ALEXANDRIA, Va. (7News) — City of Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said his city is on the front lines of the impacts of climate change.
“A 99-75 year storm event is happening four times in three years,” said Wilson.
After storms, 7News has shown you the frequent and often devastating impacts on homes and neighborhoods in Alexandria, Va.
“And so for us that requires significant investment in tens of millions of dollars in RGGI [Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative] has been a really good funding source for us to go in applying the criteria and get state money, essentially, for these projects,” said Wilson.
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The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI, is a cap-and-trade-styled program and Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants Virginia to exit the pact.
The governor’s secretary of natural and historic resources called RGGI a “hidden tax” adding in a statement that, “This tax, combined with the flawed structure and incentive of RGGI as implemented in Virginia, have resulted in higher electricity rates for all Virginians — rates that are projected to further increase.”
But Wilson said his city and other rural communities have benefited from the program.
“We've used the revenues to deal with flood mitigation projects here in the community,” said Wilson. "Just a couple [of] months ago, we saw devastating flooding in Buchanan County, in southwest Virginia. And you know that's a community that has benefited from some of the big funds to try to address some of these flooding issues.”
Wilson said he’s disappointed the governor is trying to withdraw Virginia from the program as local governments face major cleanup costs and infrastructure repairs from storms.
“If you look at the way they structured the money, a quarter of it goes to the jurisdictions that are most in need in jurisdictions that have that kind of poverty, and some of the areas of our Commonwealth where we've seen the most significant impacts from these flooding issues have been really poor areas of the Commonwealth,” said Wilson.
But Youngkin’s secretary of natural and historic resources said the “administration and the General Assembly will develop a plan to provide direct funding and coordination for flood resiliency.”
"RGGI does not work as promised to Virginians,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Voyles. “As the Youngkin Administration continues to take decisive actions to address the burdens on Virginians, the fact that RGGI operates as a regressive and direct tax on consumers is reason enough to have serious doubts about our future participation in the program.”
“RGGI was sold to Commonwealth residents as a deal that returned the 'proceeds' to the ratepayers to offset the costs of the program, but that is not what is happening,” said Voyles. “The taxes from RGGI 'proceeds' come at a price, and that price is paid for by Virginians. This is funding that is coming directly from the pockets of every citizen — not industry, not utilities, not polluters and not any source that actually has an impact on emissions reductions. It is just a tax on all Virginians. A regressive and direct household energy tax tied to participation in RGGI is not necessary to fund important programs on resiliency and energy efficiency. The Administration and the General Assembly will develop a plan to provide direct funding and coordination for flood resiliency. We can do this in a way that is transparent and not a hidden tax that was misrepresented to Virginians. This will ensure we have a long-term comprehensive funding strategy to sustain flood resilience efforts in Virginia."