As President Reagan famously said, “There you go again.”
In 2010, Virginia Democrats threw in their lot with Nancy Pelosi and other national Democrats to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a massive Federal takeover of everything from local zoning rules to air conditioner compressor gasses.
Included in that bill was a national “cap and trade” program that would have put national limits on CO2 emissions. While it passed the Democratic run House of Representatives, it never moved in the Senate.
Two incumbent Virginia Democratic Congressmen were sent packing as well — Tom Perriello and Rick Boucher.
Now, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam is attempting to take Virginia over the cap and trade edge again, but this time without the rest of the country.
Northam issued an executive order last year declaring that Virginia would join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. RGGI is a group of states that have implemented their own cap and trade scheme for power plants, hoping to serve as a guide for the rest of the country.
The group collectively sets a limit on the amount of CO2 that power plants on those states can emit, then auctions off the rights to those emissions. Power bills would go up for the average consumer by about $7 per month, according to the State Corporation Commission. Those numbers would be higher for industrial customers.
The Virginia Air Pollution Control Board voted last week to proceed with membership in RGGI.
Making such a major change to such a fundamental industry in Virginia must mean that Virginia’s CO2 emissions are skyrocketing and out of control, right? Not so much.
From 2005 to 2014, Virginia’s electric generation plants saw their CO2 emissions decrease by 21 percent — all during a time when the state’s population continued to grow.
Republicans have put Northam in quite a spot. Virginia governors do have line item veto power, but the definition of “item” has been a contentious one between the legislature and governors. The Supreme Court of Virginia has weighed in from time to time, but not in the past decade.
What the Governor will do is anyone’s guess. He could try to veto the language and take it to court. He could veto the budget as a whole. While that may sound like a disaster, it wouldn’t be a D.C-scale tsunami. Unlike Washington, that wouldn’t result in the shutdown of state government. Virginia operates on a two-year budget cycle, with a bill full of amendments passed in odd-numbered years.
Northam has until May 4 to decide on a course of action. If he signs the budget, RGGI is off the table for Virginia for another year at least. A veto of the entire budget bill would send shockwaves through Capitol Square — and give Republicans a powerful argument that for Democrats, the radical environmentalism is more important than anything else.
The clock is ticking.