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Va. governor vetoes bill restricting ability to limit carbon emissions

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed legislation March 14 that would require a "super-majority" vote to approve the state's ability to participate in a regional program limiting carbon emissions.

House Bill 2611 would prohibit the governor and state agencies from crafting regulations to create a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program. In addition, the state would not be allowed to join a regional cap-and-trade program, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, without the support of two-thirds of the Virginia General Assembly.

"This measure violates the Virginia Constitution and would significantly undercut efforts to reduce air pollution and combat climate change," Northam said in a March 14 news release. "We should not be limited in our ability to protect the environment and in turn, the citizens of the Commonwealth."

The governor vetoed similar legislation in 2018.

Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary Dominion Energy Virginia, known legally as Virginia Electric and Power Co., filed comments in April 2018 opposing Virginia's participating in a regional carbon cap-and-trade program. Dominion said its modeling shows that Virginia's carbon intensity would be 5.7% higher in 2030 if it joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative than if it did not because of increased imports from higher-emitting resources located outside the state.

Northam also vetoed House Bill 2269 on March 14, which would prohibit Virginia from entering into a regional program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles unless authorized by two-thirds of the General Assembly.

"Like other air pollutants, the emissions that cause climate change do not respect state lines, district lines, or other political boundaries. In the absence of a federal plan, Virginia is obligated to join other states and face this threat to our collective public safety and economic health," the governor said.