RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board has green-lighted a plan pushed by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) to remove the state from a regional initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Twelve states take part in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI (pronounced Reggie). It works by requiring electric companies to purchase allowances for every ton of carbon they emit. 

In a statement, Youngkin said, “Today’s commonsense decision by the Air Board to repeal RGGI protects Virginians from the failed program that is not only a regressive tax on families and businesses across the Commonwealth, but also does nothing to reduce pollution.”

Tim Cywinski works for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, a Richmond-based non-profit. 

“In the two years that Virginia has been a part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, we have lowered carbon pollution by 16%,” explained Cywinski. “That is pollution that makes people sick. That is pollution that is robbing people of a livable future.” 

Dominion Energy told 8News that to offset the cost of participating in the program, the company adds a fee averaging $4.44 a month for residential customers. However, Cywinski said the money goes right back to the state.

“That money gets redirected right back into Virginia’s communities,” explained Cywinski. “There are other line items related to fossil fuel projects, that are related to polluting projects, that just go right back into Dominion’s coffers.” 

Another point of contention, some environmental groups, like the Virginia League of Conservation Voters (VALCV) argue Youngkin needs approval from the General Assembly. 

“We contend that no governor can single-handedly overturn a law that they don’t like through a regulatory body,” Lee Francis, Deputy Director of VALCV told 8News. “It’s not how our constitution works. I think it’s pretty clear that Youngkin is working around the General Assembly here to overturn a policy he doesn’t like.”

Youngkin said the law is on his side. In a statement, he said, “The Office of the Attorney General has confirmed the State Air Pollution Control Board has the legal authority to take action on the regulatory proposal using the full regulatory process – and today, the Board voted to do just that.”