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May 29, 2020

Non-staff authors: Cale Jaffe, Brian Masterson, Nicole Pidala, Andrew Kriha, Laura Friedli

On September 16, 2019, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order 43, which directed the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (“DMME”), in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, the Secretary of Natural Resources, and the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”), to develop a plan that would guide Virginia toward producing 30% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and 100% carbonfree sources by 2050.

Executive Order 43 did not write on a blank slate. Indeed, it followed up on then-Governor Tim Kaine’s Executive Order establishing Virginia’s first Governor’s Commission on Climate Change (2007), former Governor Terry McAuliffe’s creation of Virginia’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission (2014), Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order 57 (2016) on the “Development of Carbon Reduction Strategies for Electric Power Generation Facilities,” and Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Directive 11 (2017) aimed at “Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Electric Power Facilities and Growing Virginia Clean Energy Economy.”

In sum, the targets established by Executive Order 43 were thoughtfully debated for more than a decade and were developed through the work of three different gubernatorial administrations. The focus now turns to implementation.

This Legal Report on Executive Order 43 evaluates two questions: (1) what are the existing laws and regulations on the books today that will aid Virginia in meeting its decarbonization targets; and (2) what existing laws and regulations may (intentionally or not) pose barriers to implementation. To consider these questions, the Legal Report assesses several clean-energy policy initiatives, including regulatory innovations in Virginia and other states.

Report PDF