Court declines to order release of opinion from Attorney General’s office that withdrawing Virginia from RGGI would violate law
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Yesterday the Charlottesville Circuit Court upheld the withholding of an opinion from the Attorney General’s office advising that the Youngkin administration’s efforts to withdraw Virginia from the emissions reduction program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) would be unlawful.
In response to the decision, SELC Senior Attorney Mark Sabath released the following statement:
“We are disappointed in the court’s decision, but even more disappointed that our state government continues to hide the truth from the public. The governor’s plan to withdraw Virginia from RGGI is unlawful — even according to his own attorneys. We will continue to push for transparency from this administration on Virginia’s legally required participation in this successful regional effort to cut carbon pollution.”
Southern Environmental Law Center filed suit on behalf of Appalachian Voices earlier this month to obtain the release of the opinion, which both the State Air Pollution Control Board and the Attorney General’s office withheld under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act despite a member of the Air Board disclosing its existence and contents at a public meeting in April. SELC and its client, Appalachian Voices, are reviewing the decision and considering next steps.
Virginia is the first Southern state to participate in RGGI, a successful regional effort that requires utilities to pay for each ton of carbon that their power plants emit. Participating states have seen their carbon emissions drop 90% faster than the rest of the country, with public health improving in those states by an estimated $5.7 billion.
Proceeds from RGGI have already brought in more than $378 million to the Commonwealth. In one fiscal year alone, RGGI funds lowered thousands of low-wealth families’ energy bills; awarded 49 grants to combat recurrent flooding; and funded the construction of more than 2,300 highly efficient affordable housing units.