It’s Monday, July 13, and Virginia is the southernmost state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia is leading the way on climate change policy in the South. Northam announced last week that Virginia will become the southernmost state to enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade agreement among 10 Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. RGGI limits carbon emissions from electricity generation by setting a regional emissions cap that power plants can meet by reducing their emissions or by purchasing emissions allowances.

“As the southernmost state to join RGGI, Virginia is sending a powerful signal that our Commonwealth is committed to fighting climate change and securing a clean energy future,” Northam said in a statement following the announcement.

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Northam has been attempting to bring Virginia into the RGGI fold since he took office in 2016, but the formerly Republican-controlled Virginia legislature blocked his past efforts. In November of last year, Virginia voters flipped both houses of the state legislature blue for the first time in two decades, clearing the way for Northam’s climate plans. Since the election, Northam has also been able to push through the Virginia Clean Energy Economy act, setting a 100 percent clean energy standard for Virginia’s utility companies, a first in the South.

Alexandria Herr

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The Smog

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In late March, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would allow companies to stop sampling and monitoring their water if they could demonstrate hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of last week, more than 350 facilities, including fossil fuel companies, schools, and water treatment plants, have stopped monitoring their water pollution under the relaxed EPA rule.

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Dozens of locations across the Southwestern United States recorded record-high temperatures on Sunday, and the heat wave is expected to continue this week. The affected areas include states where rates of COVID-19 are surging, including Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. Officials are worried that the heatwaves will further increase the rate of infection if residents crowd indoors to stay cool.

Nornickel, a Russian mining company, reported a leak in a jet fuel pipeline on Sunday. The company is already in hot water with authorities after it spilled more than 20,000 metric tons of diesel fuel into a freshwater lake in the Arctic in late May. The company claims that the new leak doesn’t pose a threat to people living in the area near the pipeline.

Angely Mercado