Youngkin Still Casting About for a Viable Attack on RGGI Law

Youngkin's RGGI attack on behalf of big polluters is slowing down, but is just as cynical as ever.

Good news in Gov. Youngkin’s attack on clean air today: the governor has abandoned his plan to try to attack RGGI, a critical Virginia climate law, through a bogus claim that there is an “emergency.”


Instead, the governor retreated to a far more cautious attempt to undo the popular Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) law: through the far longer regulatory process, under the state’s exhaustive Administrative Process Act (or “APA”).

This is now the third avenue of attack that Youngkin has attempted: first was a promise to do so via executive order, second, a promise to do so via emergency order, and now this novel administrative "rulemaking" angle.

He who hesitates is lost: this latest retreat by Youngkin, to dragging out his doomed attack on Virginia’s RGGI law across a multi-year process, indicates he knows his is ultimately a lost cause, no matter how many procedural doorknobs he may try. Because by now his advisors have surely informed him that a governor has no power to undo standing law, no matter how much he might paper it under with a years-long administrative "rulemaking."  Simply put, rules can't trump law. 

All that Youngkin has done here is put himself onto the slowest possible boat, one he will row to the very same grim destination: getting rejected by the courts, for this slow-motion, extra-legal attempt to undo a popular, democratically-passed law.

In the meantime, Youngkin will surely thump his chest and pander to the hyperpartisan Wall Street Journal editorial board and big polluter interests, neither of whom care a fig for the Virginians coping with the extreme weather flooding and sea level rise that, if unaddressed, will cost the Commonwealth $6 billion in damages every year. Which is too bad, and a huge missed opportunity for Youngkin to deliver for Virginians back home: just next week the Commonwealth will receive over $50 million dollars in additional RGGI investments, that will go to protecting both coastal real estate and human safety against flooding, as well as reduce inflated energy bills.

That’s the kind of real work the Youngkin administration could be focusing on. So even while his slow-motion attempt to undo RGGI will ultimately fail, perhaps even after he’s left office, his attack in the meantime is not without harm to Virginians.

Thankfully, the law is on Virginia’s side here, specifically the RGGI law, under which Virginians will see continued reductions in air pollution emissions and investment in Virginia communities. And if Youngkin weren’t so busy showboating to pro-fossil fuel donors, with the cynical, multi-year delay he kicked off today, he could be a part of that transformative solution for all Virginians.


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