissions or buy allowances to exceed the limit through an auction. Under current state law, the proceeds from the auction go into the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which administers grants for community flood preparedness, coastal resilience and energy efficiency programs.

Former Gov. Ralph Northam announced $24.5 million Flood Preparedness Fund grants in December, among them the $68,026 for Isle of Wight.

According to Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson, Isle of Wight plans to use the RGGI-funded grant money to add a certified floodplain manager position and develop a county-wide resilience plan.

“We have not received any funding yet, so I don’t know how Gov. Youngkin’s plans would impact the funding,” Robertson said.

The Association of State Floodplain Managers, which established the national certified floodplain manager program in 1998, describes the certification’s purpose as creating “a baseline of professional knowledge and competencies in floodplain management” by requiring those certified to pass “a rigorous exam” and earn continuing education credits annually to maintain their certifications.

After Youngkin’s December pledge, former Attorney General Mark Herring issued an official opinion at the request of Dels. Charniele Herring and Rip Sullivan, both Democrats, in which he states that “the Governor may not repeal or eliminate, through an executive order or other action, the enacted statutes and regulations pertaining to the Commonwealth’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative … or do away with the requirement that electricity producers hold carbon dioxide allowances that equal the amount of their carbon dioxide emissions.”