As Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration moves forward with plans to withdraw Virginia from a regional carbon market, dozens of state residents spoke during a public hearing Thursday in support of Virginia’s continued participation.

Virginia began participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate carbon cap-and-invest program that requires electricity producers to purchase allowances for the carbon they emit, in 2021 following the passage of Democratic-backed legislation.

The proceeds from those purchases are returned to the states. In Virginia, over $500 million has been collected and earmarked for flood resiliency projects and energy efficiency upgrades for low-income homes.

“RGGI was passed through the democratic process,” said Nicole Keller, a resident of Virginia with a master’s degree in ecology. “I just don’t know how many ways the public will can be made clear.”

Laura Thomas, director of sustainability for the city of Richmond, pointed to $1.2 million in funding for flood resiliency the city has received to argue for Virginia’s continued participation.

“We must continue to support every tool at our disposal so that we can support these individuals on the frontlines of climate change,” Thomas said.

Nobody spoke in support of the withdrawal.

Youngkin has been seeking to pull Virginia out of RGGI since he was elected, calling the fee utility customers pay for Virginia’s participation a disguised tax. In Virginia, electric utilities are allowed to pass the costs of their carbon allowances onto its customers. RGGI data shows utilities are responsible for about three-quarters of Virginia’s carbon emissions that fall under the program, with unregulated merchant generators responsible for the remainder.

For Dominion, that meant an average monthly $2.39 fee added onto residential customers’ bills before the utility suspended the charge in anticipation of withdrawal from the program. Dominion, Virginia’s largest utility, has since sought to reinstate the fee in the amount of $4.64.

This story is written and reported by our media partner The Virginia Mercury. Read more here.