By Zack Budryk
January 21, 2022 - Virginia will exit a multi-state coalition of attorneys general backing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) announced Wednesday night.
Miyares, who took office this past weekend, tweeted that Virginia will no longer participate in the case, West Virginia vs. EPA, arguing it could be detrimental to coal jobs in southwestern Virginia.
In the lawsuit, currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, 19 states, led by West Virginia, argued the EPA does not have the authority to enact the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP required states to reduce emissions from electricity generation by 32 percent by 2030.
Former Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) in August joined a brief from a separate coalition of 23 attorneys general backing the EPA in the case.
In a letter Wednesday, Virginia Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson confirmed the state has reversed its position on the case.
“Following the change in Administration on January 15, 2022, the Attorney General has reconsidered Virginia’s position in this case. Virginia is no longer of the view that EPA’s repeal of the CPP was unlawful,” he wrote. “Thus, although Virginia remains a respondent pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 12, it supports the petitioners’ arguments in this case.”
Ferguson cited the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for businesses. The ruling, he wrote, established that congressional approval is needed to authorize agencies to implement policy at such a sweeping level.
After Republicans swept statewide races in Virginia’s 2021 elections, newly-inaugurated Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has also taken several steps to reverse his Democratic predecessors’ environmental policies.
While still governor-elect, he announced he would withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a carbon market of East Coast states, and named former EPA head and coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as the state’s Secretary of Natural Resources.
Virginia Democrats, who retained their majority in the state senate, have vowed to fight Youngkin on both fronts. They have argued that because Virginia entered the RGGI legislatively, Youngkin cannot unilaterally leave it, while also indicating they would refuse to confirm Wheeler.