Statewide environmental news roundup: 2023 General Assembly recap

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is pleased to provide Harrisonburg’s The Citizen with a monthly survey of energy and environmental news stories about Virginia.

With their permission, we are re-posting these pieces here after they appear in the Citizen.

The link to this piece as first published by the Citizen is HERE.

Statewide environmental news roundup: 2023 General Assembly recap

A contributed perspectives piece by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV)

Editor’s Note: This is a special edition of a regular series of contributed news roundups about statewide environmental and energy news. This piece highlights, with links to further coverage in various media outlets, some of the energy, transportation, and utility bills introduced during the recently-ended 2023 General Assembly (GA) session. Not all-inclusive, the bills noted include actions by area legislators (Delegates Avoli, Runion, Wilt; State Senators Hanger, Obenshain). This GA session saw many bills introduced in these categories. CAAV selected those we consider most noteworthy. At this writing, some (perhaps most) of the following bills are awaiting the Governor’s action. There will be a special session soon to finalize the budget; there could be more surprises in the offing. In addition to the links below, here are some additional items about the GA session, developed by various bloggers and organizations: CCANIvy MainVPAPUtility DiveVPMWashington PostSteve Haner of Bacon’s Rebellion, and Associated Press.  

Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA)

The VCEA (HB 1526 and SB 851) passed in 2020, establishing requirements for clean energy to reduce Virginia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions very significantly by 2050. There were a number of bills introduced in 2023 targeting one or more of the VCEA provisions for repeal or to lessen requirements. Results were mixed; while the VCEA was perhaps somewhat weakened, overall it remained intact.

  • HB 1430 would have exempted some large energy buyers and manufacturers from paying their proportionate costs of VCEA’s costs. Area delegates voted in favor; the bill passed the House of Delegates but was later pulled by its patron, because of the expectation of failure in the State Senate.
  • HB 2130 would have authorized the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to weaken utilities’ Renewable Performance Standards (RPS) obligations. Area delegates voted in favor; the bill passed the House of Delegates but failed in the Senate.

Other bills would have expanded the statutory definition of renewable energy (RE) to include coal mine methane (HB 1643/SB 1121 and HB 2178), biomass (HB 2026 and SB 1231), nuclear and hydrogen (HB 2311 and HB 2197).

  • HB 1643/SB 1121 were amended to encourage a policy “to encourage capture & beneficial use” of methane; they passed both House and Senate and area delegates and senators voted in favor. HB 2178 added methane to the definition of “green jobs”, thereby making tax credits available for methane extraction jobs. It pass both House and Senate and all five area legislators voted in favor.
  • HB 2026/SB 1231, as amended, will allow Dominion’s “biomass-fired facilities to qualify as RE standard eligible sources” and thus continue in operation past the VCEA deadline of December 31, 2028. The bills passed both House and Senate; area legislators voted in favor.
  • HB 2311/HB 2197 would have added both nuclear and hydrogen to the RE definition. HB 2311 failed in the House while HB 2197 passed, with support from area delegates. It failed in a Senate committee; Senator Obenshain voted against “killing” the bill.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

SB 1001 would have repealed the law authorizing Virginia’s participation in RGGI. It was voted down in committee; Senator Hanger abstained and Senator Obenshain opposed killing it. The Governor’s attempt to withdraw Virginia through regulatory action continues, however. Public comment on the regulation is possible through March 31 at CAAV opposes the regulatory action and will submit comments before the deadline.


There were numerous bills to repeal Virginia’s Clean Car Standards, passed during special GA session 1 in 2021. At that time, all area delegates and senators voted against establishing the standards, which tie “the state to emissions standards set by California that will ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles starting in 2035.” The standards require that “the State Air Pollution Control Board implement a low-emissions and zero-emissions vehicle program for motor vehicles with a model year of 2025 and later.”

  • HB 1378, which Delegate Wilt sponsored in 2023, was one of many bills to repeal the standards. All repeal attempts failed, including HB 1378, which passed the House, with all area delegates supporting the repeal. It was voted down in a Senate committee; both area senators opposed killing it.
  • HB 1588/SB 1466 would have authorized a grant program for electric vehicle (EV) chargers in rural areas. Both area senators supported SB 1466 when it passed the Senate. Delegates Runion and Wilt supported HB 1588/SB1466 in committee, but it died in another committee.
  • SB 1312 would have allowed localities to require EV chargers in certain circumstances, through their zoning authority. SB 1312 passed the Senate over the opposition of both area Senators, but failed in the House; area delegates voted against the bill.

Energy Efficiency

SB 1323 requires the SCC “to establish for Dominion Energy Virginia annual energy efficiency savings targets for customers who are low-income, elderly, disabled, or veterans of military service. The bill requires the Commission, in establishing such targets, to seek to optimize energy efficiency and the health and safety benefits of utility energy efficiency programs.” There is already a requirement that 15% of program investment be directed to low-income customers. The bill passed both chambers with broad, bipartisan support, including from area legislators.


Solar bills, in contrast, didn’t fare as well and generally didn’t receive bipartisan support.

  • SB 848 was looking to help make school buildings cheaper by deploying more solar panels to power them. It would have led to standards for local school systems to follow. It passed unanimously in the Senate but failed in a House committee, reportedly because of concerns over the respective roles of local versus state government.
  • HJ545, a resolution, sought to request a VA Department of Energy study of ways local governments could overcome barriers to purchasing solar for themselves and their constituents. It failed in a House committee; Delegate Wilt voted to “kill” it.
  • SB 1333 proposed to create a “Commonwealth Solar and Economic Development Program for low-income and moderate-income Virginians [, expanding] the Low to Moderate Income Solar Loan and Rebate Fund to extend grants in addition to loans or paying rebates to electric customers who complete solar installations or energy efficiency improvements subject to certain requirements….” It passed the Senate, with Senator Hanger supporting and Senator Obenshain opposing. It passed in one House committee, with Delegate Wilt supporting and Delegate Runion opposing; it later failed in another House committee.
  • Resolution HJ487 sought a study and report on solar panel installation and use in divided highways’ medians. Assigned to the House Rules committee of which Delegate Wilt was a member, it wasn’t acted upon.
  • SB 2355 wanted to establish “a stakeholder work group to develop recommendations [in its report] for consumer protection regulations regarding the sale or lease of solar energy generation facilities … under 25 kilowatts in capacity.” It failed in a House subcommittee.
  • SB984 would have clarified “the legality of solar leases; although it passed the Senate unanimously, and in one House subcommittee, with Delegate Wilt supporting, it was not acted upon by the house committee.
  • SB949 proposed to extend C-PACE (Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy) loans to residences including condominiums. C-PACE is “a voluntary special assessment lien that secures a loan for the initial acquisition and installation of clean energy, resiliency, or stormwater management improvement.” A Senate committee decided to “kill” the bill, with Senator Hanger’s agreement.
  • SB 1083 was a bipartisan effort to improve the results of earlier legislation that allowed Dominion to establish a shared solar program resulted in the SCC authorized $55 as the “minimum” amount Dominion could charge shared solar customers. The shared solar utility program “allows customers … to purchase electric power through a subscription in a shared solar facility.” The authorized minimum would disincentivize customer participation. SB 1266 wanted to expand shared solar in Appalachian Power territory (Southwest Virginia).

The two bills would have required “that a customer’s net bill for participation in the shared solar program …[would] not exceed the [SCC-approved] minimum bill … [and would have included SCC] considerations … such as minimizing the costs shifted to non-participating customers, and … the calculation of a customer’s minimum bill …. They [also included convening] a stakeholder workgroup to evaluate incentives for certain shared solar projects and … a report of its recommendations.” Both bills passed the Senate with Senator Hanger’s support; Senator Obenshain opposed. They both died in House sub-committees.

  • SB 1419 would have permitted “individual retail customers of an electric utility to purchase electric energy provided 100 percent from RE from any licensed supplier.” In other words, it would have given Virginia utility customers a choice about their RE sources. It died in a Senate committee; Senator Obenshain voted to “kill” it.


  • HB 1797 would have held Dominion customers “harmless” if Dominion’s project underperformed based on Dominion’s projected net capacity of 42 percent. Dominion lobbied against the bill, which nonetheless passed the House, with area delegates’ support. It died in a Senate subcommittee; Senator Obenshain voted in the bill’s favor.
  • SB 1477 allows “Dominion Energy Virginia, in connection with certain offshore wind projects, to establish an offshore wind affiliate … [to obtain an] equity financing partner for the project [that could] operate as a public utility in association with the utility.” As amended in both Senate and House, and with support from area delegates, the bill passed.
  • SB 1441/HB 2444 requires the SCC to “duly” consider, during its cost recovery proceedings, “economic development benefits” [to the state from Dominion’s offshore wind project], including capital investments and job creation…. The bills [would have moved forward the timeline] from 2034 to 2032 for public utilities to construct or purchase one or more offshore wind generation facilities.” They passed House and Senate on a bipartisan basis, with support from area legislators.
  • On the other hand, HB 1854, which would have required the SCC “to submit … [annual status reports about approved] offshore wind energy projects …. The bill [would have required] electric utilities proposing offshore wind development to consider and incorporate information [and recommendations] from the Commission’s annual reports….” Such recommendations could have saved ratepayers money. The bill failed in a House subcommittee.

Natural Gas

HB 1783 would have stopped localities from limiting customer access to “natural gas service and supply from both utility and non-utility gas companies, … from denying building permits solely based on a proposed utility provider…,[or from restricting] an applicant’s ability to use the services of an authorized utility provider.” It passed the House with the support of area delegates but failed in a Senate Committee, with Senator Obenshain voting in favor of the bill.


  • HB 1779 proposed establishing a “Nuclear Education Grant Fund and Program, to be administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, … [to provide competitive] grants … to any public [or private]institution of higher education … that seeks to establish or expand a nuclear education program….” It passed the House and the Senate on a bipartisan basis, including support from area legislators.
  • HB 2333 would have authorized the SCC “to establish a small modular nuclear reactors [SMR] pilot program [within 10 years].” It passed the House, with support by area delegates; the Senate added an SCC requirements to look at costs as compared to alternatives and to protect ratepayer risks if the SMR never went live. The Senate voted unanimously for the bill as amended, but it failed in the House, with area delegates voting against the Senate version.

Utility Reform

Bills around this policy subject were a major focus of attention and efforts by legislators, lobbyists, environmental and other organizations, and Dominion. Results were mixed, with ratepayers gaining some relief and Dominion getting some of what it wanted, though not all.

  • Considered pro-consumer, HB 1604/SB 1321 were a bipartisan effort that succeeded, passing unanimously as amended in both Houses. Called The Affordable Energy Act, the legislation is arguably a major energy reform bill because it restored the SCC’s authority to lower a utility’s base rate if/when it determines that the utility has overcharged customers. That authority had been removed several years ago by the GA.
  • Another bipartisan effort at the behest of Dominion, SB 1265/HB 1770 wanted to increase Dominion’s guaranteed rate of return, thereby ultimately raising customer rates, though offering some initial “savings” that would have been more than offset in the longer term. The bills’ effect would also have been to greatly lessen Virginia’s ability to meet its VCEA goals. With active interest from the Governor, as well as many stakeholders, the bills’ final language reduced negative effects on ratepayersstrengthened SCC authority, and removed the threat to the VCEA. They passed the Senate unanimously and with only one negative vote in the House; area legislators voted in support.
  • SB 1166/HB 2275 was yet another bipartisan effort—this one to reactivate and reform the long-dormant Virginia Commission on Electric Utility Regulation, with its purpose being to conduct legislative “energy planning & electric utility oversight.” With amendments, both House and Senate approved the final version unanimously. Going forward, the Commission is tasked with overseeing Virginia’s utility policy and do so in a proactive way that avoids presentation of type of sweeping bills like SB 1265/HB 1770 at the outset of a GA session, whose duration doesn’t allow for adequate exploration and debate of ideas, consideration of expert opinion, and, perhaps most significant, formulation of utility policy with appropriate analysis. In theory, the Commission—made up of GA members—should provide much needed, and timely, support to the entire GA.

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group in the Central Shenandoah Valley that educates legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/3/2023

The climate crisis is not a science problem. It is a human problem. The ultimate power to change the world does not reside in technologies. It relies on reverence, respect, and compassion—for ourselves, for all people, and for all life. This is regeneration. – Paul Hawken

Our Climate Crisis

The public is increasingly paying more attention to our climate crisis. This is changing the dominant strategy of fighting climate change through global treaties where it’s easy to dream up bold agreements but hard to make them stick. Public buy-in is enabling highly motivated governments and companies to invest in new technologies and business models. They can, in effect, run experiments and quickly learn what works in the drive toward a greener future.

This January was the warmest on record in seven states, including the entirety of New England. It was also the sixth warmest on record for the Lower 48 states and third warmest in Europe.  Five of the six warmest Januaries in the United States have occurred since 1990.

Rising tides are impacting coastal Virginia’s rural communities, which do not have the public infrastructure that urban areas have. This pushes more of the cost burden onto individual households. FEMA is helping people raise their houses but they still need to contend with waterlogged septic systems and water wells that turn brackish. Sea level rise in the Hampton Roads region is up roughly eight inches since 1970.

We have entered a new chapter in the climate and ecological crisis that presents us with difficult decisions. Severe climate events draw focus and resources from tackling the underlying causes of global warming and ecological loss—creating a possible doom loop. Our challenge is to navigate through the shocks while staying focused on creating a more sustainable world.

The megadrought made worse by climate change forced Texas farmers to abandon 74 percent of their planted crops last year. This especially impacted the global supply and price of cotton, made even worse by the cotton crops destroyed by the massive flood in Pakistan. The extreme drought in the American Southwest could re-create the dust bowl conditions of the 1930s.

Last fall, the Alliance for World Scientists published their “Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022” along with a 35 minute documentary. This marks the 30th anniversary of the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” signed by more than 1700 scientists in 1992. Since then there has been a roughly 40% increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Politics and Policy

The gas industry is under fire. It’s fighting back by creating a group dubbed Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future and recruiting prominent Democratic politicians as spokespersons. Among them are former senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and former congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). The argument they are making is that, while we need wind and solar power, gas is a needed abundant, cheap, and potentially “clean” energy source.

A new French law will require canopies of solar panels to be built atop all substantial lots in the country. Upon completion, this will generate as much electricity as 10 nuclear power plants and add as much as 8% to France’s current electrical capacity.

Michigan will be home to the $3.5 billion Ford battery factory that Virginia governor Youngkin rejected over his concern that a Chinese company is a partner in the venture. The 2,500 jobs the factory will create now go to Michigan instead of Virginia.

A Republican bill sponsored by Del. Tony Wilt, R-Rockingham, seeking to end a Virginia law tying the state to emissions standards set by California, that will ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles starting in 2035, died in the state Senate on a party line vote. Virginia Democrats have defended the law on the grounds that it puts Virginia at the front of the line to receive electric vehicles from automakers who are transitioning their fleets and it will improve air quality.


Texas is building utility scale solar faster than any other state and is expected to soon surpass California as the state with the most solar capacity. Utility-scale solar is surging ahead across the United States, which is forecast to add 29.1 gigawatts of new capacity in 2023.

Energy giant BP has reported record annual profits, which more than doubled to $27.7bn in 2022; other energy firms have seen similar rises. BP had previously promised to lower emissions 35-40% by the end of this decade. It has now cut that target to 20-30%, saying it needs to keep investing in oil and gas to meet current demands.

Methane from cow manure can be purified into a product being billed as “renewable natural gas” (RNG), which is virtually indistinguishable from fossil fuel natural gas. Major fossil fuel companies have inked deals with the dairy industry in California to build manure digesters. But is RNG carbon negative? It depends on if one calculates it as being derived from a waste product versus becoming an integral income stream in the very carbon intensive dairy industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy is providing funding for up to seven pilot projects that will test the efficacy and scalability of enhanced geothermal systems. Geothermal energy currently generates about 3.7 gigawatts of electricity in the U.S.; with the development of these enhanced systems it could provide 90 gigawatts of firm, flexible power to the U.S. grid by 2050.

Dominion Energy reports that its $9.8 billion wind farm 27 miles off the shores of Virginia Beach is on track and on budget. The installation, which could provide carbon-free power to more than 650,000 homes and businesses, is slated for completion by the end of 2026.

Last year European wind and solar production overtook natural gas in electricity generation.  That had seemed unimaginable one year ago on the cusp of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Solar capacity alone has doubled since 2018 and is on track to triple in the next four years.

Climate Justice

Prioritizing a transition to electric cars has an equity problem because low-income Americans cannot afford them and are more likely to use public transit. Sita M. Syal, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, says that the EV transition should, therefore, be part of a broader shift to clean mobility that invests in public transit, walking, and biking, as well as systems like EV charging that support private car use.

Minnesota paid Enbridge, the company replacing the corroded Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline and doubling its capacity, $8.6 million to fund police and other agencies to respond to the acts of civil disobedience that the project would surely spark. Protestors, who then experienced mass arrests and detention, now contend that the financial arrangement created an unconstitutional police and prosecutor bias that violated their rights.

Climate Action

ACTION ALERT: Please submit your comments in support of keeping Virginia in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) on the Virginia Townhall website before March 31. Gov. Youngkin is continuing his effort to use regulation to withdraw the state from RGGI through the Air Pollution Control Board. To this end, they recently put this proposed regulation out for public comment. Let him know that there is broad public support for RGGI.

Using an inexpensive inverter, it’s now possible to power your home from your EV during a power outage. This is the leading edge of how EVs will be integrated into of our electrical power grid and become a key step in the transition to renewable energy. In the near future, with a bidirectional charger and a home integration system, your EV will be able to draw energy from the grid when there is ample supply and then resupply it during hours of peak demand.

Many in the younger generation are shunning getting a driver’s license or buying a car. In 1997, 43% of 16-year-olds and 62% of 17-year-olds had driver’s licenses. In 2020, those numbers had fallen to 25% and 45%.

The ability to commercially produce low carbon ethanol from rice and wheat straw, sugar cane, and corn stalks has been tantalizingly just beyond our grasp for decades. A big hurdle has been  collecting and distributing what is essentially a bulky waste product. Another has been processing this dirty, abrasive stuff after it reaches the plant. Now, after many fits and starts, we may be on the precipice of some significant breakthroughs that will make it viable.

Prince William County, the second largest school district in Virginia, is going solar. They will install solar power systems on the roofs of buildings at twelve school sites. The combined electric capacity will be 7.9 megawatts, which will save the district more than $16 million in energy costs over the next 25 years. Students will also be offered training and hands-on science experiments on energy.

The push is on to boost the production of sustainable aviation fuel. United Airlines recently launched a $100 million fund to support startups working to solve the supply problem. The goal is to increase production of sustainable aviation fuel from 1% today to 7.5% by 2030. Thirty-eight major airlines, including United, have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.

News and experiences from the Harrisonburg  Pollinator Program will be included in the new “Parks and Pollinators: Taking Action and Advancing Sustainability” resource put out by the National Recreation and Park Association. The program is enhancing the environmental health of the city and doing its bit to help reverse our climate crisis. Find out more and explore opportunities to get involved here.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for February 2023

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is pleased to provide Harrisonburg’s The Citizen with a monthly survey of energy and environmental news stories about Virginia.

With their permission, we are re-posting these pieces here after they appear in the Citizen.

The link to this piece as first published by the Citizen is HERE.

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for February 2023


A public radio station story explored the effects of declining coal on electric bills in Virginia, where natural gas, nuclear power and renewables “now supply far more electricity.” The US Energy Information Administration provides extensive data on Virginia’s energy profile, including this: “In 2021, natural gas accounted for 57% of Virginia’s total electricity net generation, nuclear supplied 30%, renewables—mostly biomass and solar energy—provided 9%, and coal fueled less than 4%.”

Data centers are becoming part of the Virginia landscape; their growth is not without controversy. A proposed data center at Bristow in Prince William County is one example of how local opposition can affect a locality’s decision-making processes. “The booming data center industry is coming to Manassas…. The data center industry has a massive and growing footprint in Northern Virginia, with Prince William County serving as the epicenter for new data center construction…. Nearly 18 million square feet of land in Prince William County are covered by data centers, and the county government has moved to make more land available for the industry as it continues its rapid growth.” Loudoun County’s centers have driven growth in its real estate tax base. “Luck Stone Corp., a Richmond-based quarry company, has applied to rezone some of its Ashburn land [in Loudoun County] for up to 2 million square feet of new data centers….“ An issue surrounding two proposed data centers in Sterling, in Loudoun County, concerns how close such facilities should be to residences. “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is considering lifting restrictions on how data centers use their backup diesel generators at they continue to face shortages in Dominion Energy’s distribution.” Warrenton’s Town Council has wrestled with noise levels and other conditions at a data center proposed for Blackwell Road and, despite vocal opposition, voted to approve it. There is developer interest in Spotsylvania County. “Water and electricity usage are key concerns, as are noise and heat effects on areas near the data centers.” “As Big Tech [Amazon] pushes to put a data center in small-town Virginia, Fauquier County’s influential conservation groups have stopped at nothing to resist the company.” A blogger says “Building more Virginia data centers requires increased pollution controls.” “As the industry faces constraints in other parts of Virginia, InvestSWVA makes the case for locating in Southwest”, including growth, jobs, and minimal costs to localities.

“The church in downtown Charlottesville that had its request to install solar panels denied by the city’s Board of Architectural Review in January will appeal the decision to City Council.” The Board’s decision that the panels would be “inconsistent with historic standards”, came soon after the city updated its Comprehensive Plan to include a Climate Action Plan. A Charlottesville climate activist believes such restrictions highlight “The reality … that solar projects routinely confront out-of-date local code restrictions, which derail projects and hinder opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money. “ Elsewhere in Virginia, proposals for commercial-scale solar facilities continue to be considered, with differing outcomes. Recent examples include Isle of Wight CountyAmherst County, Montgomery CountyPittsylvania County, Surry CountyHalifax County, Franklin County, Henry County, and Culpeper CountyNPR reported that rural solar project applications have been hampered by the efforts of a “nonprofit called Citizens for Responsible Solar” that has spread misinformation in “at least 10 states [including Page County in Virginia].”

Prince William County and a Staunton solar developer reached agreement on installation of solar panels on 12 schools, saving the school system $16 million over the next 25 years.

Climate and Environment

“A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between landowners and conservation groups that restrict a land’s use.” Albemarle County “now contains more land under conservation easements than any other locality in Virginia.” Two Staunton area landowners have placed their 250 acres into a conservation easement, by donating development rights to Valley Conservation Council (VCC). “In 2022, the VCC oversaw almost 70 easements in the Valley, with 30 in Augusta County. The conservation council protected 1,909 acres this past year, the most in its history.” An Augusta County farmer and blogger believes “Farmland Conservation is Critical for the Shenandoah Valley.” A “Virginia program [Farmland Preservation Program awarded] $875,000 in matching grants to preserve farmland…. This year’s localities are Clarke County, Chesapeake, Fauquier County, Stafford County and Virginia Beach.”

Bristol has resolved the landfill suit filed by Virginia’s Attorney General with a consent decree [that] “specifies deadlines for landfill work.” “HOPE for Bristol, the grassroots organization dedicated to helping address landfill issues and concerns, is renting air monitoring systems.” “The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors approved a measure that will allow for a larger private rubble landfill near the Plum Creek area, a decision that went against the concerns of a number of neighbors [who] voiced concern over issues such as traffic, noise and the environmental and health impact.” The Lunenburg County landfill launched a “green” program that “convert[s] landfill gas to an energy collection and conversion system.” Reportedly, the process prevents the gas from “escaping into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas.”

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Virginia Tech have made available the “Virginia Land and Energy Navigator (VaLEN) … for public use. VaLEN brings together GIS information related to prime farm and forestland, conserved lands, brownfields and mined lands, transmission lines, and other topics to support land use planning and decision-making at the local level. VaLEN enables users to cross reference GIS layers with multiple themes and has a zoom feature that allows users to look at the highest resolution available, up to parcel scale.” [Source: DEQ Feb 6 2023 Email Newsletter]

“On the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Coastal Zone Management Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) congratulated Governor Youngkin on the successes of Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program. DEQ serves as the lead agency for the Virginia CZM network of state agencies and coastal localities. Since its inception, Virginia CZM has financed 36 land acquisition projects (3,800 acres and $10 million in funds) and 37 public access construction projects ($1.2 million in funds). These projects have saved and restored critical migratory bird and wildlife habitat and increased Virginia’s coastal resilience.” [Source: DEQ Feb 6 2023 Email Newsletter]

The “Norfolk waterfront [is] getting [a] new look [and] recreation space as part of years-long floodwall plan…. The Coastal Storm Risk Management Project will be completed in five phases over the next decade and is aimed at protecting some of the city’s more critical areas….” Norfolk isn’t the only coastal locality with significant flooding problems. “Rising tides are impacting coastal Virginia’s rural communities” like Gloucester County. A recent study in Nature Climate Change estimated that “properties in vulnerable areas are overvalued by $121 billion to $237 billion, and that if those unacknowledged risks are realized, low-income homeowners in particular stand to lose significant amounts of equity.” These risks exist in non-coastal communities also, such as in Appalachia.

“Environmental and agricultural groups reached a compromise over legislation seeking to push back the deadline for farmers to voluntarily implement practices that aim to reduce the amount of polluted runoff entering Chesapeake Bay waters.” The revised bill included “specific reporting requirements to track farmers’ progress in implementing the practices.” The Shenandoah Riverkeeper objected to the delay until 2028, arguing that “Any extension is unwise and unwarranted, and should not be supported. We already know that the longer cattle stay in the river, the longer the persistent problem of algae growth will go unanswered.”

Roanoke CountyMartinsville/Henry County, and Botetourt County are expanding their existing greenway trails, thanks to additional federal or state funding. A public transportation advocate points out “Roanoke offers public transit to hiking trails”, and asks ”Should more parts of Virginia do the same?” Roanoke is seeking “additional funding [for] its shuttle program to the Appalachian Trail and McAfee Knob. “ “Harrisonburg’s Friendly City Trail received state recognition…. The greenway [was] selected as a winner of the 2023 American Public Works Association Mid-Atlantic Chapter’s Project of the Year Award for the category of Transportation Less than $5 Million.” Waynesboro is seeking federal grant funding for a trail between the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel and downtown to provide hikers and cyclists a safer route. The Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley is scheduling community input sessions for the planned Shenandoah Rail Trail. The sessions will happen between late February and early spring, in nine localities through which the Trail will run.


  1. Virginia’s Governor wants to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). BUT the General Assembly established RGGI participation by law; regulatory action cannot change what the law says. AND If Virginia withdraws from RGGI, there is NO replacement funding for the home improvement and flood resilience programs that RGGI provides. Too many Virginians, especially in rural areas, bear a huge burden as they struggle to pay their energy bills.

CAAV believes we all must do what we can to leave our children and grandchildren a habitable and economically stable future. Success will depend on how well we manage a rapid transition away from polluting energy into a clean energy economy. We urge all Virginians to publicly support staying in RGGI. Contact DEQ and…

Demand — RGGI must continue to help reduce energy bills and reduce the financial harms of flooding.

Insist — Withdrawing from RGGI would give a free pass to polluters while wasting opportunities to lift up the lives of all Virginians by shifting to clean energy sources as soon as possible.

Make it clear — Trying to repeal RGGI is shortsighted, cruel, and a betrayal of Virginians, present and future.

Comment by March 31 at

  1. CAAV 2023 Strategic Planning – Survey and March 18 Meeting!

YOU can help shape the goals and direction for CAAV in 2023! We will have a facilitated, focused, two-part strategic planning process with a short online survey, and an in-person planning meeting. The outcome of this process will be a set of prioritized goals and projects.

RSVP here if you’d like to attend our March 18 Strategic Planning Meeting from 10am-2pm at Community Mennonite Church (70 South High St, Harrisonburg). Attendance is free and requires an RSVP. Lunch is brown bag (BYO).

Take the 10-minute Online Survey here. It’s open to anyone on the CAAV email list, even if you cannot attend the meeting. Responses are due by 8pm Monday, March 13, and will inform discussion at the meeting.

Check out…

  • This opportunity for a Virginia Conservation Network Summer Environmental Fellowship Program to work with its Outreach or Policy teams. Fellows will gain first-hand experience working in Virginia’s environmental community. This is a ten-week, full-time, paid position running from June 5th to August 11th. The deadline to apply is March 17th. Details here.
  • Harrisonburg Electric Commission’s (HEC’s) “Go Green” webpage. If you are interested in solar energy, take a look at HEC’s Friendly City Solar program. This is a way for those who can’t go solar themselves to participate in the solar energy generated at the solar farm on Acorn Drive. Although all of a household’s energy will not come from solar, a subscription will support HEC’s effort. Because of recent increases in HEC’s non-solar energy sources, the costs associated with the company’s solar program may be less than regular rates.
  • This picture of an EV charging station at a Henrico County Walmart. The item was titled “The Future is Here.”
  • “Virginia’s Lost Appalachian Trail” … published Monday by The History Press.” Written by a George Mason University professor, the book covers some “largely forgotten pre-1950s local history, when the trail passed through Roanoke, Franklin, Floyd and Patrick counties…. [It] also features eight maps of the existing AT and its older, pre-1952 route through western Roanoke County, and another east‑of-Roanoke planned route that never happened….”
  • WMRA’s story on a master gardener’s February 7 talk about “creating a bird-friendly yard.”

Why not…

  • Join Piedmont Master Gardeners for these virtual events, part of its Spring Lecture Series (cost is $10.00 for each event, times 7 to 8:15 pm)?

March 2 – “Africulture and Unique Organic Vegetables You’ll Want in Your Home Garden.”

Speaker Michael Carter Jr. will highlight the many contributions the African continent and people of African descent have made to farming and food traditions in the United States. Register here.

March 9 — “Attracting Birds and Other Wildlife to Your Garden with Easy-to-Create Water Features” This webinar will feature an online multimedia presentation [to] demonstrate water’s powerful attraction to birds and other wildlife in every season and will suggest ways to enhance our enjoyment of nature by bringing water into our backyards. Register here.

March 16 — “Designing a Pollinator Victory Garden for a Changing Climate.” Speaker Kim Eierman, an ecological landscape designer specializing in native plants, will cover the dramatic decline of pollinators due to factors that include climate change and will offer simple strategies gardeners can use to support bees and an array of other. Register here.

  • Attend CCL’s Conservative Climate Leadership Conference and Lobby Day, March 28-29 in Washington DC? CCL’s approach s is to work with everyone along the political spectrum to enact climate solutions. The conference provides the opportunity to engage climate advocates and lawmakers who are right of center by gathering conservative volunteers and members of Congress to make climate a bridge issue as conservative concern over climate change grows. Application deadline for attending the conference and securing a limited lobbying spot is March 10. The application deadline for attending the conference with no lobbying is Mar. 14. Learn more and register here.
  • Attend the 10th Annual Virginia Green Travel Conference & Travel Star Awards Celebration & the Green Tourism Business Expo, celebrating Keep Virginia Beautiful campaign’s 70th anniversary? It’s happening March 21-22 in Virginia Beach. Learn how residents and businesses can support “green travel” from experts on all things travel and tourism. Register here.
  • Learn how to plant a tree on your property that will have the best chance to survive and flourish in the site you want to plant it? Register here for Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards “tree basics” webinar happening March 7 via Zoom.
  • Educate yourself about how to recycle effectively?
  • Learn about bees from a Richmond area beekeeper?

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group in the Central Shenandoah Valley that educates legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/6/2023

The world will not be saved by conscientious “green consumers” who decide, one family at a time, to drive less or install solar panels on their roof. The problem is just too big for that. Instead, we all need to become “green citizens.” We need to focus, together, on a relatively small number of public policies that can, over time, bring about sweeping change. – Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis

Our Climate Crisis

The ocean has become an increasingly greedy neighbor, forcing parts of the Outer Banks in North Carolina to retreat more than 200 feet in the last two decades. Some beaches are now losing about 13 feet a year. Sea levels along U.S. coastlines are expected to rise as much as 12 inches by 2050, with the Southeast and Gulf Coasts seeing the most change.

The heat is on in the Chesapeake Bay. The average summer water temperature has increased about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1995. This is threatening to undo decades of efforts to restore the Bay by improving its aquatic habitat. Populations of native species like blue crabs and striped bass are declining while some southern species, such as white shrimp and red drum, are already moving into the Bay in increasing numbers.  

Half of the world’s glaciers could disappear by the end of the century even under the Paris Climate Accord goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Current global commitments to fight climate change are projected to lead to 2.7°C of warming, which would cause the near-complete deglaciation of entire regions in Europe, North America, and New Zealand.

Europe broke heat records last year and kicked off 2023 with a record-setting heat wave. A winter heat dome descended on the continent at the beginning of the year, crushing thousands of high-temperature records. One climatologist called it “the most extreme heat wave in European history.”

When scientists tagged a seal with an ocean sensor, he led them to signs of a potential climate disaster in Western Antarctica. The seal appeared just offshore, roughly half a mile below the surface of the vast oceanfront glacier called Denman. This provided early evidence that warm ocean currents are undercutting the glacier, which could be a major threat to global coastlines. If the glacier completely melts, it could raise global sea levels by nearly 5 feet.

Politics and Policy

A bill to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was recently defeated in the State Senate. The Youngkin administration is, however, continuing its effort to use regulation to withdraw through Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board. To this end, they recently put the proposed regulation out for public comment. Please submit your comments in support of RGGI and your opposition to the repeal on the Virginia Townhall website between now and March 31. They need to hear that there’s broad public support for RGGI.

The oil and gas industry donated millions of dollars to members of the House in the last election cycle. Eight of the top ten recipients were Republicans. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who received $616,563, raked in the most donations from the industry.

U.S. carbon emissions rose 1.3 % in 2022. Can clean energy get them on track with the goal of cutting them 50% by 2030? The clean-energy incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act should help by supercharging the cost advantages of renewable energy. Emissions dropped 1% in the electrical power sector and should start dropping significantly as solar, wind power, and battery storage continue to become significantly cheaper than fossil fuels.

Exxon’s internal models already predicted global warming accurately in the 1980s. Their public stance, however, remained hostile to any public discussion of climate research. Their leadership and marketing team worked to create a cloud of confusion around climate change and shifted the blame from fossil fuel producers to the carbon footprint of individuals.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill last month to legally redefine natural gas as a source of “green energy.” The new law is anything but homegrown. The Empowerment Alliance, a dark money group with ties to the gas industry, helped Ohio lawmakers push the narrative that the fuel is clean.

The United Arab Emirates chose Sultan Al Jaber, the head of their national oil company, to be the president of the Cop28 UN climate summit in Dubai. Climate activists, angered by the decision, see this as a clear conflict of interest. Some have likened it to putting a tobacco company head in charge of an anti-smoking treaty.

Defying the federal government, the Tennessee Valley Authority recently announced that it will stick with fossil fuels by replacing a retiring coal plant with a 1,450 MW natural gas plant. Clean energy advocates are also fighting an uphill battle to push Duke Energy in North Carolina away from its plan to build 3 GW of new gas-fired power plants.

Virginia state senator Chap Peterson insists that Dominion Energy must adjust to a new political reality. For years, Dominion has lavished donations on Virginia lawmakers who crafted its regulatory structure that locked in bloated base rates and other advantages. That has to end!


This year the U.S. is on track to export more liquefied natural gas (LNG) than any other country and the industry is planning for a surge of growth over the coming years. This flies in the face of efforts to fight global warming. The fracking boom allowed the U.S. to start exporting LNG in 2016.

Germany has agreed to join a new green hydrogen pipeline project between Spain, Portugal and France. The pipeline under the Mediterranean Sea between Spain and France will carry green hydrogen, made from water via electrolysis using renewable energy.

Renewable energy is projected to be 26% of U.S. electricity generation this year according to the Energy Information Administration. The growth in renewables is coming from wind and solar power, with wind responsible for about one-third of the growth and solar accounting for two-thirds. Coal has dropped dramatically in the last decade and natural gas, which is still highest at 37%, has also begun to decline in the past several years.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is helping Virginia lower its carbon emissions by driving down emissions from power plants by 12% annually during the last two years. This is happening even in the midst of rapid data center growth in Northern Virginia that’s expected to drive a 38% increase in electricity use by 2035.

Geothermal energy is drawing fresh interest after lawmakers boosted funding for it in the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act. While the next generation of geothermal projects are still in the early stages of development, they have the potential for a 15-fold jump in capacity in the United States by 2050.

Both Dominion Energy and Gov. Youngkin’s office have included small modular nuclear reactors in their plans for future energy, but expanding nuclear is not as timely and efficient as proponents claim. Wind and solar generate much cheaper electricity. The cost of unsubsidized utility-scale solar plus battery storage is about half the cost of new nuclear reactors.

A report from an energy nonprofit indicates that we may have already hit the peak in using fossil fuels to generate electricity and are entering a period of decline. Wind and solar power are experiencing substantial growth that follows the trend lines for the early stages of transformative products like automobiles, computers, and smartphones.

An advocacy group filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell of “greenwashing.” The company’s most recent annual report claims that it directed 12% of its capital expenditure to “Renewables and Energy Solutions” in 2021. Only 1.5% of that, however, went toward developing renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. The rest of the spending went toward gas.

Climate Justice

Even though California was inundated by unprecedented rain in January, it’s too early to declare an end to the region’s long-term drought. Some climatologists say the state is dealing with weather whiplash—extremes on the dry end and extremes on the wet end. The poor experience the worst of these extreme weather woes. They live in housing that was often poorly built and placed in some of the highest-risk areas for weather related disasters.

The super-rich are coming under increased scrutiny for the ways their lifestyles are baking our planet. While private jets and mega yachts are on the extreme end of the scale, cruise ships and commercial passenger planes are close behind. The 19% of adults who take more than four flights a year in the United States and Canada account for 79% of the flights taken. In contrast, just 2-4% of the global population gets onto a plane each year.

A peer-reviewed scientific study finds that gas stove pollution causes roughly 12.7% of childhood asthma in the United States. Children of color and those in lower-income neighborhoods are twice as likely to be hospitalized for asthma. Poor households are more likely to have smaller kitchens that lack proper ventilation.

A new study shows that pesticides are a key contributor to climate change. This comes from their manufacturing, transportation, and application, all the way to their degradation and disposal. Conventional farming methods don’t account for such environmental externalities, while organic food is more expensive because it does. All people, regardless of income level, should be able to afford food grown without using pesticides.

Climate Action

Cities across the U.S. are taking surprising and innovative community-driven climate action. This includes a resident-centered bike-share program, radical budget restructuring, equitable home heating plans, planting trees and eliminating heat islands, recycling waste water, and creating a long-term climate change advisory committee.  

A Tennessee-based utility scale solar company has an unusually holistic brand of solar development that can serve as a model for rural agricultural communities. Its self-owned projects incorporate regenerative land practices and recycle old solar panels. Instead of treating vegetation as a problem to be dealt with using chemicals and lawnmowers, it is exploring ways to graze livestock alongside and under solar panels and enhance the ecosystem.

Dine in rather than take out—it’s a simple climate action that you may not have considered. Harrisonburg restaurant owners Mikey Reisenberg of Mashita, a Korean theme restaurant, and Kirsten Moore of Magpie restaurant note the economic and environmental costs of disposable silverware, napkins, sauce containers, and the bag in take out orders. Moore said. “Dine-in is so much better for the workers, the business, the craft, and the environment.”

German rail and public transit infrastructure is far advanced to what we have in the U.S., even though it has some challenges. Things we can learn from them include: a.) How vital public transit is to reducing carbon emissions, b.) The justice issue of providing public transit to poor populations, and c.) The connection between dense, affordable housing and a reliable, affordable transit system.

How do we feed 8 billion people without frying our planet? One obvious answer is eating less meat. Our food system is responsible for about a third of our climate problem and most of our biodiversity and deforestation problems. Food and climate writer Michael Grunwald says we need to get over our squeamishness about high tech foods and meat substitutes. We’ll need to use them to avert a climate catastrophe.

More than 90% of the rainforest carbon offsets in Peru sold by Verra, the biggest provider of carbon credits, are worthless according to a study by Cambridge University and a team of investigative journalists. This raises questions about the credits bought by internationally renowned companies such as Disney, Shell, and Gucci so they can make the claim that their products are “carbon neutral.”

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for January 2023

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is pleased to provide Harrisonburg’s The Citizen with a monthly survey of energy and environmental news stories about Virginia.

With their permission, we are re-posting these pieces here after they appear in the Citizen.

The link to this piece as first published by the Citizen is HERE.

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for January 2023


The Nature Conservancy [TNC] reported that the current General Assembly session, happening from January 11 to February 25, … will consider nearly 3,000 pieces of legislation, [indicating TNC will be] weighing in on a select group of impactful policies. These include bills on Energy and Climate and Virginia’s Lands and Waters. “Electric utility rate reform [is] back on [the] General Assembly agenda, [with reformers filing a] bill to increase regulatory power, [and] Dominion …backing a] bill offering sweeping changes to the system.”… [The] “two competing electric rate reform bills, with one focused on giving state regulators greater power to lower rates and the other offering a broader overhaul of the state system backed by utilities”, are getting a lot of attention. A blogger said “Dominion wants to rewrite its own rules again “, arguing the latter more complex bill “will raise costs to customers.” At least theoretically, both bills “call for more oversight of power bills.”

“As Virginia lawmakers negotiate proposals to reform the laws regulating the state’s two largest electric utilities, a separate [bipartisan] push is being made to reinvigorate a commission intended to allow more in-depth consideration of such issues outside the legislative session. Senate Bill 1166 … and House Bill 2275 … would outline a greater role for the Commission on Electric Utility Regulation, or CEUR, in reviewing the state’s energy policy.… [T]he Virginia State Corporation Commission [SCC] oversees utility regulation in the commonwealth; the CEUR, established in 2008 and composed of lawmakers, is charged with overseeing how the SCC implements the laws governing Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company.” 

The 2023 General Assembly session will end on February 25. A Virginia energy commentator thinks there are several bills that “could bring more clean energy to your community”, also noting that local governments are working along these lines as well. She references several bills addressing “solar schools, climate resiliency, [and] energy efficiency.” (There is also a bill to “allow Appalachian Power customers to purchase solar energy from third parties. “) Nonetheless, she points out, “Attacks on Virginia’s climate laws are front and center at the General Assembly.” Two of these relate to Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the state’s clean cars standards. To date, efforts to kill or weaken both laws have failed in the Virginia Senate. A Democratic State Senator penned this opinion piece in support of Virginia’s continued participation in RGGI. A Norfolk engineer supported the Governor’s efforts to withdraw the state from RGGI.

Delegate Wilt’s bill to repeal the clean cards standards passed 52 – 48 in the House of Delegates. Enacted in 2021, Virginia’s standards tie “Virginia to California vehicle emissions standards that are set to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035.” Under the Clean Air Act, Virginia has ”two choices on vehicle emissions regulation” in setting standards. “California was granted an exception to set its own standards … [and] over a dozen other states have” followed California’s lead, enacting standards more stringent than federal requirements. Virginia could have elected to follow the less stringent federal standards when it decided to establish standards. Wilt believes “the California standards place burdensome cost demands on Virginians and [that] the 2035 target is unrealistic. [He also argues that] EVs will also put a strain on the grid.” Democrats counter that “Virginia’s adoption of the Clean Cars standard positions it as a leader in the ‘acceleration’ toward electric vehicles [and that] passing Wilt’s bill sends a message that the state doesn’t want to lead ‘or, worse yet, can’t compete…. Wilt’s bill faces a rocky road in the Senate, where Democrats have killed several Republican bills aimed at the same goal.” A Senate sub-committee previously declined to pass comparable legislation, along party lines, but the full Senate will vote on the House bill following crossover on February 7.

 “State regulators … approved a plan by Roanoke Gas Co. to convert biogas from a sewage treatment plant into natural gas for distribution to customers in the region.… The State Corporation Commission found that the joint project with the Western Virginia Water Authority is in the public interest.” The company considers this to be “a renewable natural gas project.”

Energy Right, a Virginia-based non-profit that brings a conservative perspective to clean energy conversation” noted that —

“The commonwealth’s energy policies are the point of frequent contention, but not all Virginians are toeing the historical party lines on clean energy policy. Clean energy is not the political wedge issue that it once was, and for good reason: this old dichotomy misses what Virginians actually care about. In addition to getting policy right in the eyes of Virginians, our leaders would be well served to first consider the proper role of government, if any, in energy decisions at the local level.” 

Nuclear energy and nuclear waste made headlines recently:

[W]hat we know about nuclear waste disposal in Virginia.”

Small modular reactors are not going to save the day.”

Youngkin’s nuclear initiative would make Virginia an energy innovator.

Dominion Energy plans to deploy small modular nuclear reactors statewide by 2032.

25 questions about small nuclear reactors.”

First small modular reactor gets certification from Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

Game over for the Mountain Valley Pipeline”? A commentator believes “The Mountain Valley Pipeline is down $6 billion with seconds on the clock in overtime. Even casual viewers can see that the game is over. MVP has lost. Gamblers should cut their losses while they still can.” “A long-running legal dispute over a corporate venture’s authority to seize private property for a natural gas pipeline [MVP] has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where landowners see signs of hope.” A FERC attorney believes that a “company that monitors environmental compliance by the [MVP] has a relatively small but continuing conflict of interest caused by its work on separate projects by developers of the controversial pipeline….” “Environmental groups asked the Fourth Circuit during oral arguments Tuesday to toss a key water permit for the [MVP], which would lead to even more delays for the $6.2 billion project that developers aim to resume constructing this summer.”

Arlington County announced all of its facilities are now powered by renewable energy, “two years ahead of schedule. As part of the Community Energy Plan adopted in 2019, Arlington County committed to transitioning 100% of county operations to renewable sources by 2025.” In other recent solar news, various Virginia localities have rejected proposals for large-scale solar farms or adopted policies limiting them: Isle of Wight County, Mecklenburg County, Culpeper County, Halifax Town, and Patrick County,

Climate and Environment

“The Virginia Climate Center is expected to launch in late January… [and] will work with local communities across the state, listening to what they need and providing information to help them develop strategies to manage their risks from a warming climate…. ‘It’s entirely a community-oriented organization. Almost an extension service like many states have for agriculture. It’s modeled in very much the same way: combining research that is going on inside the university with real-life problems going on outside of the university.’ The VCC team was awarded a 2-year, $2 million grant from NOAA to develop the pilot project.”

Meanwhile, “Virginia Tech experts have been studying extreme weather patterns and have some predictions for 2023 and beyond. The U.S. experienced 18 natural disasters related to weather and climate in 2022 that exceeded $1 billion dollars in damage and loss…. ‘[T]he general expectation looking forward to 2023 and years beyond is for a continuation of an upward trend in high-dollar disasters stemming from weather and climate events….’ [E]arly predictions suggest this year will be the hottest on record.”

“The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation … [awarded] $51,757,388 in supplemental awards from the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund. These newly funded [22] projects will expand flood prevention and protection projects including mitigation, capacity building, planning and studies throughout VirginiaCharlottesville was one of the grant recipients.

The “Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army announced … the final revised definition of Waters of the United States.” The new definition serves as a … reset of the [prior] Administration’s … rollback of longstanding clean water protections…. With the new definition, limits are established ‘that appropriately draw the boundary of waters subject to Federal protection.’ And the new definition notes that this does not mean activity cannot take place in Waters of the United States. It means the activity must not violate the Clean Water Act.”

The “Chesapeake Bay [is] still in poor health, [with] blue crabs suffering, says [the most recent] State of the Bay report.” The report gave the Bay a D+ rating. “The effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay has made little overall progress the past two years, with improvements in some categories offset by stagnation or deterioration in others” according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Its “dredge survey results found the lowest number of blue crabs in the survey’s 33-year history.” A recent study reported on the considerable economic benefits Virginia’s seafood industry provides the state. Two legislators would like to see a Virginia blue catfish industry that might help protect the Bay. A local farmer and blogger touted the benefits for farmers and the Bay of the “Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay … program that helped [farmers to be more efficient] and safer… with conservation vouchers. It’s called the Healthy Streams Farm Stewardship program.”

Tangier Island residents hope new oyster reefs will help in its challenges from rising waters. “Two potential projects would deploy oysters, one of the cornerstones of the island’s seafood-based economy, as protection against land-devouring waves and storm surge. Both are in the early stages of development.” Artificial habitats inland may help Smith Mountain Lake’s fish population.

Bristol Virginia’s landfill woes continue. The “New mayor, vice-mayor set landfill as top priority.” A judge granted its request for mediation in a lawsuit filed by sister city Bristol Tennessee. A citizen group is seeking “air monitoring” for the landfill. A local group is fundraising for air monitors. Virginia’s Attorney General sued the city over the landfill’s “stench.” Some legislators think Bristol should receive some federal aid.

The Valley Conservation Council reported its “Land conservation efforts successful in 2022; 2023 could be banner year.”

Check out…

  • Sierra Club Piedmont Group’s virtual program on Charlottesville’s Climate Action Plan – Feb. 8, 7:00 PM to learn about Charlottesville’s newly adopted Climate Action Plan and ask questions of staff. Register here. Consider whether there are reasons for other localities to develop such a plan.
  • Renewal of Resistance – an evening with StopMVP Artivists – Jan. 31, online 7 PM – for music, dance, and poetry. Register here.
  • These sources about the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) tax credits that take effect this year IRA take effect. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the ways you can save money with solar and more starting now. Below are links to the federal code text regarding HOMES and HEEHRA. Virginia will create its own plan for dispersing these funds ($186M in total).

§18795a. High-efficiency electric home rebate program (HEEHRA)

§18795. Home energy performance-based, whole-house rebates (HOMES)

Residents and businesses aren’t the only beneficiaries. So are non-profits and schools. You can encourage your school system and your church or congregation to install solar. And your neighbors. And commercial facilities. Generation180’s Solar for all Schools program created a toolkit that interested parents, community members and schools can use (and a helpdesk) to help their school go solar. Its last report showed a tripling of the amount of solar on Virginia schools. 

  • Locations of the top 50 Virginia localities with the most temporary emergency shelters per‑capita. “The increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters means that the need for emergency evacuation and shelter plans has never been greater. According to the Federal Emergency Management Association, understanding your climate risk, or proximity to probable natural disaster, is an important first step for making a plan. Tools like the Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation allow you to assess your risk by location. Knowing where nearby emergency shelters are located is another way to prepare for the worst. In the event of flooding, hurricane-level winds, or other disasters, emergency shelters offer a place to sleep, and also often provide food, water, and first aid services.” Closest to the Central Valley (though not necessarily west of the Blue Ridge), among the 50 localities are the Counties of Bath, Highland, Rockbridge, Albemarle, Greene, Madison, Culpeper, Fauquier, Clark, and Nelson. Cities include Staunton, Winchester, Lexington, Buena Vista, Covington, and Charlottesville.
  • These 6 charts that track air quality and precipitation in Virginia, plus other environmental indicators.” For example, recently air quality in the Shenandoah Valley National Park was rated good.

Why not…

  • See a film or two playing during the 13th RVA Environmental Film Festival, starting March 10with the heartfelt documentary, “Wildcat,” playing at The Dome of Science Museum of Virginia at 7:30 PM? The festival continues at the Byrd Theater March 11-12. Showings will continue until March 19 at various venues throughout the community. The lineup includes films for all ages and covers environmental topics such as forest conservation, survival amidst climate change, mysteries of sea life, pollinator decline, natural gas pipelines, and more. Details are here.
  • Attend Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL)’s Conservative Climate Leadership Conference and Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. – March 28-29? CCL’s approach to enacting climate solutions is to work with everyone along the political spectrum. The Conservative Climate Leadership Conference and Lobby Day provides the opportunity to engage climate advocates and lawmakers who are right of center. The application deadline for attending the conference and securing a limited lobbying spot is March 10. The application deadline for attending the conference with no lobbying is March 14. Find details here.
  • Attend the Waynesboro Parks and Recreation’s 10th Annual Shenandoah Plant Symposium 2023A Plant Palette, March 24 from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Wayne Theatre in downtown Waynesboro? Waynesboro Parks & Recreation will present a lineup of speakers. Find “inspiration for your backyard garden…. Registration is limited to 250 people. A boxed lunch will be served. The cost is $90 per person.” Register here.
  • Watch an Eastern Mennonite “Professor’s work featured in ‘Wetlands of Wonder: The Hidden World of Vernal Pools’ documentary? At 54-minutes long, it might suit your kids too.

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group in the Central Shenandoah Valley that educates legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 1/3/2023

No matter your field of work, no matter where you live or what role you play in your home, workplace, or community, you and the people around you are interacting with nature and society and have insights into how to solve the problems associated with climate change. So that’s where we start. Climate change solutions are not waiting for us at a fancy delegation of diplomats in a foreign country. They are at our kitchen table. –Andreas Karelas

Our Climate Crisis

Wildlife is disappearing at an alarming rate around the world, in the oceans and on land. The main cause on land is because humans are taking over too much of the planet, erasing what was there before. There has been at least 33% habitat loss for wildlife since 2001. Climate change and other pressures make survival even harder. “The biodiversity crisis presents a longer-term threat to the viability of the human species,” says Katharine Hayhoe, a prominent climate change researcher who also focuses on biodiversity.  

A bit of encouraging news is research showing that polar bears are surviving in Greenland despite decreasing sea ice. They have clung on thanks to freshwater discharge from glaciers, offering hope for the species.

Our current Holocene geologic epoch began 11,700 years ago with the end of the last big ice age. Now a working panel of geologists appears to be close to recommending that we have spent the past few decades in a brand-new time unit identified as the Anthropocene, the age of humans. This new epoch is characterized by human-induced, planetary-scale changes that are unfinished but very much underway.

A recent aerial survey in Oregon found that more than a million acres of forest contain fir trees that have succumbed to stressors exacerbated by a multi-year drought and global warming. The die-off is way beyond anything seen before and scientists are dubbing it “fir-mageddon”.

Politics and Policy

American cities have way too many cars and too little affordable housing. A prime culprit is zoning laws that mandate minimum parking requirements for commercial and residential development. Climate campaigners and public transport advocates are beginning to push back and this is finally, slowly beginning to change in some cities. Reducing minimum parking requirements preserves green space, allows for denser housing, makes cities more walkable, reduces traffic, and fosters downtown renewal.

Gov. Youngkin got one step closer to his goal of withdrawing Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) when the Air Pollution Control Board voted to advance the process of pulling the state from the program. Environmental advocates for RGGI argue that this is an illegal end run around the Virginia General Assembly which passed the 2020 law requiring Virginia to participate in RGGI.

The Senate blocked Sen. Joe Manchin’s permitting reform amendment for energy infrastructure from getting onto a defense funding bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act. Environmentalist Democrats supported the reforms for clean energy infrastructure but voted against the amendment because it also streamlines the permitting process for fossil fuel projects, especially the Mountain Valley Pipeline which Manchin has been trying to get approved. Most Republicans opposed the amendment for political reasons.

Wall Street’s biggest banks and mutual funds are backing off the climate commitments they made before the COP26 climate conference last year. Bank of America and JP Morgan say they’re concerned about being held liable for accidentally running afoul of United Nations climate rules. Blackrock and Vanguard, the world’s largest asset managers, then confirmed that their net zero commitments would not preclude them from investing in fossil fuels. Vanguard later announced that it is resigning from the global net-zero initiative.


U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm hailed a major breakthrough in creating fusion nuclear energy. Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory were able to create a fusion reaction that generated more energy than it took to produce. This holds potential to provide constant energy without the pollution of fossil fuels or the radioactive risks of traditional nuclear power plants. It will, however, most likely be decades, if ever, before fusion energy can be technically and affordably used to generate electricity.

Natural gas is getting in the way of slashing carbon emissions from power plants in the U.S. Over the next few years, electric utilities are expected to build around 17 gigawatts of natural gas plants (enough to power close to 12.8 million homes). Unless those plants are closed early, they will operate for decades on an electric grid that still gets almost 60% of its power from fossil fuels.

Installing battery storage on the electrical grid increased rapidly in 2022. The federal government had estimated that 5.1 gigawatts of batteries would be added over the course of the year and it now appears that more like 5.4 gigawatts were added—about 11% of new power plant capacity. Battery manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand.

Dominion Energy demands have stalled a planned 1.2-megawatt community solar project in Augusta County. Their insistence on a high-speed fiber optic line between the solar array and the nearest substation would increase the cost by 50% and make it unaffordable. This demand,  which is inconsistent with industry standards, appears to be an effort by Dominion to restrict solar energy to its own utility solar.

Federal regulators published a draft environmental review approving Dominion Energy’s planned 176-turbine wind farm off the coast of Virginia. This approval will take the largest proposed ocean renewable energy project in the U.S. one step closer to construction, scheduled to begin in 2024.

The Department of Energy is providing funding to projects that accelerate the deployment of small- and medium-sized wind turbines across the United States. The wind turbines, designed to be used by homeowners, farmers, and small businesses, can reduce costs, increase energy production, and enhance grid reliability.

Climate Justice

The mammoth bipartisan budget bill of roughly $1.7 trillion to fund the U.S. government includes roughly only $1 billion to help poor countries transition to clean energy. This is more than 10 time less than the $11.4 billion annually that  President Biden had pledged at the COP27 climate change summit in Egypt.

Many African countries are struggling with how to reconcile their desire to strengthen energy independence, the growing awareness of the climate and ecological crisis, and their desire to be part of a just energy transition. They insist that developing countries need clean energy technology transfers from developed countries, which they say has been slow to materialize.

Wealthy countries and banks will provide $15.5 billion to help Vietnam develop clean energy and transition away from coal. The funds, which will be disbursed over the next three to five years, will help Vietnam to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 rather than 2035, as had previously been projected.

Historic flooding last year in Pakistan displaced nearly 8 million people. Such displacement is generally temporary but is increasingly becoming permanent as climate induced drought and flooding makes their homes uninhabitable. The UN estimates that there will be 2 million climate refugees in Pakistan by 2050. It takes a heavy toll both economically and socially when people are forced to migrate from the places where their families have lived for generations.

Climate Action

The Inflation Reduction Act climate bill allocates billions of dollars that people can use to go green. This includes 30% tax credit of up to $2,000 for the cost to switch to an energy efficient heat pump heating system. It also includes a tax credit of up to $7,500 to buy an electric vehicle, depending on where it is manufactured. Even more significantly, it allocates a 30% tax credit with no monetary limit for installing rooftop solar.

Protecting big wild herbivores roaming natural areas helps reduce global warming in various ways. According to a 2022 scientific paper in Current Biology, these animals “help prevent fires, decrease the amount of solar heat absorbed by the Earth’s surface, and contribute a lot to the long-term storage of carbon in soil.” Elephants, wildebeests and other big plant eaters may actually be helping, not hindering, our carbon storage efforts.

Nations at the COP15 biodiversity summit in Canada made a major conservation commitment to try to halt the loss of hundreds of thousands of plants and animals. Their “30 by 30” pledge seeks to stem the loss of nature worldwide by protecting nearly a third of Earth’s land and oceans as a refuge for the planet’s remaining wild plants and animals by the end of the decade. It remains to be seen if they will follow through by funding and implementing this commitment.

About a quarter of the cars bought in China last year have been battery-powered or plug-in hybrids. No other country comes close. Chinese automakers are poised to lead the EV industry in producing affordable EVs, not just in China but globally as their offerings become available overseas. This is a win for efforts to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

After facing fierce backlash for plans to add thousands of gas guzzlers to its fleet, the US Postal Service has shifted course with a game-changing pledge to go electric. In the effort to change out their aging fleet, they are now committed to purchasing 66,000 EVs, making up 60% of their new truck purchases. This is way more than their original stingy commitment of 10%. The new plan will be almost like shutting down a gas powered power plant each year.

The overproduction of light is another human-made problem we urgently need to take responsibility for. Light pollution upsets the natural rhythms of insects and nocturnal animals. We humans need darkness too. Natural cycles of light and dark control our hormonal systems and only at night do we find true rest. Turning down lights in our house and putting bright outside lights on motion sensors not only saves electricity—it’s good for us and our environment.  

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for December 2022

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is pleased to provide Harrisonburg’s The Citizen with a monthly survey of energy and environmental news stories about Virginia.

With their permission, we are re-posting these pieces here after they appear in the Citizen.

The link to this piece as first published by the Citizen is HERE.

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for December 2022 


Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

“Virginia … [began its] official withdrawal [via the regulatory process] from [the] regional carbon market [known as RGGI, although] debates over legality of [the Youngkin administration’s and the Air Quality Control Board’s] move persist.” “Virginia began participating in RGGI following passage of the … Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act of 2020…. Virginia power producers must buy allowances for each metric ton of carbon they emit, with the number of allowances available for purchase at auction declining every year.” The previous and current Attorneys General provided different opinions as to the legality of the Youngkin approach. A Southern Environmental Law Center attorney argued such action must be done legislatively. A National Resources Defense Council lawyer tweeted “Weird [that the Governor]’s budget would make taxpayers pay for VA’s exorbitant flooding & energy costs. Yet in Q4 [22] alone, under VA’s RGGI law, big polluters just paid up another $70+ million, to do exactly that….” Other opinion writers, environmental organizations, and a legislative committee echoed that sentiment questioning the logic of eliminating the RGGI funding source for community flood resilience and energy efficiency improvements for low and middle income Virginians and allowing polluters to emit CO2 while proposing budget expenditures to pay for the recurrent damages that coastal and inland flooding that the state has experienced and will continue to experience. A blogger presented details about the proceeds from the RGGI auctions, describing them as “taxes”, noting that to date they’ve totaled close to $524 million. The Acting Secretary of Virginia’s Department of Natural and Historic Resources argued that RGGI is “a bad deal.” The regulatory action to withdraw Virginia from RGGI will continue in 2023.

Solar, Wind, and Nuclear

“The Rockingham County Board of Supervisors approved a large solar farm near Port Republic …. The permit [is] for a large-scale, ground-mounted solar facility on the south side of U.S. 340, … [on] … land previously disturbed by a quarry, and [the project] would produce 50 megawatts of power, … enough electricity to power 20% of the county’s households.” Franklin County’s Board of Supervisors voted to approve a siting agreement for … the county’s first utility-scale solar facility, a … 160-acre project ….” Other localities that recently approved similar projects include Halifax County and Henry County. Not all solar facilities meet with approval; recent examples of local opposition happened in Carroll County, in Isle of Wight Countyin Bristersburg/Fauquier County, and in the town of South Boston.

A bill passed in the 2022 General Assembly called for a work group study to address solar development. That group delivered its report but achieved ”little consensus on [what new regulations should look like.] Solar developers were wary of regulation, and farm and conservation groups expressed concerns about land impacts. The report was “a 717-page document that included discussion of 41 proposals around definitions, processes and who should be involved with implementing the new regulations. The work group reached consensus on only four of those proposals and came close to consensus on 14. But on 23 — more than half of those considered — they remained deadlocked.” One opinion writer praised the bipartisan “consensus”.

An Augusta County solar developer is training students for careers in clean energy. The same company will install solar panels on two Bedford County schoolsIt also helped a Richmond homeless shelter reduce its energy costs by going solarVirginia Beach students created light displays “powered by solar panels and [a] wind turbine.” “More than 80 students from five public school divisions in Virginia gave topics, “including students from Augusta County.

In Virginia, shared, or community, solar allows eligible residents of multi-family buildings and those who cannot install their own solar to subscribe to utility and 3rd party developer programs. However, “Shared solar launches in Virginia but still faces an uphill battle.” “Dominion Energy is demanding that a planned 1.2-megawatt community solar project pay to install a high-speed fiber optic line between the array and the nearest substation, which the developer says will increase costs by about 50%.”

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) “effectively signed off on an agreement Dominion reached this fall with the Virginia attorney general and other parties, in which the company agreed to implement several consumer protections in connection with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.” Not everyone applauded the SCC’s action. A blogger asked “Why does Dominion fear a wind output promise?” Another argued that “Dominion’s Wind Gamble Could Cost Customers.” Another made a case that “Dominion’s Planned Offshore Wind Farm Need Not – and Must Not – Be Built Where Planned.” Dominion has filed a request with the SCC for a rate surcharge for its off-shore wind project. The federal government advanced Virginia’s off-shore wind projects. Meanwhile, “Plans for Botetourt County [on-shore] wind farm [are] moving along – although slowly.”

A Canary Media chart detailing the largest electricity source in each state showed that “In 12 U.S. states last year, the largest source of electricity generation was zero-carbon — wind, hydropower or nuclear.” Virginia was not among the 12; its largest source was fossil gas. The Governor proposed “a $10 million investment in the upcoming budget to turn Virginia into a leader in energy innovation …. [He announced] ‘With technologies like carbon capture and utilization, and resources like critical minerals, hydrogen, and nuclear, we will make Virginia the epicenter for reliable and affordable energy innovation’.”

The Governor and nuclear proponents want Southwest Virginia to be the site of a small modular nuclear reactor but critics, including area residents, want to be informed and consulted about such a project. Some experts say the project is doable with necessary approvals in place. Several start-ups are working on ways to demonstrate feasibility. A Lynchburg company started “production of a type of nuclear fuel, fuel, called TRISO, [that] will power the first micro reactor built and operated in the United States…. {The company believes such fuels will be] used for a variety of new technologies, including micro reactors that provide clean energy to remote communities, or areas recovering from natural disasters.” Virginia Tech nuclear researchers received a federal grant to “work to improve computer models that are used to study the safety of nuclear power plants.” “Dominion Energy plans to deploy small modular nuclear reactors statewide by 2032 … [and] is evaluating several sites in Southwest Virginia, including retired fossil fuel plants and former coal mines. Appalachian Power Company says it’s also looking at the new nuclear technology.” Politicallycurrent activities show that there is international interest in nuclear energy on both the right and the left.

Southwest Virginia may become a hub for numerous research and development activities and job opportunities, including “The Energy Discovery, Education, Learning & Technology Accelerator, or DELTA, Lab… in Wise County”; the “Energy Storage and Electrification Manufacturing (ESEM) jobs project” in Tazewell County; numerous projects funded by the recently passed federal 2023 funding bill; and hydrogen research, including a green hydrogen project in Buchanan County.

Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), Biogas, and Extraction/Mining

Republican legislators introduced pipeline permitting reform bills in both houses of Congress to “create regulatory certainty for natural gas pipeline construction and approve Mountain Valley Pipeline completion.” In response, “more than 40 environmental and advocacy groups called for a “fair and open” review of the pipeline’s plan to cross the Jefferson National Forest.” Senator Manchin’s [and others’] efforts to speed up the energy permitting process (and thereby facilitate if not guarantee the completion of the MVP), will likely continue in 2023 despite the lack of success in 2022. “The U.S. Forest Service[, under a court order to produce a ‘ Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement before a final statement next summer’,] has proposed new construction guidelines that, if adhered to, would enable the 303-mile intrastate natural gas pipeline to traverse a 3.5-mile section of the Jefferson National Forest in Giles and Montgomery counties, the project’s final missing link.”

“Utility executives said they have plenty of opportunity to invest in renewable natural gas, or RNG, supply projects, even as major energy and investment companies continue to acquire RNG developers.” Dominion Energy “invested in … [RNG] projects at dairy and swine farms and sees the opportunity to add to its project pipeline.” Roanoke Gas Company seeks “to partner with a western Virginia wastewater plant to capture, treat, and deliver biogas to local customers. Environmental groups have objections to how the deal is structured ….”

“A Canadian company has bought interest in the uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County and has set its sights on overturning the state’s moratorium on uranium mining. Experts say the risks are real, but some can be mitigated with modern technology.” “Southside legislators said there’s little local enthusiasm for overturning the moratorium ….” 

“The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is working towards the answer [to the question ‘Might there be Gold in Virginia hills’]. Virginia Tech faculty members … were part of a 13‑person technical team convened by NASEM to provide their subject‑matter expertise to produce “The Potential Impacts of Gold Mining in Virginia” report ….” Two of the conclusions:

  1. “Virginia’s laws and regulations currently … are not up to the task of minimizing the risks to Virginia’s communities and environment …. [The] report points to opportunities to strengthen these systems to minimize risk of harming water resources, ecosystems, and human health….”
  2. “The most effective way to minimize potential impacts from gold mining is to begin with a cradle‑to‑grave approach that considers all aspects of exploration, development, mining, remediation, closure and long-term monitoring from the very earliest stages and, importantly, solicits and includes input from all stakeholders involved ….”

The study was done pursuant to legislation; one question is “What happens next?” Buckingham County formed a commission to recommend what its next steps will be, possibly addressing whether the county should ban gold mining there.


“A representative state survey released last week found 55% of Virginians are likely to consider buying an electric vehicle (EV). In January, however, the key policy that gives Virginians’ more access to EVs may be in jeopardy. [An opinion writer noted that] Unfortunately, bills have been filed to repeal the Clean Car standards in the upcoming Virginia General Assembly.” However, “With higher gas prices, electric vehicles [are] surging in popularity with buyers.” The town of Stanley recently installed its first EV charging station at a local park. Loudoun County is planning to “acquire [a] low-to-zero emissions … fleet.” “As more transit agencies in Virginia roll out electric buses to reduce environmental impacts, the need to recharge those buses throughout the day remains a chief concern.”

Richmond’s Pulse has driven its way to becoming one of the most successful bus rapid transit services in the country. Now transportation leaders from as far away as Ohio, Maryland and Florida are taking notice…. [P]assengers are turning to rapid transit services due to their frequent stops and reliability compared to buses.” Blacksburg’s town council voted to provide free bus service to all riders. But the Roanoke Valley’s Metro system cannot afford to do so without “new funding or significant budget cuts.” DC eliminated Metrobus fares starting next summer, but Virginia riders from DC may continue paying them. “Virginia transit officials say state law and regulations effectively prohibit the state from eliminating Metrobus fares for riders in the commonwealth, but legislative changes could alter that.”

Climate and Environment

“An innovative new technique to assess the health of fish population that set lower triggers for catch quotas has found that menhaden — probably the most controversial catch in Virginia — are doing even better than expected. As a result, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission increased its coastwide quota for menhaden by 20%, while leaving its cap on the Chesapeake Bay catch at 51,000 metric tons.

A recent study by the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech showed there is “Money in [Virginia’s] water: Virginia seafood industry [is] worth billions, supports thousands of jobs.” A recent Chesapeake Bay Foundation study reported “good news” for the Bay: “Dead zones are shrinking, but [there’s] still a long way to go.” “The Chesapeake Bay watershed in Virginia will be supported by more than $13 million in grant awards for restoration and conservation…. Awarded through the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant Program (INSR) and the Small Watershed Grants (SWG) Programs, core grant programs of the federal-state Chesapeake Bay Program partnership that are administered under NFWF’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund (CBSF), the award include $15 million provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds, the first set of awards from the infrastructure funding. Funding will also be provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and private funding by Altria Group, Zoetis, and Astra Zeneca. Additional funding will come from the Bezos Earth Fund.” Total funding will be over $26 million. The Governor proposed setting “aside historic funds [$685 million in the biennial budget] for conservation and preservation … [and] for resiliency and the Chesapeake Bay.”

Thanks to “legislation passed earlier this year allowing Virginia’s state and federally recognized tribes to receive grants from VLCF, one of the state’s premier sources of conservation money, funded through the budget,” “two tribes were awarded grants directly from the … VLCF to acquire and preserve forestlands for the first time. The grants will only cover a portion of the cost of the land acquisitions and will be available to the tribes for two years.”

“Five localities receive[d] funds [from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Farmland Preservation] to place working farmlands, forests under conservation easements.” “The General Assembly’s passage of full funding for agricultural best management practices is a historic decision for farmers…. From July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2024, $295 million will be allocated in Virginia’s budget for aid farmers in implementing conservation practices.”

Check out…

Why not…

  • Sign up to lobby your legislators on Virginia Conservation Network’s Our Common Agenda this coming session? Join the Virginia Conservation Network and hundreds of fellow environmental advocates on Tuesday, January 31st, 8 am to 1 pm in Richmond for its annual Conservation Lobby Day. Register here.
  • Join Earthjustice for its Climate Action Party: Food Justice Webinar, Jan. 12, 7 pm? Learn how climate-concerned citizens can urge government leaders to help accelerate the transition to a more just and sustainable food system. The featured guest Peter Lehner will spotlight opportunities for climate activists to advocate for policymakers to use the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Farm Bill, Inflation Reduction Act, and SEC regulations to drive even faster, systemic change in the ways we produce our food. Register here.
  • Learn about three ways to receive tax credits for going green in 2023, thanks to federal funding under the Inflation Reduction Act?
  • Gain some insights into how SustainFloyd takes small steps by “Thinking Globally [and Acting Globally in Floyd Virginia”?
  • Read this story of Hog Island residents who moved to the mainland to retreat from the rising seas, only to find those seas have followed them?
  • Try washing your clothes in cold water and wash them less frequently? Doing so will increase the life of the clothes and reduce environmental harms from the washing process.
  • Learn about Mountain Lake’s “mysterious” fluctuations that result in periods of low to no water.
  • Invite Songbirds to Your Winter Garden”?
  • Visit an “International Dark Sky” state or national park? Virginia has four, three relatively near the Central Valley. West Virginia has three parks with this designation. Before you go, learn “Why we need to make the world a darker place.”

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group in the Central Shenandoah Valley that educates legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 12/5/2022

As Lao Tzu wrote in the Tao Te Ching, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So it is with solving climate change. While transitioning to an equitable, sustainable economy powered by clean energy will be a massive undertaking, the process is made up of small steps. —Andreas Karelas

Our Climate Crisis

As more than 180 heads of state were converging in Egypt for the COP27 climate summit, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres opened the proceedings with this dire warning, “The clock is ticking. We are in the fight of our lives. And we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing. Global temperatures keep rising. And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible. We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”

Like the rest of the Caribbean, Cuba is suffering from longer droughts, more intense storms, and higher sea levels because of climate change. This is reducing agricultural yields, and putting farmers under intense financial pressure. It is also driving people to leave the island in the highest numbers in decades. Nearly 221,000 Cuban migrants have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border this year.

The Interior Department is giving three Native American tribal communities $25 million each to move their key buildings onto higher ground and away from rising waters, with the expectation that homes will follow. Eight more tribes will receive $5 million each to plan for relocation. This is most likely a precursor to forced relocation in response to climate change.

A century ago the residents of the town of Oyster on Hog Island off the coast of Virginia were forced to relocate their town to the mainland due to rising sea levels. Historically, the ocean has risen about a foot in a human lifetime, but estimates are that it will now increase to two or three feet because of climate change. These more rapidly rising sea levels are now challenging the relocated town to again relocate to higher ground.

Extreme weather events have caused an estimated $115 billion in insured financial losses around the world this year, which is 42% higher than the 10-year average of $81 billion. About $50 billion to $65 billion of the total losses are a result of Hurricane Ian, which pummeled Florida’s west coast in late September.

Politics and Policy

The COP27 U.N. Climate Summit in Egypt ended with a hard-fought deal to create a fund to help poor countries being battered by climate disasters. This includes  proposed reforms at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund that could attract trillions of dollars in private capital available to developing nations to mitigate the effects of climate change. The summit, however, did little to cut the use of fossil fuels and advance efforts to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees C.

The transition to clean energy does not always follow the partisan political divide in our country. South Dakota, a solidly “red” state, has now amassed enough renewable energy to fulfill its own electricity needs and then some. The state has a built in advantage with ample hydropower but wind energy has now surpassed it in-state electricity generation.

Climate leadership and promoting policies to transition to clean energy was a political win for three Midwest governors. Democratic governors Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tim Walz of Minnesota, and Tony Evers of Wisconsin won reelection, beating three Trump-backed candidates who campaigned on turning back clean energy initiatives.

Some of the biggest oil and gas producers and consumers have committed to cut their emissions of methane at the COP27 climate summit. Methane molecules do not last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide but heat the planet more than 80 times more, over their 20 years lifespan. Cutting methane pollution by 45% this decade would avoid 0.3 degrees Celsius of global warming by the 2040s and can be done with existing, inexpensive technologies.

In response to a surprise environmental order from the Youngkin administration, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing proposed stormwater regulations that would treat ground-mounted solar arrays the same as parking lots. This would likely require solar developers to acquire more land, driving up the cost of solar energy.


Green hydrogen fuel has always been the holy grail of clean energy but it has remained just beyond our reach. That may now change with the billions of dollars allotted to hydrogen research and development in the Inflation Reduction Act. This is especially important in intensive energy uses such as heavy manufacturing, long-haul trucking, international shipping, and aviation, which cannot easily be converted to electric battery power.

The US Energy Information Administration reports that nearly a quarter of the coal-fired electric plants currently operating in the US have plans to be retired by the end of 2029. Further data released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission indicated that the use of natural gas for electric generation may have peaked.

The world’s largest floating wind farm is now producing power off the coast of Norway. When completed, the wind farm will have 11 turbines and create 88 megawatts of combined capacity—more than half of all the floating wind capacity in place today. The development of offshore wind is surging globally as costs decline and countries adopt ambitious climate change policies.

The European Union burns more than half the wood it harvests for energy and also imports massive amounts of wood pellets from the U.S. Phasing out forest biomass as ‘renewable energy’ would yield massive benefits in terms of air pollution and climate protection. The forest products industry is opposing such reforms and has the ear of key European policymakers.

Prospect Power LLC, of Austin, Texas, applied for a special-use permit for Rockingham County’s first battery energy storage facility on a 24-acre tract of land. The proposed facility will be charged with energy from, and discharged back to Virginia’s electric grid, enabling grid operators to deal with supply and demand in a revolutionary way.

Canadian Pacific’s experimental hydrogen-powered locomotive made its maiden run in Calgary, Alberta in October. This is the first step in seeing if these locomotives utilizing clean energy can replace diesel locomotives. Canadian Pacific is producing green hydrogen with solar power.

Recent Virginia legislation allows certain customers of Dominion Energy to buy solar energy from independent providers of shared solar, also known as community solar. Dominion has however used the rulemaking process and its control over project interconnection to create hurdles including high minimum bills to drive away all but the most tenacious developers. Lawmakers have, however, included a provision exempting low- to moderate-income participants from the minimum bill requirement.

Climate Justice

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry unveiled a proposal at the COP27 climate summit for companies to buy carbon credits that fund the greening of power grids in developing countries. The proposal comes as part of the promise from rich countries to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance for poorer nations. Developing countries spokespersons countered that it appears to be an attempt by rich countries to avoid paying their fair share.

A recent study shows that more lower-income US households are adopting rooftop solar. Last year 22% of households installing solar systems in the U.S. could be considered low-income and an additional 21% could be considered moderate-income. This makes a total of 43% of households installing solar that, broadly speaking, fall into the lower-income category.

The Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership will mobilize $20 billion of public and private finance to help Indonesia transition to clean power and shut coal power plants, bringing the country’s peak emissions date forward by seven years to 2030. The international partnership “is probably the single largest climate finance transaction or partnership ever” according to a U.S. Treasury official.

Transportation pollution is the largest source of carbon emissions, which mostly affects poor communities—making it a matter of climate justice. That makes North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order to press forward with a plan to cut pollution from medium and heavy-duty trucks across the state a big deal. While trucks are only 6.5% of the vehicles on the road in North Carolina, they contribute about 71.2% of pollution and 34.5% of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

Climate Action

The United States Postal Service is using a hard-won $3 billion infusion from Congress to jump-start its transition to 34,000 zero-emission mail trucks beginning next year. A substantial part of the money will be used toward the build-out of EV infrastructure to support the trucks. This goes a long way toward meeting President Biden’s directive to ensure all new government-owned vehicles are EVs by 2035.

Researchers in China are working to create perennial, climate friendly rice that requires much less labor, dramatically reducing a farmer’s costs while producing about the same amount of grain. Another advantage is that its long-lived roots may deliver big environmental benefits by preserving vulnerable soil and enriching natural ecosystems. Thousands of Chinese farmers have now started to grow this remarkable new version of rice with good results.

The Covid pandemic led to a bike riding boom. The spike in people using bikes has now faltered in places that didn’t build bike-friendly infrastructure but it survives in cities that have stepped up. The city of Tucson, for example, established a “Slow Streets” walk- and bike-friendly program that restricts car traffic in some places and prioritizes walking and biking over other modes of transport.  

A Pew Research poll shows that highly religious Americans are far less likely to be concerned about global warming. The main driver of public opinion about the climate, however, is political party rather than religion and highly religious Americans are more inclined to identify with the Republican Party. What the poll does not show, according to the executive director of GreenFaith, a global multi-faith environmental organization, “is the role that religion, when utilized effectively, can play in moving people who are concerned but inactive into public action on the climate’s behalf.”

Do you know that about 90% of the energy your washing machine uses goes towards heating the water? Washing in cold water saves money (as much as 64¢ a load), saves your clothes, reduces your energy consumption, and contributes toward saving our planet. Newer detergents clean clothes just as well in cold water.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for November 2022

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is pleased to provide Harrisonburg’s The Citizen with a monthly survey of energy and environmental news stories about Virginia.

With their permission, we are re-posting these pieces here after they appear in the Citizen.

The link to this piece as first published by the Citizen is HERE.

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for November 2022 


As noted in our last Perspectives piece, not everyone is happy with the Governor’s recently released Energy Plan. An “advanced energy advocate says … [the] plan ‘falls short’ [and is a] ‘U-turn away from a cleaner and cheaper energy future.’”

The Governor “wants Virginia to be the first state to commercialize [small nuclear reactors, SMRs]”; he wants one located in Southwest Virginia. This technology hasn’t been developed on a large-scale. The Governor said recycling nuclear waste will be a priority. He also said Southwest Virginia could become an “energy epicenter” for the state, the US, and world. An Environment and Energy reporter explained what an SMR is.

There are concerns that the efforts to bring an SMR to Virginia may also lead the state to lift its long‑standing ban on uranium mining. “A Canadian mining venture … is buying a big uranium ore deposit in Pittsylvania County despite Virginia’s 40-year moratorium on mining the radioactive metal.” “The largest uranium deposit in the United States is in Pittsylvania County at a 3,000-acre site …. [A] 1982 moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia has prevented any development of the site for 40 years. Several attempts to repeal the moratorium have been unsuccessful since then. The most recent, in 2013, was so unpopular that it was pulled before even going to committee.”

“With exploration for gold continuing in Buckingham County, a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found Virginia’s current system of regulating gold mining ‘is not adequate to address the potential impacts’ of commercial extraction.” Piedmont Environmental Council’s “interactive map  shows the location of former gold mine sites in Virginia, and importantly, visually displays each mine site’s ‘OLAC ranking,’ a measure of prioritization for reclamation based on site assessments and potential contamination….”

Mountain Valley Pipeline owners said they “will not rest” until the project is completed. “For the third time in six years, the U.S. Forest Service will study the environmental impact of burrowing a large natural gas pipeline through a 3.5-mile stretch of the Jefferson National Forest. The latest evaluation comes after a federal appeals court rejected two earlier approvals … [because] the Forest Service did not adequately address the erosion and sedimentation to be caused by clearing land and digging a trench for a buried pipe that will traverse steep slopes through federal woodlands in Giles and Montgomery counties.”

Harrisonburg’s Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project received funding from several local non‑profits and recently celebrated its newly installed energy efficiency improvements and solar panels with a picnic. “New River Community College recently received state approval to offer a new training program for those interested in becoming a solar technician.”

“Virginia solar developers say stormwater rules could wash away their margins. The state’s Department of Environmental Quality [DEQ] is reviewing proposed stormwater regulations that would treat ground‑mounted solar arrays the same as parking lots, likely requiring developers to acquire more land.” Applications for solar installations–sometimes called solar “farms”–continue. In Pulaski County, Supervisors denied a permit. Planners in Isle of Wight County approved expansion of an existing solar farm. The Amherst County Planning Commission recommended approval of the permit to … operate a utility-scale solar generation facility on a 141-acre tract.” Cumberland County’s Planning Commission recommended approval of a large solar installation on 2,340 acres. “The Depot Solar Facility in Campbell County is the third solar project Appalachian Power has brought online in less than a year. The more‑than-50,000 solar panels produce 15 Megawatts of energy, enough electricity to power 2,600 homes.” “A new solar facility in Charles City boasting over 514,200 panels …, is expected to generate 175 Megawatts. That’s enough to power approximately 30,000 homes — over ten times the number currently in Charles City County.” “A new solar facility in Climax — set to power local homes served by Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative — is nearing the finish line…. [The] 2.8 megawatt facility will be able to supply about 2,100 meters serviced by the cooperative’s substation in Climax….”

Fairfax County’s School Board approved “a pilot rooftop solar power purchase contract at Annandale High School, the first rooftop solar program in the county school system.” “Community Housing Partners’ [CHP] 3,300-plus” apartment and townhouse dwellers [near Christiansburg] will soon be able to take advantage of Dominion Energy’s shared solar program that allows them “to buy their electricity from a solar developer.” Residents of CHP units served by Appalachian Power do not have a similar opportunity. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is due to release a report soon that will address this disparity.

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) ruled that Dominion shareholders may need to cover costs if performance of Dominion’s offshore wind energy facility doesn’t meet what Dominion said it would deliver. Subsequently, “Dominion Energy … agreed to implement several consumer protections in connection with its massive offshore wind project under a proposed agreement with the office of the Virginia attorney general and other parties …. The proposed agreement, which includes performance reporting requirements and provisions laying out a degree of construction cost sharing, is still subject to final approval by the [SCC].” However, the agreement removes “a performance guarantee Dominion had criticized.” A blogger believes the agreement is not good for ratepayers. Another blogger argued that other East Coast wind projects are “faltering” because of economics. Canary Media reported that “Dominion Energy …agreed to protect customers if costs run over budget or performance falls short of expectations on $10B landmark offshore wind project.” The SCC conducted another hearing on the matter. Those appearing included parties to the agreement. Issues included “wind construction risk” and potential cost overruns. The SCC currently has two of its three Commissioners and one of those announced her resignation effective December 31. At least two Commissioners are needed to make decisions. The General Assembly, which did not fill the vacancy in the September special session called for that purpose, now has two to appoint.

“[Twelve] Local school systems will receive federal grants totaling nearly $11 million for the purchase of electric buses [as part of the federal] … Clean School Bus Program.” Several companies are operating electric trucks in Southwest Virginia. Advocates say states should take advantage of federal money to promote the use of EVs, Virginia included. Charge Up Fairfax is working to assist county residents overcome challenges to charging station access.

“American Climate Partners will work with Dominion to capture carbon in the soil in the company’s largest solar installation at Fort Powhatan…. Measurements of changes in soil carbon caused by the application of biochar which is created from waste wood will occur in the pilot project. Biochar will be placed under the solar panels and carbon reductions will be measure over four years in the pilot study.”

James Madison University’s Center for the Advancement of Clean Energy sponsored its second annual Rocktown Clean Energy Festival on October 29th. The Festival opened “community conversations about renewable energy.” Big Stone Gap received a $1 million grant from the “DOE’s Renewables Advancing Community Energy Resilience (RACER) Funding Program … to ‘improve energy resiliency as the country transitions to new energy technologies.’”

Climate and Environment

“Fairfax County … Board of Supervisors voted to adopt The Resilient Fairfax plan, which analyzes the impacts climate change will bring to the county in coming decades [and] lays out a roadmap to help residents and infrastructure adapt to a warmer and wetter climate.”

Buchanan County residents affected by a flash flood in July continue to experience hardships because of slow recovery efforts and FEMA’s refusal of federal aid. Virginia won’t appeal FEMA’s turndown of individual aid to flood victims. The Appalachian Regional Commission provided a $100,000 grant to pay for a new case manager to assist affected individuals. Recurrent flooding in the Hampton Roads area prompted “17 Hampton Roads cities and counties … [to] oppose [the Governor’s] proposal for Virginia to leave the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative [RGGI],” which provides funds to address flood resilience. “The Virginia Dam Safety, Flood Prevention and Protection Assistance Fund is offering $5 million in grant funding to dam owners in Virginia [for flood resilience]…. {M}ore than 2,600 regulated dam owners are eligible.”

Thanks to Appalachian Regional Commission funding of $1.5 million, “the New River Valley Regional Commission will construct or improve four public launches along the New River Water Trail, as well as expand the New River Trail website, which connects the Water Trail to existing activities and businesses in the area.” The Nature Conservancy awarded “Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment …$2.25 million of [a] USDA-funded [agroforestry] project to help mid-Atlantic and Appalachian farmers reduce carbon emissions, improve water quality, enhance biodiversity, and increase profitability.”

The Virginia “Department of Forestry [worked with The Nature Conservancy to create] … its 200th conservation easement in the Commonwealth…. With the addition of the 1,428-acre property in Wise County known as Pine Mountain, VDOF has now protected 91,597 acres of land, 84,112 acres of forest and nearly 460 miles of streams and rivers. [The easement will] help conserve more than 1,400 acres of managed forests and four miles of headwater streams.” “The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation … awarded a record $14.9 million in grant funding … [to] help conserve 13,955 acres in the Commonwealth.”

Virginia received $22.8 million of federal money for abandoned mine land reclamation projects …, which advocates and officials say will resolve environmental hazards and create well-paying jobs along the way.” DEQ and the Western Virginia Water Authority investigated the source(s) of “forever chemical” contamination in the “South Fork Roanoke River watershed.” “They identified a plant in Elliston that services industrial water treatment equipment.” The chemical is GenX, used in “a “chemical washing process.”

“Negotiations between the city [of Bristol] and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on a consent order governing actions at the city landfill [were] referred to the state attorney general.” A lawsuit filed by Bristol Tennessee against its “sister city” is still pending. DEQ and the Waste Management Board issued new regulations to “tighten” rules governing landfills. “But the citizen group Virginians for Conservation and Community Rights, an organization that emerged out of local opposition to the proposed Green Ridge landfill in Cumberland County, says the regulations still fail to protect the environment and surrounding communities, particularly when it comes to groundwater contamination. Especially concerning to the group is a continued lack of protections for private wells that lie near landfills.”

“Experts from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Virginia Institute of Marine Science concluded that hypoxic conditions in the Chesapeake Bay are better than average in 2022.” This means that the “Bay has a smaller than average dead zone this year, shortened by cool temperatures and strong winds…. A dead zone is an area of low oxygen that forms in deep Bay waters …. In such an area [are] low-oxygen, or hypoxic, conditions at the bottom of the Bay. This year’s dead zone was determined to be the 10th smallest since 1985.”

Oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay are showing resilience; “Virginia is the largest oyster producer on the East Coast.” Efforts to restore a Bay watershed species, freshwater mussels, will move forward thanks to “grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation [that] will allow [projects by] the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and James River Association.” “Recreational anglers and environmentalists are ratcheting up their pressure on Virginia leaders to shut down large-scale commercial menhaden harvests in the Chesapeake Bay…. Their ire is directed at … [a] Reedville, VA-based fleet of fishing vessels, guided by spotter planes, [which] is responsible for about 70% of the East Coast menhaden harvest.” State Delegate Tim Anderson introduced a bill “for the next session of the Virginia General Assembly to place a two year moratorium on Atlantic menhaden reduction fishing in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay.”

“Investments in agricultural best management practices have positive returns for the economy, according to a report … by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation…. The report found that for every dollar spent on farmers’ best management practices within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, $1.75 is returned through higher sales of goods and services as well as earnings. Investments are also contributing to the creation of an estimated 6,673 jobs annually between 2020 and 2025.”

Check out…

Why not…

  • Skip bagging your leaves this fall? Here’s why.
  • Enjoy some of Virginia’s ample apple harvest.
  • Learn “why Virginia oaks [are] in danger.”
  • Register for the Citizens Climate Lobby Conference – Dec. 3-4, to learn what to expect going into 2023; it’s free. There will be several seminars and sessions helpful for volunteers, including an in‑depth policy look at the Inflation Reduction Act, a workshop about diversity and inclusion outreach in your chapter, and a workshop about conservative climate pillars and volunteer outreach.

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group in the Central Shenandoah Valley that educates legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/7/2022

Ultimately, climate change will not be solved by climate scientists and engineers calculating how many solar panels we need installed. It will be solved by citizens sitting down and talking to each other over a glass of iced tea about how we need to start taking care of each other, trusting each other, and working together to save this place and everything we love. —Andreas Karelas

Our Climate Crisis

Scientists are finding an alarming global drop in biodiversity. One study shows that monitored populations of vertebrates have declined an average of 69% from 1970 to 2018. That’s more than two-thirds in only 48 years.  The top driver on land is agriculture, as we turn forests and other ecosystems into farmland. At sea, it’s fishing. Unless we’re able to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5 degrees, climate change will become the leading cause of biodiversity loss in coming decades.

Extreme drought in the American Midwest has pushed water levels in the Mississippi River and its tributaries to drop to record lows this month. This has both constrained barge cargo traffic on the Mississippi and is allowing salt water from the Gulf of Mexico to creep up the river.

So-called ghost forests are stretching across eastern U.S. coastal communities. The miles of gray, barren trees in once-healthy wetlands are the result of sea rise and saltwater infiltration, which are the direct products of climate change. This is happening right now in our region, not by the end of the century or in some far off polar region.

A study by the World Meteorological Organization shows that the amount of methane in the atmosphere is racing ahead at an accelerating pace, threatening to undermine efforts to slow climate change. A worrisome part of the finding is that the bulk of the increased methane is coming from wetlands and other natural systems as a result of global warming.

Some 20 million people are already being displaced every year by natural disasters. All signs point to even more people being forced from their communities by weather-related disasters as well as slow-onset catastrophes like drought and sea-level rise. The World Bank projects that 216 million people will be forced to migrate because of climate change by 2050 if we do not take serious efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Politics and Policy

The Amazon rainforest was on the ballot in Brazil’s presidential election runoff, which former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva narrowly won over President Jair Bolsonaro. Deforestation skyrocketed under Bolsonaro and Lula made climate and protecting the Amazon part of his election campaign. Even so, it will be a tough fight because Bolsonaro won the popular vote in half the states that make up the rainforest.

The Inflation Reduction Act allocates $141 billion to wind and solar energy. This is the first time that subsidies and tax credits for renewable energy in the United States have exceeded subsidies to fossil fuel companies. Still, these renewable energy subsidies are only about two-thirds of what the petrochemical companies have received from the government over the past decade.

Germany is in the process of phasing out its nuclear reactors. Now, in response to the energy crisis created by the war in Ukraine, it is gearing up coal power plants to help meet energy needs for the winter. Climate activist Greta Thunberg created a heated political argument by chastising Germany for cutting already operating nuclear power for coal. Chancellor Olaf Scholz then ordered Germany’s three remaining nuclear plants to remain in operation at least until next April.

More than 20 major universities have pledged to stop investing their endowment funds in fossil fuel stocks. Getting them to stop taking donations from fossil fuel companies has been a harder sell. They need to stop doing so to protect the integrity of their climate research. It was therefore a major breakthrough when Princeton University recently committed not just to divest but also to disassociate from 90 fossil fuel companies. This puts pressure on other major universities to do the same.

The World Bank has come under fire for investing nearly $15 billion in fossil fuel projects despite its commitment to addressing climate change. One of those projects is a natural gas pipeline, which will stretch across the entire country of Turkey to deliver gas from Azerbaijan to Europe. The World Bank is pushing back on the criticism by saying they have “delivered a record $31.7 billion for climate-related investments, to help communities around the world.”

A report from the National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund gives the Virginia science standards for public schools a failing grade in teaching climate change. It received an F grade along with only two other states, Pennsylvania and Texas.


“Energy markets and policies have changed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not just for the time being, but for decades to come,” according to the executive director of the International Energy Agency. The spiraling energy costs caused by the war and various other factors could be a turning point toward cleaner energy. Worldwide investment in wind and solar is set to outpace oil and gas drilling for the first time this year.

Record wind and solar production in Europe offset 11 billion euros in natural gas costs this year. This softened the blow of limited natural gas supply and soaring energy prices caused by the war in Ukraine. Even so, this is too little to end the energy crisis or to completely supplant the continent’s appetite for fossil fuels.

The House speakers in Virginia and West Virginia recently announced that they are working together to bring advanced small, modular nuclear reactors to the rural and economically challenged regions of their states. The energy hub in Virginia would be located on former coal mine sites in the Southwest part of the state. Residents there say they were not consulted on the proposal to locate a nuclear reactor in their community.

This is part of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s push to make Virginia an innovative energy hub with a focus on emerging technologies such as nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture, and battery storage—strangely omitting offshore wind. Environmental critics say the plan focuses on unproven technologies that are not necessarily green. This is kicking the climate can down the road.

Australia will build the world’s largest battery to help position the country to shut down its biggest coal plant. Australia has more than doubled its renewable electricity generation in the last decade thanks to rapid growth in solar and wind production. The battery will help the electric grid to store and evenly distribute this intermittent energy.

Climate Justice

Twenty poor countries most vulnerable to climate change say they are caught in a trap of spending money for climate change mitigation that will increase their debt payments. They are pushing for the creation of an international fund that would compensate them for losses and damage caused by climate change. Therefore, whether wealthy countries like it or not, climate reparations will be on the agenda at the United Nations climate change conference, or COP27, in Egypt this month.

A study, recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, shows that climate anxiety is spreading all over the planet, not just in wealthy countries. A related study shows that “45 percent of teens and young adults said that climate anxiety was affecting their daily lives and ability to function.” They are taking various actions “like going to a protest, becoming an advocate for mass transit, or trying to get an environmental champion elected.”

Climate Action

The transportation sector accounts for 27% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., making it the largest single emitter. Tackling those emissions will necessarily include better public transit that utilizes microtransit, demand-response transit, and specified commuter routes in addition to fixed circular routes. Cities and local governments can utilize $3 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act climate law to create such efficient transportation systems.

Under a new federal program, nearly 400 school districts across the United States are receiving roughly $1 billion in grants to purchase about 2,500 electric school buses. This will benefit the health of children, who will no longer be exposed to noxious diesel fumes, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Protected bike lanes can help cities cut greenhouse gas emissions. It, however, requires a full network of protected lanes to make biking a viable, safe alternative for more people. Bogota’s $130 million investment in protected bike lanes proves that it works.

Two of our biggest problems globally are hunger and climate change. Food waste accounts for 8 to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. When it rots in a landfill, it produces methane that quickly heats up the planet. At the same time, 31% of food that is grown, shipped or sold is wasted. This is where governments and resourceful local people are stepping in to help feed hungry people, while cutting down on food waste. 

Many homes in the U.S. are ill-prepared for the increasing stresses of climate change. The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program helps low-income homeowners save on utility costs, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Activities covered under WAP include adding insulation, replacing heating and/or cooling systems, air sealing, replacing doors and windows, as well as various repairs.

There are roughly 50 million acres of lawn in the U.S.; they take up as much land as all our national parks combined. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, our sod-obsessed, grow, mow and blow culture relies on three trillion gallons of water, 800 million gallons of gasoline, and 59 million pounds of pesticides per year. Louise Washer discovered that her lawn was a food desert for bees and other wildlife so she is transforming it into a pollinator friendly landscape.

Eight states are launching their own Civilian Climate Corps programs after funding was stripped out of the Democrats’ landmark climate bill this summer. Using the AmeriCorps program and additional state funding, these efforts range from home energy conservation in Maine to composting and edible food recovery in California. Advocates hope that these programs will eventually provide a powerful model for a Civilian Climate Corps at the federal level.

Solar panels were recently installed on the roof of the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Center as supporters gathered to celebrate with a solar picnic. The Harrisonburg Carpenters’ Guild had earlier carried out weatherization improvements on the building. An energy efficient electric HVAC system will also be installed. These upgrades will make the center more effective at achieving its core mission while contributing to environmental solutions.

The second annual Rocktown Energy Festival was held in downtown Harrisonburg on Saturday, Oct. 29, near the farmers market. It was a great place to learn more about efforts to combat climate change through converting to clean energy. Local non-profits and clean energy companies were there promoting practical solutions such as home weatherization, installing solar panels, transitioning to EV cars, and offering ways to get politically involved. There were also forums where speakers discussed various clean energy related matters. 

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee