Virginia's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is officially over. At least for now. Gov. Glenn Youngkin pulled us from the partnership Dec. 31, and the program did not appear in the state budget passed earlier this month.

That means two things for us locally: We will no longer pay extra when our local power providers exceed their greenhouse gas emission limits; and the local flood prevention and energy efficiency projects that the partnership funded are gone.

If you're new to this topic, here's the background.

A map of Virginia is pictured with all its counties. Some of the counties are colored in shades of green and yellow. There are dollar figures next to those counties.
Credit: Courtesy of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council

How Youngkin’s plan to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative affects us

RGGI (pronounced reggie) is a partnership between multiple East Coast and Mid-Atlantic states that Virginia joined in 2020. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capping the amount of carbon that power companies are allowed to emit. Basically, electric companies have to buy permits for every ton of carbon they emit, and if they exceed their permitted amounts they are fined.

Youngkin was against the partnership. Studies he commissioned found that the program was essentially a “carbon tax” on residents because power companies were allowed to raise customers' rates to pay RGGI fines. And that did happen locally. Dominion Energy raised its rates last year.

Democrats were largely in favor of the plan. It funded multiple local programs. Locally, Charlottesville and Albemarle County received nearly $650,000 to address flooding and nearly $10 million for housing projects. In the first 10 years of its existence, the initial nine states that joined RGGI decreased their carbon emissions from power plants by nearly half, according to a study by the environmental advocacy group Acadia Center. Virginia appeared to be on that trajectory, dropping its emissions by 16.8% in two years, according to a lawsuit filed by conservation groups suing to force Virginia back into the RGGI partnership.

That lawsuit is the reason this might all be temporary. The plaintiffs in the case allege that the state government had no authority to pull out of RGGI. It's a fairly dense legal argument. If you're interested in learning more, here's a report we did about it in August.

A screenshot of text reads: "B. The Director is hereby authorized to establish, and manage an auction program to sell allowances into a market-based trading program consistent with the RGGI program and this article. The Director shall seek to sell 100 percent of all allowances issued each year." The word "authorized" is underlined.
Credit: Screenshot of Virginia Code

The legal battle over whether Virginia can withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative begins

We're trying something a little different with the remainder of this newsletter. Instead of focusing on a single issue, we've put together a variety of news from our local news partners.

(Would you like to see more newsletters like this? Let us know!)

We'll start on the Downtown Mall.

A sunrise photo of a brick street with two brick buildings on either side and two large trees growing in the center.

A local independent journalist, Dave McNair, published a report on his website The DTM about the city's plan to create a dedicated entity to oversee this Charlottesville landmark. City officials are just starting to plan what this entity would be and do.

Just a few blocks off the mall, a historic Black church will once again function as a place of worship. The Point Church recently purchased the 140-year-old Black Mount Zion Baptist Church, and plans to hold service there. Subscribers to the Daily Progress can read more here.

Across town, local historians and descendants of enslaved people are making progress toward identifying the people buried in an unmarked cemetery in Pen Park. We first wrote about this cemetery in 2022.

Two women pose for a photo beneath a tree at sunset.
Credit: Mike Kropf/Dexter Auction

Forgotten no more: Descendants of family enslaved at Pen Park plantations visit their unmarked graves for the first time

Last week, NBC29 published an update. Historians have uncovered new evidence of who might be buried there, and are planning an archeological excavation to learn more.

At the University of Virginia, a Jewish UVA student is suing the administration, claiming he was “a victim of hate-based, intentional discrimination, severe harassment and abuse, and illegal retaliation.” You can read more in this Virginia Business magazine report.

And, finally, a law written by Charlottesville Del. Katrina Callsen was signed in a special ceremony by Gov. Youngkin this week. The kinship foster care law promotes placing children with family members where possible. Read more in this Cville Right Now report.

I hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!
Jessie Higgins, managing editor

Credit: Angilee Shah/Dexter Auction
Credit: Mike Kropf / Dexter Auction
Credit: Photo courtesy of Amanda Korman of Charlottesville City Schools

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I'm Dexter Auction's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at [email protected]! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a [email protected].