McAuliffe aims to regulate power plant emissions

Terry McAuliffe
(AP File Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced plans Tuesday to regulate emissions from power plants, saying Virginia “cannot afford to sit idly by” as President Donald Trump rolls back his predecessor’s efforts to battle climate change.

The governor, a Democrat, ordered his administration to begin formulating regulations to “abate, control, or limit” carbon dioxide emissions from power plants fired by fossil fuels. The proposed regulations are due to be presented to the state Air Pollution Control Board by the end of the year.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a legal opinion last week saying the board had the authority under current law to set a statewide emissions cap on new and existing power plants.

McAuliffe said at a news conference in Alexandria he would prefer a coordinated effort to limit carbon emissions like the Clean Power Plan, a centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to curb climate change. But Trump has said the regulations are too costly and vowed to scrap it.

“Unfortunately the news out of this White House is alarming,” McAuliffe said. “The citizens of our commonwealth want and expect us to confront this issue.”

McAuliffe directed that the proposed carbon emission limits are similar to what other states that limit carbon have done. Several states in the Northeast are part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program that has reduced carbon dioxide emissions from electrical generation in the region by 40 percent from 2005 levels. And California has set a goal to have half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and a 40 percent reduction of greenhouse gases.

The governor, who has not been able to score major wins with the GOP-controlled General Assembly, has increasingly turned to executive action to further his policy goals.

Republicans panned McAuliffe’s announcement Tuesday as “Washington-esque in both its nature and scope.”

“The governor is attempting to implement a failed national policy in the Commonwealth that will further hamper economic growth,” House Speaker William J. Howell said.

But McAuliffe’s plans were hailed by environmentalists, who helped the governor get elected in 2013 but have been mixed on his record in office.

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, a major McAuliffe backer, praised the governor for “standing up” to Trump.

Dominion Energy, which owns the largest electric utility in the state, is committed to reducing carbon emissions and fully expects those emissions to be regulated, said spokesman David Botkins. Dominion was one of the few energy companies that voiced support for the Clean Power Plan.

McAuliffe has been flirting with a possible run for president in 2020 and made his announcement a few hours before he was set to give a speech at Washington conference featuring other potential Democratic presidential candidates.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.