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Youngkin pledges to pull Virginia from carbon market by executive order

Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is pledging to use executive action to pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon market involving 10 other Mid-Atlantic and New England states. 

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Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is pledging to use executive action to pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon market involving 10 other Mid-Atlantic and New England states. 

“RGGI describes itself as a regional market for carbon, but it is really a carbon tax that is fully passed on to ratepayers. It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses,” Youngkin told the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Wednesday. “I promised to lower the cost of living in Virginia and this is just the beginning.”

A transition aide for Youngkin said that because Virginia’s participation in RGGI is governed by a contract agreement signed by the Department of Environmental Quality, the governor can withdraw Virginia from that agreement by executive action. 

However, Cale Jaffe, director of the University of Virginia School of Law’s Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic, said Youngkin can’t do that by executive order because of the way state laws authorizing participation are written. 

“The (State Air Pollution Control) Board has promulgated regulation to join RGGI,” said Jaffe. “No governor can issue an executive order to just undo a duly promulgated regulation.” 

Youngkin’s pledge comes less than a week after Virginia completed its first full cycle of quarterly carbon auctions, from which it netted $228 million earmarked by law for flood protection and low-income energy efficiency programs. 

Earlier this week, Dominion Energy filed an application to update the charges it will pass onto customers for RGGI participation, which are expected to increase the average residential customer’s monthly bill by $4.37 beginning on Sept. 1, 2022. 

Dominion spokesperson Rayhan Daudani said that the utility’s view of RGGI “is unchanged from the comments we made to DEQ in 2018: While the company is committed to its ongoing transition to cleaner and lower carbon emitting resources, we are concerned that the commonwealth’s linkage to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program through the Virginia carbon proposal would result in a financial burden on its customers with no real mitigation of [greenhouse gas] emissions regionally.”

RGGI participation was one of Virginia Democrats’ signature successes after taking control of all branches of state government in 2020, and lawmakers baked the action into two separate pieces of legislation. 

The Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act authorized the Department of Environmental Quality “to establish, implement, and manage an auction program to sell allowances into a market-based trading program consistent with the RGGI program.” 

At the same time, the Virginia Clean Economy Act mandated that Virginia’s power grid decarbonize by 2050 and ordered the Air Pollution Control Board to adopt regulations to reduce carbon emissions from any electricity generator larger than 25 megawatts. 

Jaffe described the move to abandon RGGI and its revenues as Youngkin “cutting off [his] nose to spite [his] face.” 

“The mandate in the code is to get to zero carbon by 2050,” he said. “Leveraging the benefits of a multistate trading market helps us find the most cost-effective way to meet that goal.”

In a statement, however, House Speaker-designee Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, applauded Youngkin’s move, saying that “public policy must achieve results. If it doesn’t, then it’s not good policy.”

“Virginia’s participation in RGGI was premised on the fact that it showed ‘leadership’ in combating climate change. The cost of RGGI to Virginia families and businesses is very real, while the impact of RGGI on climate change is negligible at best — a fact that was documented well before outgoing Governor Northam opted the commonwealth into the pact,” said Gilbert. “In fact, Virginia was reducing carbon emissions from power plants at a rate comparable to RGGI states before joining the cap and trade group.”

Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell, who filed a bill Tuesday proposing to set aside 5 percent of RGGI proceeds to set up a flood relief fund for major disasters like the one that devastated the town of Hurley in Buchanan County this August, said Youngkin’s proposed withdrawal “will send a message to my colleagues in the House and Senate that it is highly unlikely Virginia will be rejoining RGGI under a Youngkin administration.”

Morefield’s bill includes a provision stating that if Virginia withdraws from RGGI, $50 million of the state’s unobligated revenues from the auctions will be reallocated to his relief fund, which would also make loans and grants available to economically distressed localities for flood prevention and protection in the event of no disasters.

“I could not think of a more appropriate use for the RGGI proceeds,” said Morefield.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, and Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, said Youngkin’s move “would be incredibly harmful to the health of Virginians, protection of our natural spaces, and preparation for a clean energy economy.

“Governor-elect Youngkin’s proposal to remove Virginia from RGGI would be catastrophic to our commonwealth’s, region’s, and nation’s efforts to ensure a habitable world for future generations,” they said. “We only have one world—with Hampton Roads perpetually flooded, the Chesapeake Bay’s future at risk, and Virginians’ health declining, there is no time left to play politics with Mother Nature.”

This is a breaking news story. It will be updated as more information is available. 

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Community

Bike the Holiday Lights

BASKET & BIKE and RVA on Wheels want to share the joy of bike riding in the city during this festive time of year.

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From now until January 8th there is a unique way to check out the holiday lights in Richmond. BASKET & BIKE and RVA on Wheels have teamed up to provide Richmond with a variety of tour experiences and rentals on wheels, and they will serve as your go-to place to test and purchase your new classic or electric bike, along with all the gear to outfit your bike style.

We’ll bike Downtown Richmond while the sun’s still out to stay warm! Chase the sunset with us on the avenues and bike lanes for a seasonal ride on classic or electric wheels. As dusk approaches, pass through holiday lights downtown where your tour ends with a voucher for a beverage (wine, beer, tea, coffee) at neighbors, Urban Farmhouse.

BASKET & BIKE Classic Bike $95
RVA on Wheels Electric Bike $125
Starts and Ends at 1301 E. Cary St.
Website and more Info

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Community

Street Closures for RVA Illuminates

Street closures on East Canal Street, South 7th Street and South 8th Street are already in place.

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Downtown

Missing context, political bias: Some of critics’ objections to Virginia’s new history standards

A number of groups are questioning new history and social science standards proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration ahead of a Board of Education meeting to begin reviewing them Thursday.

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A number of groups are questioning new history and social science standards proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration ahead of a Board of Education meeting to begin reviewing them Thursday.

Critics from diverse communities and lawmakers, most recently in a Nov. 15 letter to the governor and school officials, argue the new standards are missing influential figures and events and voice concern about what they say is a lack of transparency regarding who authored the changes.

The standards will set Virginia’s expectations for student learning in history and social science, which are assessed through the Standards of Learning tests. The Board of Education delayed its first review after Superintendent Jillian Balow requested additional time to correct errors, reorder guidance and allow additional experts to weigh in on the draft.

“Continued review and edits to the standards over the past several months have strengthened the content at each grade level,” wrote Balow in a Nov. 10 letter to the Board of Education. “The edits honor the work done previously by Virginians, and national and state experts.”

Balow also said in her letter that draft curriculum frameworks, which are guides for teachers, will be published later.

However, critics in the Nov. 15 letter said the curriculum frameworks missing from the standards make it “impossible for anybody to effectively evaluate the draft as a whole.”

Among the letter’s signatories are 10 Democratic lawmakers and groups including the Virginia Education Association, the nonprofit Hamkae Center, which describes itself as organizing “Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice in Virginia,” the Fairfax County NAACP and the Sikh Coalition. The Virginia Education Association referred inquiries to the Hamkae Center.

They also questioned the number of “problematic content changes that fail to reflect the concerns of our diverse communities” and the involvement of groups such as the Michigan based-Hillsdale College in the review of the standards.

Balow said last month that representatives from other colleges expressed interest in commenting on the draft standards after VPM reported that she was working with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative educational think tank, to develop the standards.

Here are a few objections to the proposed new standards that educational and other groups have raised.

Missing context

Critics say parts of the new standards lack proper context.

For example, while the standards replace the term “Indian” with “Indigenous people” and require students to study aspects of the groups, they do not mention that Indigenous People’s Day replaced Columbus Day in 1992 because Indigenous people view Christopher Columbus as a colonizer rather than a discoverer.

Additionally, the standards recognize the development of slavery in colonial Virginia but lack an emphasis on the slave trade and tobacco plantations, critics say.

“Nazis” and “The Final Solution,” which are necessary to understand the Holocaust, are also missing from the standards.

“Content is crucial for understanding the Holocaust and other genocides,” said Gail Flax, a retired educator. “You have to know what happened before and what happened afterward to be able to analyze and contextualize history.”

Narrative

With the removal of historical figures and events, critics have questioned the narrative of history the administration is conveying to students.

Zowee Aquino of the Hamkae Center said the revisions reflect “pretty explicit political bias.” She said the standards also have a Eurocentric theme that focuses on European or Anglo-American ideas and disregards the contributions of ethnic minorities in white countries.

For example, the name of Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist, was removed from the elementary school standards. King’s name first appears in the sixth grade standards.

Aquino said there’s no mention of Juneteenth, the Chinese Exclusion Act or Martin Luther King Jr. Day in any of the standards. China and the African civilization of Mali, which have been part of the standards for world culture studies, have also been removed from third grade standards.

The standards also do not include any mention of tribal sovereignty.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said in a letter to the Board of Education that the revised draft deletes “major components of our history and deliberately omits the diverse perspectives that shape our commonwealth and our nation.”

For example, she wrote that the draft omits any discussion of the history or modern-day culture of the Latino community, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders or the LGBTQ community.

“These decisions would mean that hundreds of thousands of Virginia children would not have the opportunity to learn about their community’s contributions to the fabric and history of our nation,” McClellan wrote. “And, all Virginia students would lack a fuller understanding of our country’s history.”

Rejected recommendations

The inclusion of King, the national holiday for the civil rights leader and Juneteenth marking the day when all enslaved Africans became free were several edits recommended by the Virginia Commission on African American History Education, but excluded or generalized in the redraft.

The list of edits excluded include the mention of John Mercer Langston, the first African American congressman from Virginia. The commission’s recommendation that the standards include the phrase that “not everyone was considered a citizen when our country began, and for a long time after that, even until today” was also excluded.

Mention of Indigenous people and their culture being affected by white European colonization was also excluded from the standards, as was the phrase “the Virginia Colony’s economy was greatly dependent upon temporary and permanent servitude.”

Historical errors and inaccuracies

Critics also say the proposed standards have historical errors and inaccuracies.

Specifically, students starting in the fourth grade are required to explain the reasons for the relocation of Virginia’s capital from Jamestown to Williamsburg as part of the Revolutionary War. However, an email from the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium Monday said “this makes absolutely no sense” given Virginia’s capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond to provide greater protection against British attack.

Additionally, the group says the standards erroneously convey that Zachary Taylor, who was elected in 1848, was the most recent president from Virginia instead of Woodrow Wilson, who was elected in 1912.

The standards do not explicitly say which president was most recent. The document only states that students starting in the fourth grade will be required to explain the growth of a new America with an emphasis on the role of Virginians by explaining Virginia’s prominence in national leadership, emphasizing its eight presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Zachary Taylor.

“The previous version of the proposed standards did not contain egregious historical errors such as this because they were developed by a team of educators, division leaders and historians,” the consortium wrote.

Age appropriateness

Aquino also questioned whether the revisions are age appropriate.

For example, first and third graders must learn about the Code of Hammurabi, an ancient law text, and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, under the proposed history standards. She said the history is “pretty dense and intense” and includes details about capital punishment.

However, Charles Pyle, a spokesman with the Virginia Department of Education, said under the standards, first graders will learn where the first civilizations began and third graders will learn about democracy. He said Aurelius is part of a list of suggested examples of mythical and historical figures students could encounter as they “hear, read, and retell stories.”

Open access

With the focus on the amount of work demanded of teachers due to the workforce shortage, critics question a sentence in the preface of the history standards that states teachers should provide all of their instructional materials to parents.

Under the Board of Education’s current regulations, parents have the right to inspect instructional materials used as part of the educational curriculum for students.

Aquino said many reports link teacher burnout with increased work demands and argued another mandate does not help support students.

“It’s a huge task that the new administration is asking them to take on that doesn’t improve instruction,” Aquino said.

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