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How RGGI Helps Waterfront Property Owners Preserve Property Value

The Effect of Rising Sea Levels on Waterfront Property Value

Beyond the ill effect flooding has on the value of property, waterfront property owners on tidal waters also lose land as the sea level rises. That is why they are particularly affected by global warming. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI” or “Reggie”) fights global warming by managing the amount of CO2 that fossil-fueled electric power plants release into the air. Waterfront property owners need to know that earlier this month Virginia took the first step to quit RGGI.

Measuring the Cost of Climate Change for Coastal Property Owners

Beyond the existing flood risk, rising sea levels present significant challenges for properties in low-lying coastal areas, posing a long-term risk to waterfront property owners.

A peer reviewed study shows that increased tidal flooding driven by sea level rise has eroded $15.9 billion in relative property values between 2005 and 2017 across 18 U.S. states. Among the states analyzed to date, Virginia had seen a loss in relative home value at -$280.3 million.

Property owners in coastal areas can find their address on https://riskfactor.com/ to learn the risk for their personal property. The interactive flood map shows Inundation estimates for the largest annual tidal floods, as well as hurricane storm surge, with projections for how those levels will change over the next 30 years.

Top 5 Virginia Cities Affected by Sea-Level Rise Property Loss

Source: https://assets.firststreet.org/uploads/2019/10/Virigina-replacement.pdf

How the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Helps Preserve Waterfront Property Value

The sea level rises when the planet warms, owing to “added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers, and the expansion of seawater as it warms” (according to NASA).

Coastal flooding made worse by sea level rise is at best, an inconvenience, and typically much worse. It floods roads formerly used for decades, making them impassable. It is more costly still when floodwaters enter a home, inundate a vehicle, or injure or even drown a person.

Virginia Code §28.2-1202 is the reason that sea level rise shrinks the acreage of a waterfront property on tidal waters. The “mean low-water mark” is the boundary that separates state-owned bottomland from privately-owned upland. Over time, this type of property line shifts and moves (as I have written elsewhere in this blog).

The important point for the person owning waterfront property on tidal water in Virginia is that they have already lost land due to sea level rise (the Commonwealth of Virginia gained title to that land). Losing acreage in this fashion, in addition to other harms that flooding brings, drags down the value of waterfront property. A return to unchecked global warming makes matters worse for the waterfront property owner on tidal waters in Virginia.

How RGGI Helps Coastal Property Owners Fight Back Against Flooding and Property Loss

Most people know that RGGI benefits them because it reduces CO2 emissions, thereby helping to manage global warming. Some waterfront property owners may not know of the additional, targeted, benefit they receive from the revenue that RGGI delivers to Virginia, $228M in the first year. RGGI requires the fossil-fueled electric power plants in Virginia to purchase the right to release their CO2 into the air. By law, forty-five percent of the funds that arrive in Virginia from the sale of those emission credits must be spent on projects that help local communities in Virginia overcome the problems created by flooding. Virginia Beach is funding two large projects with the $4.9M it received. City of Norfolk received $1.7M, and is using those dollars to initiate three flood mitigation projects. City of Hampton has $9.1M in projects underway as a result of its share of RGGI funding. Together, these three cities offer a combined 306 miles of shoreline. Residential or commercial waterfront property owners occupy the majority of that shoreline. They are the ones who benefit from flood mitigation projects like those just-mentioned. I doubt that waterfront property owners would think it helpful that the funding source for flood mitigation projects may dry up, which is what will happen if Virginia leaves RGGI.


Virginia joined RGGI in 2020. On September 6, 2022 the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board took the first step to get out. Waterfront property owners should be concerned.

The attorneys on our Waterfront Property Law Team have strong connections and significant legal experience. As you can tell from the time a few years ago when one of our attorneys removed his shoes and got in the water to fend off a criminal enforcement action being filed against our client, we go the extra mile for our clients, if that is what is needed to get the job done.

Contact Jim Lang if you would like to see him publish more information on how RGGI affects waterfront property owners in the state of Virginia. Of course, you can always contact Jim for his advice and assistance in connection with needs specific to your particular situation.

About The Author

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Jim uses waterfront (riparian) property rights law, maritime & admiralty law, and environmental law to protect Virginians who live, work and play on the water. Contact Jim at (757) 502-7326 or jlang@pendercoward.com.