Senate Democrats Condemn the Passage of Anti-Climate Change Bill

Richmond—On Wednesday, the Senate voted to limit the ability of the Governor or any state agency to help address climate change. In a 20-19 vote the Senate passed HB 2611 which prevents Virginia from participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), without a two-thirds majority vote from each legislative chamber. The two-thirds vote stipulation is significantly higher than the requirement for most legislative initiatives.

Currently, nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participate in the market-based carbon cap-and-trade program. The goal of the RGGI is to take immediate action to lower energy costs, reduce pollution, and strengthen Virginia’s clean energy economy.

“This bill is an unnecessary intrusion into the regulatory process that ultimately deprives Virginians of reduced energy costs, lower pollution, and an opportunity to strengthen our clean air economy,” said Senator Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack). “We have a responsibility to protect and improve the lives of all Virginians--with their votes today, Senate Republicans have added additional bureaucracy to our Commonwealth and turned their back on the clear financial and public health benefits of participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.”

Supporters of the RGGI cite its economic benefits as one of its most important features. Funding received from the RGGI would be used to assist in flood mitigation across the Commonwealth to improve economic development opportunities, especially along the coast. Additionally, the RGGI could allow consumers and businesses to keep more of their money through lower utility bills. Electricity rates in RGGI states have declined by 6.2%, while non-RGGI have seen rates rise by nearly 7%.  

"The fact of the matter is that carbon pollution poses a threat to our environment and Senate Republicans’ refusal to acknowledge the issue puts Virginia at risk,” said Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke). “The Commonwealth’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is imperative to protecting our environment, but with this vote, Senate Republicans have dealt a major blow to progress."

HB 2611 passed the House of Delegates earlier this year on a party-line vote of 51-48.

HB2611 (2019) is nearly identical to HB1270 (2018), which was vetoed by the Governor. The only difference between the two bills is that the 2019 bill would require a 2/3 vote by the House and Senate in order to join RGGI. The vetoed 2018 bill would have required a majority vote by the House and Senate in order to join RGGI.


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