Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia signed an order Tuesday directing his state's energy regulators to devise rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions from his state's utility sector, saying states must fill the void created by President Trump.
"The threat of climate change is real, and we have a shared responsibility to confront it," McAuliffe said. "Once approved, this regulation will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the commonwealth's power plants and give rise to the next generation of energy jobs. As the federal government abdicates its role on this important issue, it is critical for states to fill the void."
The order calls for state officials to form a task force and issue a report by the end of the year on implementing climate change regulations. The governor's order comes as the Trump administration has begun its review of former President Barack Obama's climate regulations to ultimately rescind them.
Virginia had supported Obama's Clean Power Plan and had contemplated joining the East Coast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which includes neighbor Maryland and eight other states, as part of a cap-and-trade program to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Many climate scientists blame emissions from burning fossil fuels for driving manmade climate change.
The order said Virginia's climate regulations would be "trading ready" to leave open the option of joining the regional initiative.
In the Midwest, one of Michigan's largest utilities, DTE, announced a plan to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The reductions would be accomplished through a major push to produce most of its electricity through renewables while continuing to close its coal fleet through the 2020s.
Gerry Anderson, DTE Chairman and CEO, said Tuesday that his company had finished a study on how to cut emissions economically and concluded that it is feasible and beneficial to ratepayers.
"We have concluded that not only is the 80 percent reduction goal achievable — it is achievable in a way that keeps Michigan's power affordable and reliable," Anderson said.
"There doesn't have to be a choice between the health of our environment or the health of our economy; we can achieve both," he said.
The utility closed three of its coal-fired power plants last year. "This process of retiring coal-fired power capacity will continue with the retirement of the River Rouge, Trenton Channel and St. Clair power plants in the early 2020s," it said.