After Gov. McAuliffe issued an executive order in May that directed state regulators to come up with rules that would limit carbon emissions from power plants, the advisory panel tasked with the job started their work earlier this month.
The meeting was the first of three scheduled in order to complete a draft of a new rule before Gov. McAuliffe leaves office in January 2018. The advisory panel includes representatives from environmental groups, renewable energy and energy efficiency organizations, and Virginia’s regulated utilities, merchant producers, and electrical cooperatives.
Gov. McAuliffe’s executive order came in the wake of President Trump’s rollback of the Clean Power Plan, and representatives on the advisory panel will be working on a rule that allows for market-based mechanisms for limiting power plant emissions as well as the trading of carbon dioxide allowances through a multi-state program.
There is a program like this—the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative sets annual caps for carbon emissions, regulates fossil fuel power plant emissions over 25 megawatts, and auctions off carbon dioxide allowances, the proceeds of which are invested in energy efficiency improvement programs and renewable energy technology. However, Virginia can’t sell carbon dioxide allowances and raise revenue without legislative approval. The panel is investigating other ways to participate in the program.
And while the proposal is due to Gov. McAuliffe before he leaves office, the continuation of these rules could depend on who wins the gubernatorial election in November 2017. While environmentalists and others have praised the move, Virginia Republicans have opposed it, saying that it would increase electricity costs, lose the state jobs, and restrict economic growth.