An Expected Exit: Va. Mayor Says He Will Vote to Pull State Out of Climate Compact

A Richmond executive councilman plans to vote to withdraw Virginia from a regional climate pact, signalling deep skepticism among its elected leaders over the strategy being pursued by President Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

The president is set to unveil his decision next week.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, speaking at the same event where councilman Jeff Youngkin announced the action, said he expects Virginia will follow the president’s lead and withdraw from the agreement, noting the plan is already in motion.

“We are formally offering our freedom from this contrived nightmare,” Youngkin said.

Under President Barack Obama, Virginia had successfully approved a cap-and-trade program that would require automakers to purchase credits if they emit greenhouse gases above a certain threshold.

With the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw from the Paris agreement, Stoney warned that major companies are moving out of the state as businesses consider climate risks.

“We will implement a plan to begin to work for our state to reverse the damage that is occurring, if we are the only state to pull out,” Stoney said.

Youngkin said he felt Virginians were misled during the 2015 election to vote for then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who endorsed the agreement.

Youngkin was among a handful of public officials who spoke at the announcement. He was joined by state Delegate Stephen Landes, R-Augusta, and Virginia Delegate Ben Cline, R-Rockingham.

Cline called the Paris agreement “a monumentally bad deal” and one that “deeply enriches the likes of the world’s most obvious dictators.”

Cline, who organized the gathering, said he was not referring to the president by name but to “doomsday dictators and enablers” who aim to “destroy human nature and allow mass mortality.”

Trump was elected by a landslide in November on a pledge to unravel the Obama administration’s climate initiatives. He has said he would withdraw from the Paris accord unless the deal’s liberal signatories agree to stiffer economic penalties for non-compliance and take more aggressive measures to combat global warming.

Youngkin, the son of two organic farmers, called the Paris agreement “an incompetent, self-serving, delusionary sham.”

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, slammed Democrats for supporting the deal.

“This ideology seems to prevail in Salem these days as I see elected officials from the left pander to their ever-increasingly radical following,” Wittman said in a statement.

Trump’s plan has received pushback from Democrats as well as Republican governors and executives who are members of the coalition, which includes Alabama, Arizona, California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., was scheduled to speak at the forum but canceled after Trump announced he would announce his decision Wednesday, an Inslee spokeswoman said.

The Gannett Washington Media Group contributed to this report.

Carl Ryan is a national political reporter for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter: @carlryanfox

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