RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Environmental groups are suing Virginia over the state’s plans to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state initiative designed to cap carbon emissions.

The groups allege the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board did not have the authority to remove Virginia from the multi-state partnership in June.

“We are going to do everything we can to defend this program in court,” said Nate Benforado, Senior Attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

At Governor Glenn Youngkin’s request, the Air Pollution Control Board voted to take Virginia out of the RGGI. Youngkin argued it was ineffective and created a tax on Virginians.

However, the lawsuit claims that because the General Assembly approved Virginia’s participation in the program in 2020, only they can pull Virginia out.

“There’s multiple mandates in there, non-discretionary language,” Benforado said. “It requires DEQ [Virginia Department of Environmental Quality] to issue the regulation. It requires the director to sell these allowances and we have said all along this is a requirement. It’s not optional.” 

Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Voyles responded to the lawsuit with a statement made to 8News:

The Office of the Attorney General confirmed the State Air Pollution Control Board has the legal authority to take action on the regulatory proposal using the full regulatory process—and the Board voted to do just that—furthering Virginians access to a reliable, affordable, clean, and growing supply of power.

Travis Voyles, Secretary of National and Historic Resources

Virginia is set to officially leave the RGGI by Dec. 31