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Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023

We begin today’s newsletter with a bit of state news. Gov. Glenn Youngkin plans to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative by the end of the year.

Now, this is a pretty dense topic. But bear with me because whatever ends up happening will have real local implications.

First, a little background. RGGI (pronounced “reggie”) is a legal partnership between 11 states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Virginia was the first southern state to join the partnership in 2020. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capping the amount of carbon pollution that electric companies can emit. Basically, power companies have to buy permits for every ton of carbon they emit, and if they exceed their permitted amounts they are fined.

Youngkin has said that the program is a “hidden tax” on those of us who buy energy. And it is true that here in Charlottesville and the surrounding area we will pay more for power this fall and winter because of the program. Dominion Energy announced in July that it expects to exceed its carbon emission cap, which means it will be fined. To pay that fine, the company will increase its customers’ rates beginning in September, according to The Richmond Times Dispatch. The increase is just under $5 on a $125 bill. And it will expire at the end of the year when the program ends.

A map of Virginia shows all of the state's counties and cities. Most are white, but a few are colored different shades of yellow and green. Beside each colored county are dollar amounts.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County have received millions of dollars to build affordable, energy efficient housing projects. Courtesy of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council

On the flip side, Charlottesville and Albemarle County have received a lot of money from this program. The funds power companies pay RGGI are doled out in grants to municipalities for flood preparedness and affordable, energy efficient housing projects

Compared to other Central Virginia localities, Charlottesville and Albemarle have gotten a lot of money — nearly $650,000 for flood preparedness and more than $11 million for housing projects.

In Albemarle County, the housing money all went to the Southwood redevelopment, where nonprofit organizations Habitat for Humanity and the Piedmont Housing Alliance are building affordable homes and apartments for residents of the mobile home park, where many Latino immigrant families live. Read more about the project from NBC29.

In Charlottesville, the RGGI money went to the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority to rebuild its Sixth Street public housing community.

There is a third program where RGGI money goes called the Weatherization Deferral Repair program, which helps low-income homeowners pay for major energy-saving repairs that aren’t covered by federal programs. (Here’s how you apply.)

It’s unclear what would happen to these three programs if Youngkin pulls Virginia from RGGI. But it’s also unclear if he will be able to pull the state from the program. The Southern Environmental Law Center plans to sue the state to stop it from happening. The group’s argument is that the state’s Air Pollution Control Board and the Department of Environmental Quality don’t have the regulatory authority to remove Virginia from the partnership. Youngkin tried to legislatively withdraw Virginia from RGGI in January, but the Senate voted the bill down.

You can read more about the legal issues in this Virginia Mercury article.

A purple block with a stylized cut-out of a wood sign that reads "Burnley-Moran Elementary School."
Credit: Illustration/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Renaming History: A conversation about the names we give our institutions

In other news, Charlottesville Tomorrow is teaming up with the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society to host a panel discussion on the efforts to rename local institutions.

These efforts are happening in several southern cities, where communities are aiming to move forward from their racist histories by examining the namesakes of their institutions. In Charlottesville, it’s personal. Many of the descendants of those who suffered injustices from slavery to segregation live here, as do the descendants of those for whom our public schools, roads and buildings are named. How do we move forward together?

Reporter Tamica Jean-Charles will be in conversation with Chuck Moran, whose great aunt was a namesake of Burnley-Moran Elementary School, and Karen Waters, director of community education at Albemarle County Public Schools. There will be lots of time for community members to ask questions of our panelists and share their views, so please join us!

The panel discussion will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 5:30 p.m in the Swanson Room on the third floor of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library Central Branch in downtown Charlottesville.

For more background on this issue, scroll down for some of the stories we’ve reported in the last few years on efforts to rename local institutions:

Thanks for reading!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

A screenshot of a YouTube video shows what appears to be an old yearbook page. At the top are the words, "AHS Peer 1953-68. Two photos show various student performances, including one in which a white boy dressed in Black face is performing with another Black student.
Credit: Screenshot from the Albemarle County Public Schools Board meeting on July 13, 2023

Four Albemarle schools might keep their names, yet the fate of two other schools remains uncertain

July 28, 2023

“Even if you name something after an exemplary individual, it shouldn’t necessarily be in perpetuity,” Board member Kate Acuff said.

Charlottesville City School Board to vote on the name change of Buford Middle School on Tuesday night

June 27, 2023

Here’s how you can share your thoughts with the Board ahead of the vote

Five young people pin a large sign to a fence in front of apartment buildings.
Credit: Wes Myhre/Piedmont Housing Alliance

After decades dealing with stigma, Friendship Court residents decide to rename their community

June 1, 2023

“I’m tired of them calling this ‘the hood,’” said Jace Wright, a teen who lives in Friendship Court, which is being completely rebuilt. “We’re trying to make the neighborhood better for the future.”

A man stands beside the historic looking portrait of a woman.

The great nephew of one of the Burnley-Moran Elementary School namesakes defends his aunt’s legacy

May 15, 2023

Sarepta Moran was a white elementary school principal during segregation and a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, but her nephew says that doesn’t mean she was racist.

Charlottesville City Schools is looking for more ideas to rename two elementary schools

April 14, 2023

A committee came up with new names for Burnely-Moran and Johnson elementary schools, but the school board voted to come up with more options.

Albemarle School Board votes to rename Meriwether Lewis Elementary to divest itself from racist past

January 14, 2023

Students and community members, however, voted to remain named after half of the infamous Lewis and Clark duo.

Charlottesville City Schools asked students to rename their elementary schools — but officials are having second thoughts

December 13, 2022

Students voted to rename Venable as “Trailblazers” and Clark as “Friendship.”

Community members clash in tense meeting over whether to remove slaveholding presidents’ names from Jefferson Madison Regional Library

June 28, 2022

“This is not about preserving or erasing history it is about acknowledging it.” said Charlottesville parent Laura Sirgany. “I can tell you that the Black and Brown youth of this community suffer the trauma of the legacy of the people whose names are borne out on this library system.”

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.