On Tuesday, June 28, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order forming a workgroup to study how Virginia’s government can act to cut the state’s carbon emissions. The group will be led by Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward and will gather input from environmental scientists and advocates, the business community, and other stakeholders. The group will present its report and policy recommendations to McAuliffe in May 2017, seven months before the end of his term as governor.
According to Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Air Director Michael Dowd, his agency has a fairly broad authority to regulate air pollution, including carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The study could thus lead to carbon emission reduction steps even if the Clean Power Plan does not survive its current legal challenges. However, the executive order does not commit to any such measures. “Increasing Virginia’s emphasis on clean energy generation will help grow Virginia’s economy by reducing carbon emissions, ensuring our Commonwealth’s long-term energy security and creating the next generation of good jobs in this emerging sector,” McAuliffe said in a statement accompanying the executive order.