At least two GOP candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates are criticizing their Democratic opponents over support for an energy regulation partnership that Republicans say will increase costs for consumers by about $144 every year.
The partnership that the commonwealth’s Democrats and Republicans have been at odds over is called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is a cap-and-trade initiative that would limit the amount of carbon a power company can emit, but allows larger polluters to purchase credits from companies that are below their threshold. It would also limit the total amount of carbon that can be emitted in the state.
Every New England state, along with New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, have entered into the initiative. If Virginia joins the partnership, it will be the 11th RGGI state.
In a press call on Thursday afternoon, candidates D.J. Jordan, R-Prince William, and Mary Margaret Kastelberg, R-Henrico, highlighted their concerns about RGGI. Jordan is running in the 31st District against Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Dale City, and Kastelberg is running in the 73rd District against Rodney Willett.
Jordan said that the poverty rate in Virginia has dropped to about 10 percent, but that this rate is still too high. RGGI, he said, would essentially put an “energy tax” on Virginians, which will contribute to rising energy costs and put another barrier on individuals trying to get out of poverty.
Energy company workers in Virginia, especially in the Southwest, Jordan said, could lose their jobs, which could increase poverty rates and potentially drug abuse.
Additionally, Jordan said that Virginia has been reducing carbon emissions at a rate almost as high as the RGGI states through increasing renewable energy and lowering emissions from other energy sources.
Kastelberg said that Democrats are trying to raise costs on Virginians, including seniors and businesses. She said that Virginia should focus on safe, affordable and reliable renewable energy, rather than increasing costs for consumers.
Citing an analysis by the free-market Thomas Jefferson Institute, Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said that RGGI will not likely benefit the environment at all, because energy companies will shift their energy production to nearby states that are not in the partnership. Because of this, he said that Virginia will struggle to compete with those states over energy production and the state’s residents will suffer from higher costs.
Guzman did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.