Richmond, VA -- Food & Water Watch released a new research report showing that under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), vulnerable communities have actually seen increases in pollution from power plants covered by the cap and trade program. This research is especially important given the recent shift in power in Virginia’s State House and Senate, which makes it more likely RGGI will pass this coming session.
The new research finds neighborhoods that saw increases in carbon dioxide emissions from RGGI facilities had more people of color and were poorer than neighborhoods that experienced reduced emissions during the same period. These disparate impacts were even more dramatic when factoring in emissions of co-pollutants like particulate matter. Neighborhoods that experienced increases in both types of emissions displayed even wider disparities, with higher proportions of people of color and lower median household incomes compared to neighborhoods that experienced decreases in both pollutants.
RGGI amounts to a pay-to-pollute scheme that leaves fossil fuel companies free to continue business as usual so long as they pay a fee. Equally as alarming as the impact to vulnerable communities, RGGI will incentivize more fracked gas plants and pipelines, which already endanger the health and safety of our communities. Instead, Virginia should move legislation fostering a rapid transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2035. Moreover, we need for this transition to be equitable and to bolster the communities that have for years acted as “sacrifice zones” for toxic pollution and are currently facing the worst impacts of climate change.
“Our new report gives evidence of just how egregious programs like RGGI are,” says Jorge Aguilar, Senior Organizer at Food & Water Watch. “RGGI puts more power in the industry’s hands while increasing the toxic risks already faced by marginalized communities. We need climate legislation that instead gives these communities full and affordable access to clean and renewable energy and all the benefits that accompany that. Put simply, Virginia deserves better.”
Food & Water Watch mobilizes people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.