Virginia Environmental News Roundup for December 2021

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 2021

Energy

Breeze reporter highlighted JMU’s plans to install a 420 MW solar system on campus. Another reporter for the JMU student paper critiqued JMU’s sustainability practices, arguing that “installing a few solar panels … just isn’t cutting it….”

Proposed pipeline projects made headlines this month—

The Air Pollution Control Board adopted new low- and zero-emission vehicles. Virginia will receive a good chunk of change—around $8 billion—for transportation and road improvements, thanks to the federal infrastructure bill. This legislation also allocated funds for cleaner school buses, including for purchasing electric buses. Virginia joined other states in aiming to electrify all new large trucks and buses by 2050.

Climate and Environment

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the city of Bristol, Tennessee are at odds with the city of Bristol, Virginia over the latter’s landfill and its significant odor problems, despite corrective measures. Some of the Virginia city’s residents aren’t happy either, even though the emissions aren’t supposed to be hazardous.

Southwest Virginia received media attention during the past month, concerning:

Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has netted millions for coastal flooding and energy efficiency initiatives. Some lawmakers believe they can and should be used for flooding that is climate-change-related, whether along the coast or not; possibly the feds could help. Some survivors hope so. One question is whether Virginia could benefit from a flood board. Another is whether the new Governor will try to end Virginia’s RGGI participation and, of course, its revenues.

Virginia’s coastal region garnered several stories, about:

Conservation organizations are promoting a “Virginia program aims to foster grassland bird habitat on farms” in Virginia’s Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley, because “birdsong is the soundtrack of life in the country.” The Biden Administration’s “America the Beautiful Initiative” might offer Virginia the chance to “nearly double the total amount of protected lands.”

Water was another topic of note….

As was “Old, and Possible New” hazards:

Action Alert

SAVE THE DATE!! Meet the author of Abolish Oil Now! at a virtual and in-person (hopefully) event at Eastern Mennonite University on January 20 at 7 pm.

Check out…

  • Wild Virginia’s Book Club on-line event: “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature” by David George Haskell. At 7 pm on Jan. 10. Celebrate the possibilities of the new year learning about the author’s observations of a single square meter of Tennessee forest over the course of a year and about how much beauty and wonder is around us if we only take the time to pay attention. Register here.
  • Sierra Club’s Falls of the James Group’s webinar: MONARCHS: ENDANGERED BUT NOT PROTECTED – Jan. 11, 7 pm. Listen to the presenters answer this question? “Is there anything we as citizens can do to help slow and reverse this trend? Karl Green and Chris Burnside will discuss current research and strategies that they are implementing in their yard. Karl Green is an Artist/Fashion and Costume Designer/Educator and an avid Native Gardener/Specialist. Chris Burnside is an Artist/Choreographer/Educator who believes the Arts can play a valuable part in addressing Big Picture Issues – like Climate Change. Register here.
  • Sierra Club’s Piedmont Group program “Vernal Pools of Appalachia” – Jan. 12 at 6:30 pm. Presenter is Professor Steven David Johnson, a conservation photographer and EMU professor who takes us underwater to see the amazing life of these spring ponds. They are temporary bodies of water, often overlooked because of their small size and nocturnal nature. Their “residents” have complex lifecycles involving an aquatic element that is a tiny world of beauty and complexity. Register here.
  • Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy’s “Days for All People” in Richmond on Jan. 17-21. An annual advocacy event, its schedule spans the week of January 17-21. The event will include one day to gather in-person at Centenary United Methodist Church and meet with state legislators in their offices at the Capitol. Virtual plenaries, workshops, meetings, and a film screening will be held on the remaining days. Register here.
  • This Washington Post pictorial piece, “Poetic depictions of Appalachia, a new home for this photographer and his family”.
  • The planned Great Eastern Trail that might ease the hiker traffic on the Appalachian Trail, and sort of parallels it.
  • The 2021 “State of the James” River. In brief, a B-.
  • This good news story about the rescue of a “rare owl, called a northern saw-whet” and the spotting of a snowy owl.

Why not…

Make an IPA from longleat pine, to “raise awareness of the urgent need to restore Virginia’s founding forest”?

Learn why lots of Virginians favor transportation electrification, in this Generation 180 “Virginia Drives Electric 2021” report.

Happy 2022!

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 “Good News” Roundup 12/2021

This edition focuses on articles and perspectives from sources and voices that will hopefully uplift us as we review 2021 and look ahead to 2022. There will be time enough to read the reporting and opinions that are more sobering but we’ll put that off until at least January. When I decided I wanted to produce a “good news” roundup to close out the holidays, I was worried I wouldn’t find enough material. I’m thrilled to say I was wrong! The diversity of subjects is amazing. I hope you enjoy what follows.

Action Alerts!!

  1. Save the Date—January 20, 7 pm, virtual and in-person author event: Erik Curren will discuss his new book, Abolish Oil Now! —at Eastern Mennonite University’s Swartzendruber Hall (Suter Science Center) and online on Facebook. I hope to see you there!
  2. Sign the Southern Environmental Law Center petition to join birders and others who want to end the mass cutting of U.S. forests to produce biomass—a practice that’s killing our birds by eliminating their habitats.
  3. California’s “Monarch butterflies may be thriving after years of decline.” Learn how you can help these beautiful creatures: Sierra Club/Falls of the James Group Webinar: MONARCHS: ENDANGERED BUT NOT PROTECTED – Jan. 11, 2022, 7 PM. Register here. And plant milkweed!

Good News

  1. The Washington Post’s Editorial Board listed “21 good things that happened in 2021.” Here are two:
    • “The United States reentered the Paris climate agreement.”
    • Restoring “protection to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and other monuments — protecting natural grandeur, Indigenous tribes’ sacred land and delicate ecosystems along with it.”
  2. Large EU insurers are seriously considering ending coverage for coal mines and plants.
  3. There’s a “sustainable industrial revolution” underway in the shipping, steel, and plastics industries—e.g., the North Carolina ferries.
  4. Like to bike? “Cycling is on a roll. More than 2,900 miles in the West and Midwest have been added to the U.S. Bicycle Route System’s national network.”
  5. The Biden Administration “launched a new energy division of its Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and appointed Sally Benson, a well-known energy expert at Stanford University, to a high-level position to contribute to climate change policy.”
  6. Biden also approved “the first offshore wind farm to supply power to New York.”
  7. The Administration proposes a “road ban on much of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The move would restrict development on roughly 9.3 million acres in North America’s largest temperate rainforest …, reversing [a] Trump administration decision.” The Interior Department believes “Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on public lands and waters.”

Climate Solutions and Adaptations (and the communities working on them)

  1. Looking ForwardGrist’s “new newsletter from Fix, Grist’s solutions lab.” Note the hopeful 2022 predictions from “climate visionaries.”
  2. There is technology to help reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from the trucking industry.
  3. Two companies have launched “the construction of their first biomethane production unit, in Friona, Texas. The biomethane will be used as an alternative fuel for mobility, thus contributing to decarbonize road transportation.”
  4. Portable large-scale batteries help ensure that utilities have storage capacity when and where they need it and can supplement or reduce the need for permanent charging hubs. Energy storage is becoming a big business.
  5. A changing climate is buckling concrete and flooding roads. States are moving slowly to guard the nation’s infrastructure.”
  6. John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, believes the private sector is key to “solving climate change.” The executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change says we must empower young people.
  7. A bit of irony—Russia is “cashing in” on the climate crisis—a look at an upside.
  8. Pittsburgh and other localities are shutting down coal plants to meet wastewater standards; Pittsburgh is also thinking about taxing plastic bags.
  9. A West Virginia community, historically dependent on its coal economy, is examining ways it can move forward and avoid repeating past mistakes.
  10. FreshFarm FoodPrints is a D.C.-based educational program that has partnered with 19 schools across the city and works with about 7,000 kids. Students learn how to grow, harvest and cook all kinds of different plants, but they also get lessons in social and emotional learning, English, language arts, mathematics and other subjects.”
  11. Farmers are looking at a new “crop”—carbon credits earned through improved sustainability practices—to help reduce their GHG emissions.
  12. Despite concerns of some about loss of “prime land”, Texas “farmers and ranchers have embraced a renewable energy boom that … promise[s] to make agricultural operations more sustainable and deliver steady income in an industry in which economic fortunes swing from season to season.”
  13. Farmers and conservationists in the West “are teaming up to preserve grasslands, which act as a carbon dioxide sink that could support climate goals.”
  14. A Norfolk, England farmer has “a plan to transform dozens of fields into grazing wetlands on [his] 10,000-hectare (25,000-acre) farm and nature reserve.”
  15. Private landowners in Kansas may be critical to saving “the Prairie, acre by acre.”
  16. The architect Maya Lin “planted 49 trees … for [an] exhibition, which opened in May and drew crowds and critical acclaim with its haunting evocation of environmental apocalypse. The trees, Atlantic white cedars, came from a dying grove that was slated to be cleared as part of a restoration project in the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, where climate change has caused a large swath of forest to die, and with the installation Lin was making a statement about climate change and environmental sustainability.” Lin then authorized the dismantling of her work “Ghost Forests”—for students to create boats, delivering high-profile, and creative, messaging AND recycling.
  17. An old technology—cloud seeding—may be making a comeback and may help the West’s prolonged drought.
  18. Scotland is “Harnessing the energy of the ocean to power homes, planes and whisky distilleries.”
  19. The U.S. West “has particularly immense potential for renewable energy generation [with its] vast sunny skies, windy open plains, rapid rivers, and ample underground geothermal activity.”
  20. A Florida Conservatives for Clean Energy study of rooftop solar showed the industry “creates $18.3B in Economic Impact” in the state.
  21. A Colorado town prepared successfully for its economic security once its coal plant shut down.
  22. Native Renewables plans to provide solar power to provide electricity to 15,000 Navajo and Hopi Native Americans unable to access a utility grid.
  23. An amateur scientist’s 50-year study of snowfall in the high Rockies “helped shape climate research” there.
  24. A Sierra Leone entrepreneur never forgot his experience in a mudslide caused by deforestation; he’s doing something to keep that devastation from happening again.
  25. A new report from the Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group gave North Carolina high marks for its progress on clean energy.
  26. A Kentucky “college [is the] first in the US to finish [a] hydropower project…. The 2.64‑megawatt plant [along the Kentucky River in Estill County] began generating electricity for Berea College in May [2021] and will give power to hundreds of Jackson Energy Cooperative customers…. The $11 million project … has an expected lifespan of at least 50 years.”
  27. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has produced a “great coral spawning, giving … hope for climate change recovery.” And, who would have guessed? Healthy corals support fish that produce “‘mind-blowing’ noises” that scientists perceive as “song.”
  28. Belize “committed to protecting 30 percent of its ocean territory, with the support of the largest debt conversion for ocean conservation to date.”
  29. New York is unearthing Tibbetts Brook, part of a wetlands system destroyed 100+ years ago for development. “An engineering feat known as ‘daylighting’” will restore the Brook and help ease flooding in the area. New York City added 11 million oysters to the Hudson River “as part of an ongoing project to rehabilitate the polluted waterways around the city.”

Ideas, Events, Entertainment and Information

Listen, Read, and Learn …

  1. Understanding Earth from a geographic approach can foster ideas for meeting the planet’s challenges—a TED talk by a renowned geographic information systems pioneer.
  2. Did you know that “Nature’s Air Sensors Are Growing on Your Street”? Think carbon emissions can smell good—like “fig leaf, orange peel and jasmine”? Air Company makes Eau de Parfum and says yes they can.
  3. This New York Times pictorial and text piece giving us a glimpse of a fragile Norwegian archipelago that likely will not survive climate change. Don’t miss it!
  4. Floating homes in the Netherlands—A “Dutch reality TV director by day and guerrilla sustainable commune organizer by night” spearheaded a movement in her community of Schoonschip proving “that the technology already exists to make floating urban development a solution for the world’s densely populated waterfront cities that are grappling with rising sea levels and the accelerating impacts of climate change.” Find out what else got built.
  5. VA Tech researchers found “two species of Antarctic fish” who appear to have “responded to progressive warming with an elaborate array of behavioral maneuvers.” This could be a hopeful indication that, as the Antarctic warms (as predicted), its native marine animals will be able to survive.
  6. Heard of Cape Lookout National Seashore? It’s on the North Carolina Outer Banks and now has “certified Dark Sky Park designation.”
  7. There’s a “crucial intersection of climate and capital”—a TED talk by an investment decarbonization expert.
  8. “[T]here isn’t a single ‘solution’ to climate change.” Here are five from Canary Media. Some eco-righters believe there are natural climate solutions, including the American Conservation Coalition. Its website is “Rooted in America.”
  9. Britain is looking to “the financial industry … to meet climate goals.”
  10. Two climate and climate justice activists discuss “climate crisis and global inequality” in a moderated conversation.
  11. Recycling, innovation, and reuse may offer ways to reduce the environmental hazards posed by the emerging EV market with its dependence on battery power.
  12. Generation 180 says, “All Grown Up: EV Charging in 2022.” But wait–“Move over, electric cars: E-boats are coming — and investors are on board”
  13. Indigenous peoples gave thanks for Interior Secretary Haaland’s efforts to save many localities sacred to their culture.
  14. A Long Island resident “Works for God (and Against Lawns).” He and his wife “say fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity starts at home. Or rather, right outside their suburban house.”
  15. A Duff, Tennessee resident is spearheading efforts to educate neighbors about, locate, and clean up acid mine drainage in his community.
  16. Research in Oregon shows “a well-positioned skylight is a simple way to harness ‘passive solar’ power.”
  17. You might be surprised at some of “the top 10 states with the most installed solar power capacity.” Ditto for the top 10 states with the most wind power. Virginia isn’t on either list. See the maps below.
  18. Nate the House Whisperer has a Facebook page to help you “Electrify Everything.” “Buy Nothing” groups collaborate to reduce their collective waste.
  19. Some eco-righters want the Republican Party to embrace climate change solutions. Here’s a YouTube post with this message.
  20. The Biosphere 2 project in the Arizona mountains has solar panels that provide shade to numerous crops. The concept is one farming practice of indigenous peoples who used native trees as cover. The project is “part of a movement aimed at reimagining and remaking agriculture in a warming world. In the Southwest, projects are looking to plants and farming practices that Native Americans have long used as potential solutions to growing worries over future food supplies. At the same time, they are seeking to build energy resilience.”

Happy Holidays from CAAV and Joy Loving, CAAV Steering Committee Member

Climate and Energy News Roundup 12/02/2021

“All our major energy challenges are connected in complex ways both globally and nationally. Energy security, energy affordability, and the protection of the environment, the three pillars of energy policy, are inextricably linked.”Neil Hirst, The Energy Conundrum: Climate Change, Global Prosperity, and the Tough Decisions We Have to Make

Climate Change

After two decades of climate negotiations, we all got a reality check at the recently concluded COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow. The climate has already heated by 1.1°C above preindustrial levels and there is a fifty-fifty chance that global warming will exceed 1.5°C in the next two decades. It is estimated to reach 2.7°C at the end of the century. To keep global warming to the 1.5°C limit proposed at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, we will need to halve global carbon emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. But achieving these goals requires an effort unlike any that humanity has undertaken before.

The African continent is already suffering and will continue to suffer the worst economic and social effects of rising temperatures in the coming decades. This will especially affect children and youth, as half of Africa’s population is under the age of 20. Yet little was accomplished at the Glasgow Climate Summit to address how to compensate African countries for the damage created by centuries of fossil fuels and other emissions in rich countries. It also failed to agree on a meaningful plan to help African countries alleviate that damage while sustainably developing the capacity to meet their own rapidly growing energy demands.

Using language normally applied to conventional adversaries like China and Russia, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin recently described the climate crisis as “a profoundly destabilizing force for our world.” To counter this threat the Department of Defense will have to mobilize its capabilities as if preparing for a major war. This will not be an easy task because the Pentagon is the nation’s leading institutional consumer of fossil fuels and the single largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases in the world. The U.S. cannot, therefore, reduce its national greenhouse gas emissions rapidly without a sustained drive by the Pentagon to abandon carbon-based fuels in favor of renewable energy.

Experiencing a climate disaster and living with climate change as a constant threat on the horizon creates climate anxiety and changes how we think about our own existence. Yale psychologist Sarah Lowe advises:

  • Planning for a potential climate event can be empowering because it exerts some sense of control.
  • We will want to own our ecological grief as a valid emotion because it’s sad to see ecosystems change.
  • We should seek help when we experience signs of clinical depression such as loss of appetite, sleeplessness, or an inability to concentrate.
  • Anxiety serves a purpose. It can motivate action and helpthose who are most vulnerable.

Politics and Policy

Following the COP26 climate summit, President Biden has submitted a treaty fighting climate super-pollutants for Senate approval. These hydrofluorocarbons, widely used in refrigeration and air conditioning, are hundreds of times more potent than carbon dioxide. There appears to be broad bipartisan congressional support for this effort.

During his campaign, Virginia governor-elect Glenn Youngkin said that he wouldn’t have signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, saying it was too costly and “puts our entire energy grid at risk.” Even so, energy experts say he will find it hard to significantly weaken or slow down the law, given its ongoing support in the State Senate and the staggered board terms at two key regulatory agencies. He would not only have to contend with a Democrat-controlled Senate but also Republican legislators who favor the law and an electorate that broadly supports it. Furthermore, he has spoken favorably of renewable energy and has expressed support for offshore wind in Virginia.

Sea level rise and more frequent intense rainstorms are putting pressure on communities in Virginia, especially in the Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads regions. Some state officials are, therefore, pushing for the creation of a state flood board to better coordinate and utilize more than $64 million in funds earmarked for flood protection, which Virginia has received in 2021 from its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an 11-state cap-and-invest carbon market on the East Coast of the United States.

Our changing climate is playing havoc with our transportation system, buckling concrete and flooding roads. The federal Infrastructure Bill recently signed into law includes $7.3 billion for states to spend on transportation resilience projects. Another $1.4 billion for competitive grants would give cities and counties federal help to adapt their road networks.

Climate migrants are roiling politics across the United States. People displaced by Hurricane Maria in 2017 have changed the political demographics of the Orlando area of Florida where the Puerto Rican population has grown by more than 12%. Less dramatically, people in low-lying areas of Virginia are moving to less flood prone areas. Of the quarter million Louisianans who fled New Orleans for Texas after Hurricane Katrina, about 40,000 stayed bringing more non-white and Democratic voters to formerly conservative precincts. And people in Boise, Idaho, are concerned about the political ramifications of migrants from California who are relocating because of drought and wildfires.

Energy

Dangerous mining conditions, political gamesmanship, and corruption plague the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the world’s largest supply of cobalt, a key ingredient in electric cars. A Chinese company bought two of the country’s largest cobalt deposits over the past five years while both the Obama and Trump administrations stood idly by.

Norilsk, a Siberian city, which is one of the most polluted places on earth, now aims to ramp up production to sell the high-purity metals needed for batteries and other technologies of the clean energy economy. In another development, the state of Alaska has approved building a highway to facilitate mining for minerals used for solar panels and other green energy. The highway, which has no other purpose, will endanger a pristine Alaskan wilderness above the Arctic Circle.

Ever larger offshore wind turbines are driving down costs, making it competitive with the costs of electricity from natural gas power plants. (Onshore wind and solar are still cheaper than all other alternatives). Another benefit is that offshore wind farms can be built close to major population centers. This is especially encouraging for states like New Jersey and Virginia, which have laws requiring the construction of offshore wind.

Despite the green image, putting acres of solar panels on undeveloped land is environmentally problematic. In contrast, the benefits of installing them as canopies on parking lots are that they are abundant, close to customers, largely untapped for solar power generation, and on land that has already been stripped of much of its biological value. Even so, solar canopies are barely beginning to show up in our country’s endless acreage of parking lots but that is beginning to change. For instance, the Washington, D.C., Metro transit system has just contracted to build its first solar canopies at four of its rail station parking lots, with a projected capacity of 12.8 megawatts.

European countries searching for a long-term and constant source of energy to complement the intermittent energy of wind and solar green sources are increasingly looking to nuclear power to help them reach their ambitious climate goals. France and England are looking to the next-generation technology of small modular nuclear reactors that supporters say are safe, cheap and efficient. Eastern European countries especially see such nuclear power as an alternative to their long-standing dependence on coal. Alternatively, Germany is at the head of a group of other European nations that want to defuse efforts to include more nuclear power in Europe’s green energy mix because of their concerns about safety and radioactive waste.

Climate Action

Reductions in home energy use and residential greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved in a variety of ways, including through modifications to improve the efficiency of existing structures, and standards and building techniques that promote better energy performance in new homes. Policies that Local Housing Solutions proposes to achieve this include:

  • Housing trust funds and other sources of local funding can be used to support energy-efficiency upgrades.
  • A range of policies can be used to create and preserve dedicated affordable housing near public transit stations and job centers.
  • Employer-assisted housing programs can create opportunities for residents to live closer to their workplace.
  • Zoning and building codes can facilitate development of higher-density and lower-cost housing types that support the creation of homes that consume less energy.

The sustainable industrial revolution is just getting started but there are some promising initial developments. Heavy industries like shipping, steel and plastics contribute 40% of global carbon emissions, but have long opted out of climate action. This is starting to change. For example, electric motors consume about half of the world’s electricity. Infinitum Electric, a start-up company in Texas, is now developing a new efficient motor design that replaces the copper wire and laminated iron core found in conventional motors with a printed circuit board stator, making the motor smaller, lighter and much more efficient. In another promising breakthrough, the Swedish steel maker SSAB has begun developing a fossil fuel-free steel making process where iron ore is refined, or reduced, with green hydrogen and renewable energy. The iron is then shaped into finished steel with electric arc furnaces.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, has set an ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. This goal is especially audacious given that the city’s electric provider DTE Electric remains tethered to coal and natural gas. To work around that, Ann Arbor plans to set up its own sustainable community-based electric company which will generate renewable power, incorporate battery storage and tie homes and businesses to micro-grids.

Ithaca, New York, also just made an unprecedented move to tackle its carbon footprint with the goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. Its electric grid already receives 80% of its power from renewable sources, so instead, they will focus on the full decarbonization of city buildings which consume 40% of the energy in the city. Because it would be impossible to fund such a huge effort with the city budget and other public funds, they have initially lined up $100 million in private financing through their private equity partner Alturus to fund the work of BlocPower, their building energy efficiency partner.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for November 2021

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 2021

Energy

Several Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) protesters faced a judge in late October and were convicted on misdemeanor charges and fined. Both the State Water Control Board (WCB) and the US Army Corps of Engineers are considering whether to grant what’s called a “401” water crossing permit; this opinion writer from the non-profit Mothers Out Front said the WCB should not approve it. The non-profit Wild Virginia hosted an almost 3-hour citizen ‘public hearing” (because the WCB and VA’s DEQ refused to do so). An appeals court heard arguments in a lawsuit asking the courts to strike down key MVP permits; the court could issue its decision by the end of this year. All this as the pipeline is nearing completion despite hurdles.

The SCC is considering an application by another pipeline company that wants to run the Chickahominy Pipeline across five Virginia counties. One of the questions is whether the company is a “public utility.” A hearing examiner said yes.

A reporter for the newly established Cardinal News asked “Why don’t we have more wind energy in Southwest Virginia? Or any?” One reason might be: The proposed wind farm in Botetourt County continues to have opponents; a second lawsuit has been filed. A prior one was unsuccessful.

On the other hand, Virginia’s a leader in offshore wind. The price tag for Dominion’s flagship wind project just went up nearly $2 billion and is now pegged at almost $10 billion. A blogger wondered what information Dominion didn’t include in its massive application supporting the increase cost; another blogger wants the Attorney General to ensure any missing relevant information is made public. And a third blogger wonders whether Dominion customers will be paying for the wind infrastructure in their utility bills, perhaps as early as December 2022. North Carolina is getting into the wind business; a project off Kitty Hawk will send power to Dominion’s Virginia grid and, North Carolina hopes, bring new jobs in that state. The Coast Guard wants to understand the implications of offshore wind farms to its mission.

Solar use is thriving in Shenandoah Valley homes,” thanks to programs such as those offered by LEAP, a Charlottesville area non-profit. “Shared solar” may represent a way for multi-family residents to enjoy solar’s benefits says a local solar installer. Advocates are hoping the upcoming General Assembly will see a bill passed allowing shared solar in southwest Virginia.

Blacksburg and Montgomery County are moving to increase the number of EV charging stations as the number of local EV owners increases. Generation 180 produced a report that suggests the rest of the state should perhaps follow suit. Appalachian Power will be funding electric school buses in five Southwest Virginia counties as part of a settlement between the EPA and its parent company.

Climate and Environment

Virginia’s state agencies are doing away with single-use plastics, and not everyone is pleasedWegman’s will stop using plastic bags in its Fairfax County stores; that county established a 5-cent tax per bag to become effective in January 2022.

Virginia’s broken ground on Mayo River State Park, in Henry County near the North Carolina border. Outgoing Governor Northam dedicated Virginia’s 66th natural area preserve, Piney Grove Flatwoods, part of a 10,000-acre conservation area in Sussex County. The Governor also announced the dedication of “Charlotte State Forest, opening the first publicly-accessible state land in Charlotte County.” An Augusta County farmer, and blogger, wrote about his success getting changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan to change part of his farm’s acreage as “low density housing” to a designation that would allow him to put the land into a conservation easement.

A very large hydroponic greenhouse in Goochland County is producing LOTS of baby leafy greens.  The company, “Greenswell, is [making] a local play for the leafy greens market, which is largely dominated by companies on the West Coast.”

Virginia Beach voters approved a referendum for bonds to fund projects to curb coastal flooding. The city has been aware of the risks for some time. Current predictions for sea-level rise along Virginia’s coast are “more dire.” Some Middle Peninsula residents believe some of the state funding for flood protection should go to private landowners. Grist, a national online environmental news organization reports on what an iconic Chesapeake Bay island teaches us about the costs of sea level rise, saying that Tangier Island could be uninhabitable by 2051.

Bad news for an iconic Virginia aquatic animal; “American shad on ‘brink of collapse’ in James River.” More bad news: Virginia’s freshwater mussel population is in trouble. And the Chesapeake Bay is warming, according to a report by the William and Mary Institute for Marine Science. On the plus side, Bay restoration got a boost in the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Virginia’s Transportation Department wants to see some that Act’s funds go to “roads, bridges, electric vehicle charging stations and addressing climate change.”

Better news? There have been armadillo sightings near Roanoke and in Wise County.

The Nature Conservancy is working on “Conserving Appalachia” in a changing climate. It’s also trying to restore seagrass levels on Virginia’s coast. And it’s working in Virginia’s “Pinelands” on swamp, rare birds, and forest protection.

Action Alert

Complete this survey and tell the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation what you’d like to see in the state’s 2023 Outdoors Plan about recreational activities.

Tell the Virginia Department of Transportation, at its online site by December 1, what you think about a 100‑mile hiking trail from Galax to Greenfield in the Roanoke and New River Valleys.  

Check out…

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 11/21/2021

This edition offers articles and perspectives from sources and voices other than “mainstream media”.  So, no articles from the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian!  It’s not that they didn’t produce volumes of good reporting and opinions, especially about COP26. But we’ll learn about COP26, Eco Right views, and our usual subjects from a plethora of other entities who take these subjects very seriously.

COP26

Many, many articles about this much anticipated but arguably so far disappointing UN conference being held in Glasgow Scotland.  Here’s a potpourri covering some of the many aspects:

The Eco Right

There are a number of groups and individuals—self‑described conservatives—who acknowledge the need for climate action.  Here is a sampling of some recent articles and links:

  • Courtesy of RepublicEn.org and American Conservation Coalition, which offered the following in their recent email newsletters….
  • Three Republican Senators propose a climate plan that strives to reduce global emissions 40 percent by 2050.
  • Former member and FERC chair Neil Chatterjee supports a carbon dividends policy as one market-based solution.
  • Canadian PM Trudeau urged all countries to agree to some sort of global price on carbon.… “Not only will that encourage innovation, it will give that clear price signal to the private sector that making the right capital investments to transform to lower emissions makes sense …” he said. The American Petroleum Institute says it endorses a “carbon pricing model.”
  • The Global Methane Pledge at COP26, which, if honored, would reduce warming by at least 0.2C by 2050, EU and US leaders say. Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas warming the planet, after carbon dioxide…, produced when countries burn oil, coal and natural gas for energy.
  • GOP COP26 delegation leader Rep. John Curtis told Inside Climate News that COP followers should watch for his coalition to “talk about U.S. innovation—nuclear, carbon sequestration, hydrogen, those types of things, and ways that we can support the president, such as holding China and Russia accountable. We’ll be looking for those opportunities to show that we are sincere about this and we really would like to work with our Democratic colleagues.”  Green Market Revolution touted an “International Declaration on Market Environmentalism” signed by 130 companies and governments.
  • Just prior to the COP, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called out those who cite job loss as a reason not to implement climate policies, noting California has experienced “an increase in job creation since 1990, about 35 percent in [the] green sector….  It shows you … can protect the environment and … the economy at the same time.”
  • This segment from CNN delves into the history on climate science denialism and features [RepublicEn founder Bob Inglis talking about how to depolarize the issue.  Mr. Inglis also said “It’s Time for America to Embrace Carbon Border Adjustments.
  • A freshman Republican Congressman wants to restore the numbers of his party’s members in the “depleted” House climate caucus.
  • The Audubon Society talked with several folks about what sort of climate action they favor.

Events, News, and Opinions

Internationally—

  • A UK company developed a new prototype for EV buses that will be cheaper than diesel-powered ones.
  • “Weslee Andrews, entrepreneur and philanthropist …, recently announced an exciting new endeavor of the launch of a micro-electric car model within the Europe and UK areas.”
  • “In major shift, IEA World Energy Outlook mainstreams 1.5°C pathway, showing need to end oil, gas, and coal expansion.”  IEA is the International Energy Agency.  The same outlet, Oil Change International also produced this report:  “New Report: Emissions from Proposed U.S. Fossil Fuel Projects Equivalent to Doubling U.S. Coal Plants if Biden Approves Construction.”
  • This working paper by the International Monetary Fund is wonky, but the conclusion is clear:  The world is “Still Not Getting Energy Prices Right.”

Nationally—

(Some of) The States–

Texas

Louisiana

Carolinas

Florida/Georgia

West Virginia/Appalachia/Ohio River Valley

  • WV Public Radio said coal’s recent rebound may not last.
  • A WV coal plant’s intent to remain operating could benefit one of its Senators.
  • The Charleston Gazette‑Mail ran a story, “West Virginia at risk for greater climate change costs with Manchin holding out on spending plan.”
  • The Black Appalachian Coalition wants to ensure black voices are heard on energy and other issues.
  • A recent report by “regional and national clean energy advocacy groups … makes the case that fully remediating coal ash disposal sites would create more jobs and protect communities as more coal plants close in the region….”

New York

Sierra Club applauded the decision to deny permits for two fracked gas plants.

Tennessee

Activists said no to coal ash being put in Memphis’ landfill.

Ideas, Events, Entertainment and Information

Happy Thanksgiving from CAAV and Joy Loving, CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for October 2021

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 October 2021

Energy

The US Army Corps of Engineers will conduct two virtual public hearings to solicit the views of interested persons regarding the permit application submitted by Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to cross certain bodies of water along the project’s path in West Virginia and Virginia. In addition, the Virginia State Water Control Board will decide in December whether to approve MVP’s request for a permit “to cross [more than 250] streams and wetlands in Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania Counties.” Some groups believe the Water Board needs to consider the racial and environmental implications of the project. A “Climate Choir”, including Central Valley residents, traveled to Richmond to “sing” their objections to the MVP. MVP developers want Facebook to provide identifying information for owners of a page voicing opposition to the pipeline; two months later, Facebook hasn’t responded. Landowners in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina have questions about what will happen to property easements they provided utilities for the now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline; FERC is evaluating the utilities’ plans. Six landowners who sued MVP for property damages from erosion, sediment, and stormwater runoff have reached a settlement with MVP.  Opposition about another pipeline, Chickahominy, continues in Louisa County.

Virginia regulators will consider a Dominion request for extending the license for its nuclear plants past 2050. Two proposed rate increases from other Virginia utilities also made news: Old Dominion Power in Southwestern Virginia wants the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to approve a second substantial rate hike in less than two years. Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative also wants its second increase in less than two years; the SCC’s decision is pending. Appalachian Voices is among groups working toward energy reform so such increases don’t limit customers’ ability to reduce their electric bills through energy efficiency measures and rooftop solar.

The long-planned onshore wind farm in Botetourt County got a thumbs up from the county Board of Zoning Appeals; its developer plans to continue planning for the project. A planned wind turbine blade facility in Portsmouth for Dominion’s large offshore wind project will bring over 300 new jobs to the Hampton roads region. A Virginia Congressman introduced a bill to boost accountability in the offshore wind development industry. Industry leaders want Congress to “back long-term plans to increase production.”

A local non-profit, Give Solar, exceeded its fundraising goal to put solar on Habitat for Humanity houses in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham area. Buckingham County passed a revenue-sharing ordinance for solar farms. Frederick County’s Planning Commission recommended approval of a 430 acre solar farm Two Southwest VA school districts “go solar”. Two companies—one a solar developer and the other a B-Corporation financing entity—are planning to install 42 MW of solar, including both distributed and community, across the state.

The state Department of Environmental Quality is providing over $10 million in electric school bus funding for cities and counties that apply successfully. Early reports on the newly launched Afton Express, a public transportation opportunity made possible by partnerships between the Staunton, Waynesboro, Charlottesville, Augusta and Albemarle, and U.Va., are favorable. Riders have bus service for trips to locations on both sides of Afton Mountain. Google’s Christiansburg drone delivery project, first in the U.S., is expanding into Texas. Christiansburg now has a new EV charging station.

Climate and Environment

Albemarle County is considering establishing a 5₵ tax on disposable plastic bags.

Revenue from carbon offset auctions following Virginia’s joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will help communities fund flood preparedness efforts. Harrisonburg’s City Council received the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report by Virginia Tech Professor Sean McGinnis and sent it to its Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee to develop action plans.

Virginia Tech’s Cooperative Extension Service hosted the Mid-Atlantic Urban Agricultural Summit, where attendees could learn about urban agriculture and food security; innovations in urban ag; business, technology and policy; and urban community gardening. A U.Va. landscape architecture professor was the inaugural winner of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize for her innovative work to re-purpose “brownfields” like “toxic waste dumps,” “derelict factories,” and “abandoned railyards” into, for example urban gardens and public spaces for “art and recreation.” Charlottesville’s efforts toward becoming a greener city have received recognition and awards.

The invasive Spotted Lanternfly is gaining a bigger foothold in Virginia. Scientists are working hard to help save endangered species in the state.

Six Virginia cities and counties received federal funds for water improvement projects. The Town of Chatham received over $3 million in state funds for similar purposes. Results of a bond referendum on Virginia Beach’s November 2 ballot will indicate whether voters are “willing to see their real estate taxes rise to pay for up to $567 million in flood protection projects that would be rolled out over the next 10 years.” Mid‑Atlantic farms managed to do well this growing season despite numerous weather challenges, as did Virginia farmers growing peanuts and cotton.

Action Alert

The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia and Appalachian Voices are working hard to convince the General Assembly to authorize a shared solar program to help their communities’ transition away from their economies’ coal dependence. To support their effort, sign on to their letter here.

Check out…

  • These stunning photos, courtesy of the Roanoke Times, of the Blue Ridge Parkway vistas.
  • Virtual event, “Plastic Pollution in Virginia: Trends, Sources, Solutions”, on Tue, Nov. 9, 7 to 8 pm. Register here.
  • Virtual event, Assateague Coastal Trust’s “Walk on the Wild Side Film Festival”, Nov. 12 6 pm -14 8 pm. Register here. The film festival will feature beautiful films and musical performances. Once you register, you will receive your viewing password and can view on demand. 
  • Virtual conference, “Grit and Gratitude: Celebrating a banner year and rising to the next challenge”, 
  • Sat, November 13th 1-5pm. This CCL conference will give the scoop on the status of carbon pricing in budget reconciliation, CCL’s vision for moving forward, and how to do that. Keynote speaker: Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, co-editor of All We Can Save. Register here.
  • Virtual (& Live) event, Assateague Coastal Trust’s 11th Annual “Wild and Scenic Film Festival where activism gets inspired”, Thurs, Nov 18, 6:30 pm—featuring “14 films, including 30 Below, that takes viewers through the barren, beautiful landscape of Alaska, and Camel Finds Water, which documents surfer Trevor Gordon’s restoration project of a derelict boat….” Register and buy tickets (virtual $25) here.
  • The Mendota Trail near Bristol, which provides the opportunity to bike or walk across several renovated former railroad trestles and enjoy wonderful scenery; it’s now about six miles long, with expansion to 12 in the works.
  • Local author Erik Curren’s new book—Abolish Oil Now!—set to launch officially on October 29. It’s available on Amazon as an ebook and in paperback and from the author in pdf format. The book compares efforts to abolish slavery, the obstacles faced, and the outcome, to today’s need to end use of fossil fuels.

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 10/12/2021

Our Changing Climate

This summer has been one climate related calamity after the next. So much so that it feels like sensory overload. Did all that actually happen in one summer? It began with unprecedented drought, heat, and wildfires in the American West. This was followed by devastating floods in Europe and China. Then there were more wildfires in Siberia and Turkey. Since then, Hurricane Ida unleased flooding in Louisiana and the Northeast, including New York City, leaving more than 45 dead. We could go on. The list of calamities is not exhausted.

In the August Climate and Energy News Roundup, I recalled how my wife Ruth and I experienced 118-degree heat in the city of Barstow on the edge of California’s Central Valley as we drove to Oakland to visit family in July. Farmers in the Central Valley face huge challenges as they contend with climate induced heat and drought. What I did not say was that the next day we visited the Sequoia National Park. At this high altitude, the temperature reached an unseasonably high 85 degrees but it was still relatively comfortable as we walked under the majestic giant Sequoias, some of which are more than 2,000 years old.

Now those Sequoias, which are among the most fire adapted trees on our planet, are being threatened by climate induced hot complexes of wildfires. More than 10,000 trees (about 14% of the population) have succumbed. These trees had survived and thrived in all kinds of extreme weather for thousands of years. It was especially jarring to recently see photos of the giant Sequoias we had recently walked under now wrapped in massive aluminum foil sheets in a desperate attempt to save them.

It is not only the Sequoias that are experiencing unprecedented stress. Native American communities that have lived in North America for thousands of years are also under threat. The Yurok Tribal Reservation is in a remote area along the Klamath River on the misty northern California coast. Now, due to a history of regional water mismanagement combined with a historic drought, the river is sick – and the Yurok are too. Earlier this year, a fish kill of enormous magnitude left 70% of juvenile salmon dead from a deadly pathogen which spreads when the flow of water is curtailed and water quality is low.

The Yurok have traditionally relied on salmon from the Klamath River for their livelihood and their diet. They have now had their fishing rights severely curtailed to protect the remaining salmon population, creating a financial and dietary crisis for them. The underlying problem, unaddressed by state and federal regulators, is that upstream dams severely restrict the flow of water and divert it for other purposes, thereby destroying the entire ecosystem.

The Hopi Native American tribe has survived for more than a thousand years in the arid mesas of Arizona. Now, the two-decade long megadrought gripping the Southwest is testing their resilience. Researchers have estimated that human-influenced climate change has contributed considerably to the severity of the drought, which is considered to be as bad or worse than any in the region over the last 1,200 years. In response, the Hopi tribal council has been forced to ask native ranchers to slash livestock numbers to avoid further catastrophe. They are also urging tribal members to do everything they can to preserve dry farming, an ancient practice in which crops grow despite scant rainfall through drought-resistant seeds, small fields, and terraced gardens.

Politics and Policy

A recent study published by Lancet Planetary Health finds that children and young people around the world are experiencing “widespread psychological distress” over the fate of the planet because of climate change. That fear and anxiety is real and tied to their concern that governments around the world are not doing enough to address the crisis.  A first-of-its-kind study postulates that today’s kids will live through three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents.

This fear for the future propels the actions of many young climate activists from around the world. Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a teenage climate activist from the Philippines says she cannot help thinking about it because our whole future is ahead. She has tried to channel the uncertainty into her work, talking about the environment at schools, helping farmers get irrigation equipment, and joining fishing communities fighting shorefront commercial development.

The Citizens Climate Lobby has been pushing hard for a carbon price as part of the fight against global warming. They are encouraged that both progressives and moderates are now seriously working to include that in the reconciliation “Build Back Better” bill. Major players in the Senate are now working on putting a carbon fee and dividend into the bill.

Governor Northam recently initiated the new commuter-friendly Amtrak train connecting Richmond-to-D.C. by being among the first to board the new line’s inaugural run. This line is the first project under the state’s $37 billion, 10-year program called Transforming Rail, which aims to expand and streamline commuter, passenger and freight rail systems.

California governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that received bipartisan support, requiring carbon emissions per ton of cement produced to be cut by 40 percent below 2019 levels by 2035. Cement production is responsible for 7 to 8 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions globally. Climate activists are hopeful that this will spur innovation that can be emulated in other countries like China and India.

Energy

Energy is hard to come by as global leaders prepare to gather in Glasgow, Scotland for a climate conference. Some regions in China are rationing electricity, because of a shortage of coal and oil. The price of natural gas is sky-high in Europe and power plants in India are on the verge of running out of coal. The recent spike in demand comes after a year of pandemic related retrenchment in coal, oil and gas extraction, stretching global supply chains. Advocates for renewable energy argue that the crisis shows the need to move further away from fossil fuels while their critics contend that moving too rapidly to green energy has created the problem.

Coalfield Development, the largest nonprofit in West Virginia located in Huntington, West Virginia, is training former coal miners to transition to renewable energy jobs. They recently partnered with Solar Hollar, a local startup solar installer, to install a 294-solar panel project on the roof of their factory. The installation will produce enough power to offset the usage of all their operations on the site and save them over $135,000. The mission is to make solar affordable, accessible and achievable for everyone in West Virginia and to bring good clean energy jobs to people in this historic coal mining region.

The Harrisonburg school board decided to have Affordable Energy Concepts install new solar panels on the roof and campus of Bluestone Elementary School. The installation will include an interactive electric sign and a solar-powered water fountain, which can serve as teaching tools. The solar system could get Bluestone close to generating as much energy as it uses.

The latest edition of The National Geographic focuses on “the dream of a cleaner commute.” All the big automakers are moving rapidly toward an electric vehicle future. The more difficult challenge is going green in air travel. Alternative fuels such as electric batteries and hydrogen are too heavy or cumbersome for use in long distance flight. The airline industry and research centers are, however, experimenting with electric powered planes for short commutes and with non-fossil fuel sources such as algae for longer flights. That is still in the more distant future, forcing us to recognize that, at present, we may need to limit and find alternatives to air travel when possible (The National Geographic, October 2021: 38-83).

Various Climate Actions

Ahead of the global environment summit in Glasgow in November, Pope Francis, of the Roman Catholic church, Patriarch Bartholomew, of the Orthodox church, and Archbishop Justin Welby, of the global Anglican communion, issued an unprecedented joint declaration urging world leaders to work together to address our climate crisis. The statement urged all people – “whatever their beliefs or worldview” – to “listen to the cry of the Earth and of people who are poor. Today, we are paying the price [of the climate emergency] … Tomorrow could be worse.” It concludes: “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”

Dominion Energy is currently undergoing a rate review, marking the first time since 2015 that the State Corporation Commission (SCC) will fully review and potentially adjust what Dominion customers pay for electricity.Dominion is requesting a significant authorized profit increase from 9.2% to 10.8%, which could raise energy bills if approved.

CALL TO ACTION: Sign on to this petition by Clean Virginia asking the SCC to deny Dominion’s request for a profit increase. The SCC rejected a similar request in 2019, estimating it would cost Virginians $1.4 billion in additional charges. 

Most people naturally think of planting trees as a way to mitigate climate change. This overlooks the ecological benefits of native grasslands, which are also superstars of ecosystem services. Grasslands expert Elizabeth Borer, at the University of Minnesota, explains that natural grasses have enormous root systems (often far larger than the plant you see above ground) which hold the soil together and help prevent erosion. Such grasslands hold more than a third of the world’s land-based carbon while providing a rich habitat for wildlife.

In contrast, most lawns are resource-intensive monocultures doused with water and pesticides and mowed by carbon spewing gasoline powered lawnmowers. There are as many as 50 million acres of lawn across the US—an area roughly the size of Nebraska. An easy climate actionthat can have a significant impact is changing how we care for our lawns:

  • We can learn how to maintain a healthy lawn without using lots of water, synthetic fertilizers, and herbicides.
  • Planting white clover as part of our grass mix makes our lawns more diverse and supportive of insects such as native bees.  
  • We can convert some of our lawn to low maintenance native plant and edible landscaping borders in our bid to “bring nature home.”
  • And you may want to trade in your old gas-powered lawnmower for a more ecological and much quieter electric lawnmower. 

Reflection

Environmentalist and Episcopalian priest, Ragan Sutterfield says that climate change is a symptom of a larger underlying disease. Borrowing a concept from family therapy, “the climate crisis is the identified patient of our planetary dysfunction.” He concludes, “In our concern, we should recognize the systematic pathology of industrial civilization that has brought us to a crisis with the climate. We need reconciliation with the whole, not just a solution for the identified patient” (The Christian Century, Sept. 22, 2021: 29).

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for September 2021

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 September 2021

Energy

Several Southwest Virginia (SWVA) communities have received funding to support “industrial, agricultural, community development, and tourism” economic development projects to help them transition from a dependence on coal. A Cumberland Plateau Planning District commissioner echoes the value of such projects, arguing that prior efforts have a good track record.

The Nature Conservancy and Dominion Energy are partnering to install large solar facilities on 1,700 acres, part of a reclamation effort on a former strip mine site; these projects will be developed within the Cumberland Forest Project. There may be additional, similar projects in SWVA and elsewhere, given the ubiquity of abandoned coal sites and Dominion’s need to meet Virginia Clean Energy Act solar energy requirements. RMI believes Appalachia ”could be the region to see the biggest economic benefit from the deployment of wind and solar projects over the next decade.” 

Dominion wants to power 250,000 Virginia homes with solar plants. In recent testimony before the State Corporation Commission (SCC) about one of Dominion’s proposals related to the VCEA, an attorney representing Appalachian Voices said the proposal would not necessarily benefit customers because it “is predicated on a flawed analysis that exaggerates benefits and fails to consider numerous other options likely to deliver the same or similar benefits at a fraction of the cost.” In a separate case, the SCC’s staff said “Dominion Energy earned more than $1.1 billion above a fair profit from customers in Virginia in a four-year span…. [Because of state law, however,] “customers aren’t likely to see that much in refunds.”

Will solar+battery storage make a difference? Apparently, Dominion Energy wants to try this approach. What about the cost of the energy transition? A Virginia solar installer thinks it could lower costs quite a bit. Another solar advocate de-bunked 5 myths about solar.

A Virginia blogger points out that subsidies have long been part of the US strategy to develop energy resources.

Dominion Energy has inked a deal with the Portsmouth Marine Terminal that will provide a staging area for constructing wind turbines and other infrastructure. Dominion has also committed to working with unions on its wind projects.

Virginia is moving to electrify its school bus fleet; one question is, after the first round, where will the funding come from? A Chesterfield bank installed an EV charger for customer use at no charge while banking.

“Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport recently installed runway lights with LED technology. The fixtures … use less energy and throw off more light, an aid to pilots and navigation.”

SWVA “landowners [are] still fighting [the Mountain Valley] pipeline’s use of eminent domain.” Virginia Conservatives for Clean Energy believes the reluctance to allow farmers to rent their land for large-scale solar farms represents an attack on landowners’ property rights. Is pig waste, aka biogas, “renewable energy?” This article’s lead sentence suggests it is: “Surry County’s Planning Commission will hold public hearings Sept. 27 on two proposed renewable energy projects.” Can a gas plant reduce the stench from a landfill? Some Chesterfield County residents may find out. A Tennessee official wants Virginia “to do more to fix Bristol landfill’s malodorous emissions.”

Climate and Environment

A Virginia blogger says Virginia could learn some lessons about flood control from Louisiana. A Virginia representative introduced a bill to curb flooding, and stormwater runoff, on military bases. A Norfolk advocacy group, Mothers Out Front, wants more moms to step forward and call attention to the city’s serious and chronic flooding.

SWVA farmers and brewers envision “a new industry for the coalfields region” through a resurgence of “Appalachian Grains” such as barley. Recent Appalachian Regional Commission grants may help make this vision a reality while also supporting other economic development in SWVA and other Appalachian communities. “Can Southwest Virginia remake itself as a laboratory for renewables?

Bedford County leaders want the USDA to issue a disaster declaration; this summer’s drought has devastated crops.

Fairfax County passed a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic bags. Alexandria and Arlington County did so as well. Virginia Tech’s project to reduce single-use plastic use and waste has made progress. An industrial plastics company will expand its operations in Rockingham County, adding 92 new jobs.

“Hampton Roads aquifer recharge project gets [a] $477 million EPA loan.”

Arlington now has county-wide curbside composting. The end-product will be “a nutrient-rich soil amendment that makes plants healthier. Finished compost will be available for free to county residents.” 

Shenandoah Green, an environmental advocacy group in Staunton, received kudos from the Climate Reality Project for its great work in planting trees and engaging large numbers of community members to do it.

Also check out:

Find out how….

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 9/18/2021

Our Changing Climate

Heat and fires

“A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up to Us.”  “IPCC’s starkest warning yet.” Question is:  Are politicians and corporations paying attention?  Many more stories attest to the seriousness of our collective situation:  The Guardian, The New York Times,

Siberian Wildfires—Bigger than all the rest combined, worldwide.  Even so, the huge western US wildfires are creating their own weather—and clouds that produce lightening that can spark new fires.  The scale in the western US is almost unimaginable:  100,000 acres burned near Sacramento;  make that “143.900 acres”; our smoke warning systems aren’t robust enough; “Our future [in the Sierra Nevada] might not look the same”; “Wildfire smoke claims more than 33,000 lives each year”, not counting “long term exposure”; the Dixie fire—nearly 1 million acres; “World’s largest tree wrapped in fire-resistant blanket as California blaze creeps closer”.

High temperatures are everywhereSicily, Pacific Northwest,

Methane emission reductions are imperative, says latest IPCC report.

Water:  Drought, flooding, hurricanes, sea ice loss, sea level rise

Hurricane Ida’s damage to Louisiana—to the coastFuture prospects (not so good); to coastal residents; to electricity customers’ pocketbooksAbandoned oil and gas infrastructure off its shores.  Oil spills. Water crisis.   Lawsuits against oil companies for damages. Keeping the lights on—National Geo weighs in. 

Lots of flooding.  Climate change help set up conditions for Tennessee’s recent problems (“walls of water”); also Germany’s and Belgium’s. Ditto for New York.  The bad news?  More coming.

Drought pummels agriculture across the West.” It’s hard to grow cantaloupe when there’s no water.  The US tied a 1936 Dustbowl record this summer.

Rainfall on Greenland’s ice sheet—a first in history.  Mount Shasta is “nearly snowless.”

Fishing in North Carolina—Climate Change’s Burden—part of the Changing Tides series.

Plastics, chemicals, and waste

Humans have dumped unbelievable quantities of plastics into the ocean.  Some of it (not enough) is being eaten by bacteria—thanks to the “‘plastisphere’: the synthetic ecosystem evolving at sea”!

Plants, animals, and wild places

A new measurement—“green status of species”—will help us understand how well, or not, we’re doing.  Who knew some plants are voracious accumulators of precious metals?

Positive Steps—Some More Positive than Others

Policy Makers, Politicians, Media, Judiciary, and Scientists

Biden is improving car emission standards—but not enough.  EV sales are increasing.

The President and some members of Congress continue to push for legislationCan the Fed helpLobbyists are putting in their two cents.  Could there possibly be a bipartisan approach?  What could a Climate Corps do; here are some answers?

Scientists in Oregon are studying a way to combat climate change’s “evil twin”, ocean acidification, with a de-acidification project in a bay.  To give oysters a better chance, they’re buffering “incoming seawater with sodium carbonate” to reduce the acidity.

The UK’s “green economy” is four times larger than its manufacturing sector.

Can we rely on what we read and hear?  Many think the oil industry willfully misled us.  A House panel is investigating.  Just how certain are we about the “existential threat”?

The IPCC and other reports are generating calls for urgent action on infrastructure and other efforts to address the crisis.  RMI says we have solutions; we need to act.  Several climate scientists’ advice:  Don’t despair.   Sometimes, it’s hard not to.  Some activists ask: “Is this our last chance to pass meaningful legislation?”  For example:  Clean energy tax incentivesLocal versus more distant solar?  How about both—and fast?

A Federal judge puts a halt—at least temporarily—on the prior administration’s permit for a “project … to produce more than 100,000 barrels a day on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.” On the other hand…. “US to restart oil leasing with offshore auction this year”—by court order.

Others—People, Countries

A former “steak-eating bodybuilder”, now vegan, has “rewilded” his 1,000-acre estate in Ireland.  Not to be outdone, a famous UK farmer wants to transform farming to save the planet and is doing it on his farm.

Like bananas?  Puerto Rico is working to ensure we’ll have them around going forward.

Seaweed to the rescue?

Small towns:  Sometimes you can move uphillSometimes not.

Beyond Meat’s Ethan Brown.

Saving California’s kelp forests—from zombie sea urchins.

Indigenous resistance has staved off 25 percent of California and Canada’s annual emissions.”

Iceland has a carbon removal facility.  So do the oceans, which have creatures called “siphonophores.”

Imagine 2200—Writers come up with 12 amazing scenarios.

Energy

Fuel Sources, Utilities, Electric Grid

Pipelines—their opponents, their effects—are still with us.  In Minnesota.  In Mississippi.  In Ohio.  In Tennessee.  In Michigan.

Warnings that hydrogen may not be a “clean” fuel source appeared in a recent study.  Turns out a big problem isn’t the gas itself; it’s the way it’s currently obtained.  Hopefully new, cleaner, and scalable extraction methods for “green” hydrogen can be found to replace “blue” hydrogen’s dependence on natural gas.  Georgia is betting on hydrogen; a hydrogen equipment company has located there.

Utility companies and solar companies haven’t always seen eye to eye.  A large solar company just hired a former utility executive as its CEO.  Utilities’ bottom lines are significantly affected by large weather events.  One utility—and perhaps others—are looking hard at weather data using sophisticated analysis tools to help prepare for such events.

Texas—There’s a “solar versus trees” battle of sorts happening.  Some in the oil industry believe a change in their ways of operating is needed.

Louisiana—Despite the reluctance to embrace renewable energy opportunities, including solar farms, a University of Louisiana professor is studying what solar farms and other renewables could meanState policy is hostile to distributed solar.  Ray of hope?  A tank farm wants to expand to handle renewable fuels.

North Carolina—Brunswick County Supervisors don’t want offshore wind, believing it would damage tourism.  NC’s PBS ran a program about how solar and wind development can help rural areas—Episode 12, Renewable Energy in Rural Areas (I watched it while at the Outer Banks this week.).  Not everyone agrees, including some residents of Gold Hill.  A Virginia blogger’s take on development and sea level rise.

Florida—A Tampa utility’s hype about its reduction in its deployment of coal and increase in solar leaves out some important details (think:  natural gas).

Colorado—Its Clean Heat Standard sets clean energy requirements for utilities; it’s potentially a model for other states.

Buildings and Transportation

Georgia is also betting on electric vehicles.  It just paid millions for undeveloped land it hopes will be the home of an EV manufacturing facility.  And it’s working with the USMC to support more EVs by providing some Level II chargers.  A clean energy conference in August indicated some Georgians want to understand its possibilities.

California is taking carbon reduction seriously.  It’s mandating solar and battery storage for some new residential and commercial buildings.  The Feds want us all to use more energy efficient lighting and is proposing to require that light bulbs don’t waste energy through heat output.

If the cheapest energy is what we don’t use, then improving our energy efficiency may be the next best alternative.  ACEEE says Congress can give us all a standard to show the way.

If EVs are part of the solution, we need to figure out how to pay for their accompanying infrastructure—charging stations.

Problem:  “EVs, Solar, & Energy Storage: Ignoring The Science That Will Save Us

Ideas, Entertainment and Information

Canary Media put together a climate playlist on Spotify.  It also showcased En-ROADS, a climate simulator.  Use it to compare “positive” actions (like adding solar) and not-so-positive ones (like continuing to build natural gas plants).  Example, how much does it matter that renewables now account for 25% of US installed generating capacity, but renewables are still second to natural gas?

Trees can help slow climate change.  What if we made sure to protect the trees we have? Unfortunately, Amazonian deforestation is continuing apace.

This map “tells the Story of Two Americas: 1 parched and 1 soaked.”

Time article:  “In the Face of Climate Change, We Must Act So That We Can Feel Hopeful—Not the Other Way Around

Finding “green” cleaning products.  Tips for “greening your laundry routine”—remember clothes lines?

Lovely story about growing a garden on a building’s terrace in the shadow of where the World Trade Towers used to be.

Could we possibly be at “peak car” levels?

Ever heard of “Captain Planet”—TV show from the 1990s?  What about these?

Gorgeous pix of glacial caves.

Real time climate action tracker.

Late night show hosts will tackle climate change starting September 22.

Joy Loving
CAAV Steering Committee