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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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Venture Richmond Offering Up 10k Broad Street Tenant Recruitment Grants

Venture Richmond was awarded a grant from the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development to help recruit ten new tenants to Broad Street in Downtown Richmond. Each new tenant will get a $10,000 grant for moving in and opening by May 15, 2022.

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From Venture Richmond

Venture Richmond was awarded a grant from the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development to help recruit ten new tenants to Broad Street in Downtown Richmond. Each new tenant will get a $10,000 grant for moving in and opening by May 15, 2022. Venture Richmond is partnering with the Metropolitan Business League (MBL) to help recruit existing small, women, and minority (SWaM) and immigrant-owned businesses to ­fill street-level vacancies in the area.

​The new businesses will join many galleries, retailers, restaurants, and small businesses who already call Broad Street home, as well as businesses that attract thousands of out of town visitors annually like Quirk Hotel, Richmond Marriott, the Hilton Hotel, and the Convention Center. Gather, co-working space, has a location in the area. A popular neighborhood happening is RVA First Fridays Artwalk which is a monthly celebration of the arts and galleries along and around Broad St. This section of Broad Street is also a part of Richmond’s Arts District and adjacent to Jackson Ward, near the VCU Monroe Park Campus and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) to the west and City and State offices and VCU Health to the east.

THE CRITERIA FOR ELIGIBILITY INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:

  • Eligible once the business has moved into the space and opened for business by May 15, 2022.
  • Veri­fied 1-year minimum lease
  • Lease street-level space on Broad Street between Belvidere and 5th streets
  • New business to Downtown, not the relocation of an existing business in the General District/BID.
  • Existing businesses in the General District, who want to open an additional location on Broad Street.
  • Existing businesses located outside of the General District, who want to open another location/outpost on Broad Street.
  • Types of qualifying businesses include retailers, restaurants, makers, entrepreneurs, startups, and other creative businesses.
  • One $10,000 reimbursement grant per storefront, if a group of small businesses wanted to share space there would only be one grant available for the group.
  • Only eligible once
  • Availability based on ­first come fi­rst served

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR ASSISTANCE, CONTACT:

Micah White

Business Development Manager

The MBL

804-356-9298

[email protected]

Lucy Meade

Director Economic Development & Community Relations

Venture Richmond, Inc.

804-248-8372

[email protected]

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Downtown

Virginia lawmakers propose decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms

“It is increasingly a recognized treatment for refractory depression and PTSD,” said Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, a nurse practitioner whose legislation would also decriminalize peyote, a cactus that contains the psychedelic compound mescalin. “It’s changed people’s lives.”

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By Ned Oliver

Two Virginia lawmakers have introduced legislation that would end felony penalties for possession of psychedelic mushrooms, citing the drug’s growing acceptance in medicinal contexts.

“It is increasingly a recognized treatment for refractory depression and PTSD,” said Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, a nurse practitioner whose legislation would also decriminalize peyote, a cactus that contains the psychedelic compound mescalin. “It’s changed people’s lives.”

The legislation would reduce the penalty for possession — currently a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison — to a $100 civil fine.

Sens. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, and Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax, introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

The bill would put Virginia at the forefront of a nascent decriminalization movement that has primarily been limited to cities, including Washington, D.C. So far, Oregon is the only state to legalize medicinal use of psilocybin, an active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms.

The bill likely faces long odds, especially in the House of Delegates, where the newly reinstated Republican majority has historically resisted efforts to loosen drug laws. That said, Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, who leads the chamber’s Courts of Justice Committee, said he is open to hearing arguments in favor of the legislation.

“That is not something we’ve taken up before,” he said. “I’d be interested in hearing what (Adams) has to say.”

Even if the legislation were to pass, the drug would remain illegal, albeit with reduced penalties. That makes it unlikely medical providers in Virginia would embrace psychedelics as a treatment option, but Adams said it would nonetheless be a step in the right direction.

“If we decriminalize it, it allows people to learn,” she said. “It doesn’t egg people on (to use the drug). It tries to open the door for us to continue to study the positive effects on people’s mental health going forward.”

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GRTC Prepares for Downtown Transfer Plaza Update

GRTC will update the Downtown Transfer Plaza with new bus bay locations on 9th, Clay, and 8th Streets to accommodate nearby construction zones and preserve bus rider connections at night and on Sundays.

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Soon GRTC will update the Downtown Transfer Plaza with new bus bay locations on 9th, Clay, and 8th Streets to accommodate nearby construction zones and preserve bus rider connections at night and on Sundays. Several bus stop shelters, benches, and trash cans will be relocated to new bay locations on Clay and 8th St., and wayfinding maps will be posted nearby for riders. New on-board announcements will explain the bay locations and routes serving them when buses approach the Plaza. GRTC expects the updates may be necessary as soon as February 2022.

Four bays will not change at all – A, B, C, and D. However, Bays E and F relocate to Clay and Bays G, H, and I will relocate to 8th St. Bus Stop #2522 at 9th and Marshall will become Bay J. Because of nearby construction, some pedestrian pathways may be closed. Riders should only use marked pedestrian crossings at the Plaza.

GRTC Chief Executive Officer Julie Timm says, “I appreciate the City of Richmond’s support to help us coordinate necessary operational updates at the Downtown Transfer Plaza so that we can continue reliably serving customers and keep everyone safe from nearby construction zones. We were able to ensure essential infrastructure of shelters, benches, and wayfinding signage will be available at the new bus bays on 8th and Clay Streets. Our riders have been dealing with detours and other service adjustments Downtown recently, and we ask them, once again, to please pardon our dust as we work around obstacles to connect them with their jobs, homes, shopping, health care, education, and other community resources.”

This week, GRTC staff will begin installation of new bus bay stop signs, post new wayfinding materials, and coordinate with construction crews on relocation of shelters, benches, and trash cans in advance of sidewalk closures.

The Downtown Transfer Plaza opened in 2014 on 9th St. to ensure bus service could operate during major events on Broad St. in 2014 and 2015 and remained on 9th St. while efforts to secure a permanent transfer site continued. With the network redesign in 2018, the Downtown Transfer Plaza is now primarily used on Sundays and at nights when connecting buses have lower frequencies (longer waits between buses) and need well-timed connections for bus riders to transfer between 30-minute or hourly bus routes.

Another temporary update to the Downtown Transfer Plaza is expected later in 2022 when bays will move within the 8th St. surface parking lot between 8th and 9th Sts., and Leigh and Clay Sts., fully relocating bus bays from on-street to a designated lot out of the flow of general traffic. The City of Richmond and GRTC are collaborating on the updates in 2022 and continue joint efforts with other stakeholders to plan for a permanent Downtown Transfer Center in the future.

GRTC is a public service corporation providing mobility services in the Greater Richmond area. GRTC’s current operational budget (FY22) of $63.2 million primarily funds daily mobility operations and vehicle maintenance. GRTC provided 7.8 million trips during FY21 (July 1, 2020 – July 30, 2021).

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