Senator pulls bill to give carbon allowances to Charles City plants

Environmental groups are opposing a pair of natural gas power plants planned for Charles City County. (Tom Burkett/ River Healers)

A Democrat-backed bill that, under the state’s new carbon cap-and-trade regime, would have provided carbon allowances to two unbuilt natural gas plants in Charles City County died Thursday at the request of its patron.

Sen. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, asked for his bill, SB 992, to be stricken from the House Labor and Commerce Committee’s docket.

Spruill’s chief of staff said the senator “didn’t see a path forward for SB992 with other legislation progressing” and “felt it was best to strike the bill.”

The legislation would have benefited the planned C4GT plant and the Chickahominy Power Station by potentially reducing their costs of complying with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

RGGI legislation cleared both the House and the Senate Wednesday, and Gov. Ralph Northam has indicated he intends to sign the bill into law.

Jef Freeman, director of development for Balico, the developer of the Chickahominy Power Station, had argued that the allowances ensured “equitable treatment for all generators.”

The administration opposed the measure, however, warning it could reduce state RGGI revenues by $131 million over three years.

According to documents obtained by the watchdog Energy and Policy Institute through a Freedom of Information Act request and shared with the Mercury, the Charles City County government, using talking points from a Balico lobbyist, had asked the administration to support the bill on the grounds that the projects would lead to an estimated $2.5 billion in new investments and “generate the most efficient and clean uninterruptible energy generation available in the current market.”