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

Energy

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) https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?hl=false&edition=prelim&req=granuleid%3AUSC-prelim-title42-section18795a&f=treesort&fq=true&num=0&saved=%7CSGlnaC1FZmZpY2llbmN5IEVsZWN0cmljIEhvbWUgUmViYXRl%7CdHJlZXNvcnQ%3D%7dHJ1ZQ%3D%3D%7C1%7Ctrue%7Cprelim

§18795. Home energy performance-based, whole-house rebates (HOMES) https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?hl=false&edition=prelim&req=granuleid%3AUSC-prelim-title42-section18795&num=0&saved=%7CSGlnaC1FZmZpY2llbmN5IEVsZWN0cmljIEhvbWUgUmViYXRl%7CdHJlZXNvcnQ%3D%7CdHJ1ZQ%3D%3D%7C1%7Ctrue%7Cprelim

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.

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 

Energy

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.

Transportation

“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.

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 

Energy

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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for October 2022 (Part II)

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 2022 (Part II)

Energy

Virginia’s Governor issued his Energy Plan. A Southwest Virginia editor noted that the “plan shows the changing politics of energy [with] … the Republican governor of a coal-producing state who is not talking up coal.” A long-time follower of Virginia energy policy and laws expressed skepticism, asking “You call that an energy plan? Youngkin doesn’t have a lot of ammunition to use against the switch to renewable energy.” She argued that the Governor’s document is not actually a plan and doesn’t meet the statutory requirements for what each Energy Plan must address.

Canary Media graded Virginia a B on fostering community-led clean energy; its grades “reflect whether states have a range of policies to promote community-led clean energy.” The Institute for Local Self‑Reliance’s Community Power Scorecard also rated Virginia a B on “how [its] policies help or hinder local clean energy action.” The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) announced “the greater Washington, D.C., region [exceeded] its 2020 goal of reducing greenhouse gases 20% below 2005 levels, thanks to “Fewer miles traveled on the roads along with a drop in energy usage in buildings facilitated by the pandemic-induced lockdowns in 2020 along with a cleaner power generating grid.” Virginia Conservatives for Clean Energy reported that the Port of Virginia plans to transition to 100% Clean Energy by 2024 through “a new power purchase agreement signed this year [that] will allow it to power all of its energy needs with solar, nuclear and wind resources through Dominion Energy.”

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is joining 18 other states in an investigation of six major American banks over their environmental, social and governance, or ESG, investing, citing harms to Virginia farmers and companies. ESG is an umbrella term used to describe companies’ consideration of environmental, social and governance factors such as climate change and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in their business dealings.”

Protestors from Pulaski County visited with legislators in DC to express their views about the climate justice aspects of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project. There is a pending appeal from environmental groups of a previous water crossing certification because of prior MVP violations of water quality standards. The “three-judge panel with a history of tossing out permits for the Mountain Valley pipeline appeared ready … to reject yet another approval for the natural gas project.” ”MVP owners “decided to withdraw eminent domain actions against land in North Carolina the company sought for its Southgate extension, a 75-mile offshoot of the main pipeline that would carry gas from Pittsylvania south to Rockingham and Alamance counties.” However the owners denied “giving up on [the] Southgate Extension after [its] eminent domain pullback [was] cheered by opponents.”

Given the Governor’s intent to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), some legislators are considering what legislative remedies might lessen the impact on ratepayers of the utilities’ passing on to consumers their costs associated with participation in RGGI. “One legislator, however, wants the General Assembly to change how utilities such as Dominion Energy pass along those costs, asserting that adding them to the base rate could help customers by prompting more scrutiny from regulators.”

Following a request for reconsideration, the SCC has let stand its determination that $55.10 is a reasonable monthly administrative fee for Dominion’s multifamily shared solar administrative fee. Critics believe the fee “is too high. But those interested in a different solar program for people who live in multifamily housing like apartments will see a lower administrative fee ($16.78) than initially proposed by the utility…. Both programs were created by legislation in the 2020 session to expand options for solar use, with the shared solar program intended for those with solar restrictions like shady yards. The multifamily solar program was intended to be used by those living in apartments.”

“The Wood Brothers Road Solar project will be located on a portion of an active soybean farm in Middlesex County, where it’s slated to reach commercial operation in the first half of 2024. Along with adding solar energy to the farm’s harvest, Wood Brothers also provides supplemental income to the landowner in the form of land lease payments over the lifetime of the project.” Goochland County wants to “get ahead of requests for solar projects” and its supervisors “voted unanimously to begin the process of amending the county’s current ordinance governing those operations.”

Dominion Energy … proposed 23 new solar and energy storage projects totaling over 800 MWs that could power more than 200,000 Virginia homes at peak output.” The company announced its “acquisition of a 15.7MW battery storage project in development” as part of its plan. One of its planned solar projects is “an 835-acre, 100-megawatt solar array at Dulles Airport. Loudoun County Supervisors “advanced for action a proposal to rezone the airport land to an industrial district [from its current residential zoning], a holdover from the land’s pre-airport history …. But until now the need to change that zoning has never arisen—the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is exempt from local zoning control for airport-related development.” Dominion also plans “to build [a] city‑block-sized electric vehicle charging park [in a vacant parking lot in] downtown” Richmond. The non-profit Partnership for Smart Growth reacted: “While we support EV’s, this is still a parking lot (albeit with some green space) in a city seeking to become less car dependent.”

A long-planned mountaintop wind farm, the Rocky Forge Wind project in Botetourt County, received renewed approval from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. If the project is completed, it would be the state’s first on-shore wind farm.

Citing his “all-of-the-above” Virginia Energy Plan,” the Governor said he will seek $10 million from the legislature for an “Innovation Fund for research and development of innovative energy technologies including nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture and utilization and battery storage.” After Governor Youngkin declared his support for a “push for small nuclear reactors” in coal communitiesVirginia’s and West Virginia’s House Speakers both jumped on board. The Governor also announced that the Energy DELTA Lab, “an outgrowth of the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority, which the General Assembly created in 2019, will “pitch [previously set-aside] land for energy companies who are looking for a place to test new technologies – be it solar and wind or hydrogen or carbon capture or … small nuclear reactors.” Local citizen groups expressed concerns about nuclear development and about the lack to date of community engagement. An editor wondered whether “Youngkin’s nuclear pledge to Southwest Virginia [is] full of potential or just empty.” A Virginia Tech professor and “director of the nuclear engineering program” argued that “Virginia is well positioned to be a leader in nuclear energy.”

Climate and Environment

planned landfill in Cumberland County is raising concerns because of its proximity to a historic Black School. A Southwest Virginia group is pushing “for [a] halt to open burning at [the] Radford Army Ammunition Plant” because of concerns about undesirable health risks. The Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Onsite Water and Wastewater Services will reexamine its sewage handling and disposal regulations; such a review was last done 20 years ago. The current effort is spurred by “climate change pressures” that cause flooding of septic systems from “sea-level rise and intensified rainfall.” Ironically, a state “Program [that] provides safe water and septic to Virginians [is now] out of funding.

Kroger grocery store chain began “effort to eliminate single-use plastic bags in mid-Atlantic stores [with its Henrico County store piloting the] bag program.”

During a recent meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council … to set goals for 2025, Virginia’s Governor acknowledged that Virginia will not meet federal guidelines for Chesapeake Bay cleanup by 2025, despite “the General Assembly [having] dedicated record funding this year to state programs that help farmers pay for pollution reduction practices like streamside fencing. About three-quarters of the pollution reductions Virginia still has to achieve are expected to come from the agricultural sector.” The Environmental Protection Agency just issued its own mixed though generally sunny assessment.

 “Farmers and landowners can access a record $235 million next year in state funds to help pay for an array of practices aimed at protecting the nation’s largest estuary. The funding is available through the Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program.” The “Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force co-chairs issue[d] $3.5 million in grant funding” through the Chesapeake WILD grants. The awards will protect more than 3,300 acres of fish and wildlife habitat, the restoration of nearly 1,000 acres of forest and marsh habitat and more than 20 miles of rivers and streams across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

The Chesapeake Bay watershed region is “losing ground” despite efforts to increase tree canopy. Efforts continue to help the declining and endangered fresh water mussel population, with one project happening in the South River, near Waynesboro. This article outlines ways of “Helping the Chesapeake from way upstream.”

Following a July flooding event, “Dickenson County [was] awarded $2.2 million from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to fund an acquisition, floodproofing and restoration project in the county.” The Governor announced that “State aid for Hurley flood victims to arrive ‘well before Christmas.’”  However, FEMA denied financial help to Buchanan County property owners after [the] July flood.

The Governor “endorsed eight [abandoned mine] sites in Southwest Virginia for funding by the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) grant program.”

Good news! The American “chestnut is not dead. Every now and then, mostly in remote and rugged areas, a full-grown American chestnut is discovered. And scientists at Virginia Tech recently helped confirm one.”

“The Virginia Grassland Bird Initiative works with landowners and farmers in a 16-county region to preserve bird habitat during several species’ nesting periods in the spring and early summer. Their working region stretches from Frederick and Loudoun counties down to Augusta and Albemarle.” This “program that protects bird populations in the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Shenandoah Valley regions is entering its second year.” “Conservation of grassland birds may provide incentives for qualifying farmers.”

ACTION ALERTS:

  • Help let Harrisonburg residents know about the no-cost home weatherization opportunity from Community Housing Partners. 50by 25 Harrisonburg will lead a walk-around in several neighborhoods on Saturday, November 12, from noon to 3 pm. Sign up here if you can come out and help your neighbors lower their energy bills.
  • Learn ways that Harrisonburg can become more healthy and sustainable. Attend this discussion on Nov 10 from 5 to 6:30 pm at the Massanutten Main Library, sponsored by several local organizations including Livable Harrisonburg and Sierra Club/ Shenandoah Group. Join UVA Professor Andrew Mondshein for a presentation on the high cost of mandatory parking minimums.

Check out…

Why not…

  • Consider becoming a beekeeper? Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will provide help and up to three beehives.
  • Learn how to protect your farmland from development, and help clean up the Chesapeake Bay, as explained by an Augusta County farmer who succeeded.
  • Plan a hike through the “Blue Ridge Tunnel, which runs between Nelson and Augusta counties, [and] was recently recognized for its historic significance. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources announced … the tunnel and eight other historic sites have been added to the Virginia Landmarks Register.”

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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for October 2022 (Part 1)

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 2022 (Part 1)

Energy

Amherst County joins other Virginia school systems deploying its first electric school buses. Currently, “Virginia is required to follow California EV standard, [and automobile] dealers … [are preparing] for [an] electric future.” “California ban on gas-powered vehicles [by 2035] highlights EV challenges, including affordability.”

Whether or not to allow solar farms, including ones to support large data centers, remains a vexing question for localities like Halifax CountyCulpeper CountyPatrick CountyPrince William CountyPittsylvania CountyHanover County, and Charlotte County. One concern is around disposal of panels at the end of a solar facility’s life.

However illogical it seems on its face, a coal company in Southwest Virginia said the demand for renewable energy means more of a specialized type of coal mining –for thermal or steam coal—needed to make steel. This region is also working hard to develop pathways to renewable energy careers, including around the solar industry, making use of federal money. Virginia Tech scientists are focusing on ways to obtain 17 so-called “rare” earth elements that are actually “relatively abundant in the earth’s crust.” The “scientists are studying methods of extracting critical minerals from tailings [“material left over after separating out the coal”] and another waste product called acid mine drainage. Their aim is to lay out “what could be the groundwork for a new industry.” Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to facilitate the region’s transition from “coal to green jobs.” Virginia Senator Warner and state and local economic development officials are vying to attract semiconductor chip manufacturing facilities to four Virginia industrial sites as the commonwealth gears up to fight for a piece of the financial pie from sweeping federal legislation that promises to ramp up chip production in the U.S.”

Hydrogen could become an alternative fuel source at some point. “A hydrogen plant could rise near a former King George coal plant.”

There is a federal and regional state initiative to develop regional hubs to serve the growing wind industry and provide a coordinated buildout of its needed infrastructure. “Siemens Gamesa plans to build the first U.S. offshore wind turbine blade factory in Virginia but the first offshore wind projects will have to source turbines and other major components from” elsewhere and there is a competitive need to reduce times to acquire materials for that infrastructure. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) ruled that Dominion Energy will need to cover costs, without holding ratepayers liable, if its off-shore wind project fails to perform at the capacity the company says it will. The SCC has the authority to take this action, according to some experts. For Dominion and its customers and shareholders, the question who will pay for the project. Some believe a more competitive process is needed.

The SCC wants more authority to proactively “protect electric reliability related to plant closures …, a move some environmental lawyers say isn’t a pressing priority.”

There remains opposition to going along with Senator Manchin’s demand that the Mountain Valley Pipeline be completed, including objections by indigenous people and other residents of Appalachia to his recently proposed bill, as well as advocacy groupsHouse members weighed in. West Virginians are divided. Nonetheless, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a “stabilization plan” to replace installed pipeline equipment that has aged out. Protesters in Giles County were fined and ordered to do community service after the “Trojan Duck” action against the pipeline.

The Governor is proposing a regulatory action to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative(RGGI). Some faith leaders want Virginia to remain in the program. Because there is strong opposition to the Governor’s position and efforts around RGGI, there may be legal action ahead. “Legislators [are considering] ways to keep power bills down amid Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative debate.” A cartoonist expressed his view of the effect of ending RGGI on Virginia’s carbon footprint.

Climate and Environment

An Old Dominion University study said “Unchecked sea level rise would cost Virginia $79 billion this century.” Another study projected “major local tax losses due to sea level rise” for numerous Virginia coastal cities and counties, because of tide lines and current definitions around property lines.

“The Roanoke Valley’s primary supplier of public water took steps Thursday to curtail a contaminant found in the Spring Hollow reservoir and the nearby Roanoke River.” The contaminant is known as “forever chemicals.” “The goal is to limit the spread of GenX, a so-called “forever chemical” that has been detected in both the reservoir and the nearby Roanoke River.” These chemicals have also been found in Chincoteague, located near NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility, which has increased the frequency of testing.

Virginia’s two senators “secured $25 million in a budget proposal for imperiled Tangier Island,” but one commentator said the need for action to curb sea level rise suggests this one-off bailout is misplaced. The senators also arranged for $46 million in federal funding to replace lead water pipes in the state. Cedar Island will benefit from federal funding to “restore and expand 217 acres of marsh along the southern part.”

“Virginia’s promise to cut pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay is likely to miss its 2025 deadline, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin said speeding up work is a top priority.”

NOVA Parks adds 44-acre preserve [in Alexandria] to its network of green spaces.”

Indoor vertical farming is becoming more popular and Chesterfield County will soon have one. Herndon has one called “Beanstalk”, as does Pittsylvania County.

ACTION ALERT:

If you are a Harrisonburg resident, please consider attending the October 25 City Council meeting to hear a statement from several local organizations, including CAAV, urging the Council members to take action urgently to reduce the City’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Details will be published on social media October 19 or 20.

Check out…

  • This upcoming webinar from Virginians for High Speed Rail: Transforming (Intercity & Commuter) Rail Across Virginia – Nov. 1, 2022, 01:00 PM. Register here.
  • Virginia Conservation Network’s Education series of webinars about its 2023 “Our Common Agenda.” The Schedule is below. Register here.
  • Climate & Energy Week: Oct. 3–7 (webinar 10/6 at 11 AM)
  • Clean Water & Flood Resiliency Week: Oct. 10–14 (webinar on 10/13 at 11 AM)
  • Land Use & Transportation Week: Oct. 17–21 (webinar on 10/20 at 11 AM)
  • Good Governance & Budget Week: Oct. 24–28 (webinar on 10/27 at 11 AM)
  • Land & Wildlife Conservation Week: Oct. 31–Nov. 4 (webinar on 11/3, at 11 AM)
  • Blue Ridge PRISM’s “Homegrown National Park” webinar with Doug Tallamy, Tuesday, October 18, 11:30 to 1. This presentation will include discussion on how we can regenerate biodiversity in our landscapes. Dr. Tallamy will have a Q&A with the audience at the end of his presentation. Register here for this online event; it’s waitlisted but you can sign up anyway. Those who register will receive access to the recording.
  • Blue Ridge PRISM’s fall 2022 newsletter that includes the article “Restore Biodiversity Where You Live” by Natali Walker, with tips by Dr. Tallamy. Find details on his 10 tips, which are:
  1. Shrink the lawn
  2. Remove invasive species
  3. Plant keystone species
  4. Be generous with your plantings
  5. Reduce your nighttime light pollution
  6. Network with neighbors and get on the

Homegrown National Park Map

  1. Build a conservation hardscape (you don’t have to be a gardener)
  2. Create caterpillar pupation sites under your trees
  3. Do not spray or fertilize
  4. Educate your neighborhood civic association
  • Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards (CATS) Zoom presentation Tree Identification by Season: Fall – Tuesday evening, October 25, 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Register here. Presenter will be Tree Steward Emily Ferguson for a tour of our fall color palette treat spanning from green through red and discover tips and tricks to help identify common native trees.
  • Virginians for High Speed Rail’s Transforming (Intercity & Commuter) Rail Across Virginia – Nov. 1, 1 pm.  Learn about the future of rail transportation in Virginia. Register here.
  • The state Forestry Department’s online seedling store.
  • This guide to finding apples, pumpkins, and corn mazes this fall.
  • This article explaining how “xeriscaping” can help you “turn your lawn into a sustainable oasis.”
  • Hiking in Roanoke’s Read Mountain preserve, with its recently acquired 56 acres.

Why not… 

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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for September 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 September 2022

Energy

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) recently approved Dominion’s offshore wind project, with the caveat that Dominion needs to achieve the projected capacity of 42% of the “stated 2,600 megawatts of output.” There have been a number of articles and opinions about the fact that the SCC’s approval was a foregone conclusion because of the authorizing legislation, about the costs and risks to ratepayers, about data that has remained hidden, and about the benefits the project will bring, including economic ones related to jobs and Virginia’s becoming a “hub”. Dominion was not happy with the ruling, which is believes is “untenable.” It threatened to cancel the project. The SCC will “hear more arguments on … ratepayer protection.”

The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) made the news for several reasons:

“Virginia’s largest coal mining operation is set to get even larger after Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration announced a deal between the state and Coronado Global Resources to expand operations and production at the company’s Buchanan Mine Complex in Buchanan County.” The expansion will produce 181 new jobs. This is the same county that has seen record flooding recently and whose “residents waiting for help to begin flood recovery: Good news may not be on the way.” “FEMA, for some reason, doesn’t want to help people who lose everything in floods.

Buckingham County residents, having successfully opposed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, “are being forced to take on industrial metals mining.” “Who monitors Virginia gold mining? It isn’t always the state. “

“Dimension Renewable Energy has built eight solar farms and has partnered with nonprofit Community Housing Partners [CHP] to enroll those that live in CHP’s public housing into the [shared solar] renewable energy program next year. Some 450 Hopewell and Petersburg CHP residents will have the option to enroll … and benefit from lower energy bills…,” “Virginia schools [are] among [the] top in [the] U.S. to utilize solar energy.” Southside VA has lots of solar farms—more than tobacco farms. An editor explored what that can mean for the region. “Guidance on how local governments can protect themselves when utility-scale solar farms reach the end of their life is now available with the release of a report from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.” Storm water runoff is one issue.

“D.C. region leaders want to halve transportation emissions by 2030 despite road widening plans. [The]

Key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to promote regional transit strategies.” EVs are on the rise and a company in the Roanoke Valley hopes to capitalize on that happening. “California’s 2035 ban on new gas-powered cars set to apply to Virginia. A 2021 state law linked Virginia vehicle emissions standards to California as part of efforts to combat climate change.” “GOP leaders want to untie Virginia from California EV rule.” The Governor also “opposes banning [the] sale of new gas vehicles in Virginia by 2035,” as does the House of Delegates leader.

The “Youngkin administration outline[d its] plan to withdraw Virginia from carbon market by regulation.” “61 Virginia Democrats — more than a third of the General Assembly — signed onto a letter addressed to the state’s Air Pollution Control Board opposing Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed regulatory route to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.” Various groups and commentators have supported this opposition:

Appalachian VoicesBuchanan County residentCAAV and other environmental groups during August 31 rallies, including in Abingdon.

Climate and Environment

“Virginia Peninsula’s coastal forests threatened by sea level rise and other risks, a new ODU study says, concluding that “unchecked sea level rise would cost Virginia $79 billion in this century.”

“Cedar Island …, a small strip of marsh and sand that shields part of the Eastern Shore from the brunt of Atlantic storms … [is] home to an unassuming nature preserve that supports the shore’s native seabird population. … Once, it was at the center of a controversial housing development that has since slipped beneath the waves. The barrier island is now at the center of a [$800,000] project by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science that hopes to preserve the island’s marshes even as the sandy shore continues to shift every year.”

The “EPA [told] 15 states they missed [an] air pollution plan deadline.”  Virginia made the list. DEQ will study air pollution in two largely Black Norfolk neighborhoods near coal terminals.

“In Portsmouth, a Superfund Site Pollutes a Creek, Threatens a Neighborhood and Defies a Quick Fix.” The EPA will remove radioactive material from the “Portsmouth property that housed [a] scrap metal facility.” A “medical sterilization facility in Henrico [was] flagged by EPA for chemical emissions.” The facility is “one of 23 such sites that decontaminate medical instruments using ethylene oxide, while also emitting the chemical as an air pollutant at rates found to be hazardous in the long term for the surrounding community.”

“Phenomena known as harmful algal blooms have led Virginia to add portions of Lake Anna and six other water bodies to its impaired waters list, an inventory of waterways that don’t meet state environmental standards. Other listed waterways include Mint Springs Lake in Albemarle County, Aquia Creek east of Stafford, Wilcox Lake south of Petersburg, Woodstock Pond in James City County, Prince Edward Lake near Farmville and an unnamed tributary of the Chickahominy River in the Richmond area.” Also on the list are several streams in the Charlottesville area. Work is underway in several Virginia counties to upgrade water systems.

Coal ash removal is controversial but feasible, an investigative report confirmed. “North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are proving it is possible for utilities to remove massive quantities of coal ash from ponds where it endangers groundwater, placing it in safer lined landfills. This could be a model for other states, but challenges remain.” Reuse may provide one solution.

Bristol still hasn’t resolved its landfill problems; the DEQ isn’t happy.

“Tests have detected a so-called “forever chemical,” a class of hazardous substances that can remain in the environment for generations, in the water of Spring Hollow reservoir in Roanoke County.”

Plastic recycling is back in Waynesboro, after three-year hiatus, beginning Sept. 1.” Washington and Lee University stopped selling bottled water on campus. Virginia Beach continues to struggle with a proposed plastic bag tax.

The “John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District, a state-funded county agency that promotes farm conservation practices,” received new funding to allow the “agency to help farmers, landowners improve conservation practices.”

As part of its Bee USA on Campus efforts, VA Tech students are proposing numerous projects “to preserve pollinator biodiversity by enhancing pollinator habitat.”

Vineyards are susceptible to the invasive spotted lanternfly; they are working to get ready for their invasion.

Check out…

  • UVA Lifetime Learning Reducing Vehicle Engine Emissions session (in-person or virtual), Nov. 19. Learn what future demands and possible solutions will affect the current exhaust emissions catalytic converter systems current >99% conversion of pollutants under widely varying driving conditions. Register at this link to attend in person or receive a link to view the live stream online.
  • UVA Lifetime Learning session, Designing for Climate Resilience (in-person or virtual), Nov. 12. You may register at this link to attend in person or receive a link to view the live stream online. Learn about current innovative research on climate resilient buildings, landscapes, and communities — from the coastal landscapes of Virginia’s Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay region to community development in the Arctic; from renewable biomaterials for building construction to new planning methods for restorative urbanism.
  • The newly opened Damascus Trail Center; it’s now open “to all trail hikers, bird watchers, nature enthusiasts, and tourists.”
  • This blogpost explaining why “There Has Never Been a Better Time to Fence Cattle Out of Streams.” It’s due to record funding.
  • The Shenandoah Valley scenic rail train ride, based in Staunton.
  • The best time for viewing the splendor of autumn leaves in Virginia.

Why not…

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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for August 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 August 2022

ACTION ALERT

Join CAAV at 9 am on Wednesday August 31st as we send a message, along with other environmental groups, to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board: Virginia must continue to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI uses proceeds from carbon polluters to fund flood resilience programs in the state and to provide energy efficiency improvements for low and middle income residents. Help us let the Board and the Governor know they don’t have the authority to withdraw Virginia from RGGI! We are rallying at Piedmont Regional Office of the Virginia DEQ in Harrisonburg (4411 Early Rd). August 31st. Be there to say you want the reduced air pollution that RGGI is making happen.

Energy

The 2021 National Solar Jobs Census showed an overall increase of 9% nationwide, with increases in 47 states. Virginia is not among the top 10 states, but did have job growth in this sector in the 10-15% range. A Staunton solar installer recently analyzed data from some of its customers to examine if and how solar benefits utilities and their non-solar customers. In its report, Secure Futures writes that “benefits to commercial solar customers center around the reduction in peak demand billed from the utility, while non-solar participants can theoretically save money due to reduced need for higher cost peaker-plant generation. The consistency and reliability of these demand reductions benefits all stakeholders.” The same installer is teaming with a retired Augusta County educator to update its “‘Throwing Solar Shade’ program. Using her perspective as a teacher to make valuable improvements to the program, she’s now updating the lesson plans and materials for teachers to use with their students.” “Highland Springs High School … [is] the first Henrico [County] school to go solar, with more schools to follow…. This summer, there are also plans to install rooftop solar systems at Tucker High School … and the two-story Holladay Elementary School addition in Richmond.” “12 schools in Wise and Lee counties will soon be powered through solar energy, and their students are learning the trade in the process.”

Some of Dominion Energy’s Virginia customers are going solar, maybe more and faster than the company expected, as ratepayers watch their electric bills to up and determine they can save money on those bills. So, among other actions, Dominion Energy:

“The SCC approved Appalachian Power’s renewable energy plan.” Under the Virginia Clean Economy Act, ApCo will need to produce all its energy from carbon-free sources by 2050. “Doing that will cost Appalachian $32 million in the upcoming rate year…. To cover the utility’s expenses, the commission allowed a rate increase that adds another $2.37 to the monthly bill of an average residential customer.” In an opinion piece, a Virginia energy expert says: “Your electric bills are skyrocketing. Blame our [utilities’] failure to invest in renewable energy [much sooner.”

The Virginia Supreme Court overruled another SCC decision on an ApCo rate increase request related to an accounting practice. “The SCC ruled that Appalachian failed to meet its burden of establishing that was reasonable — a decision that the commission lacked the regulatory discretion to make, the Supreme Court found.” “Electricity rates for Appalachian Power Company customers are poised to go up after the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed part of a decision by state regulators that was key to keeping the utility’s rates unchanged.”

The SCC approved Dominion Energy’s plan for its $9.8 Billion Offshore wind farm. The project, located 27 miles offshore from Virginia Beach, will be paid for through the SCC-approved rate increase. “The … utility has already erected two pilot turbines for its 2.6-gigawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project. Installation of the wind turbines is expected to begin in 2024…. With the approval of the wind farm, the SCC also approved a revenue requirement of $78.702 million for the rate year from Sept. 1, 2022, through Aug. 31, 2023, to be recovered through rate increases to Dominion’s customers. ‘Over the projected 35-year lifetime of the project, for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month … [it] is projected to result in an average monthly bill increase of $4.72 and a peak monthly bill increase of $14.22 in 2027. The rate adjustment clause is effective for usage on and after Sept. 1.’” Virginia Conservation Network reported on next steps for the project. “Sweden‑headquartered construction company Skanska … signed a $223 million contract with the Virginia Port Authority for the redevelopment of the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, which will support the 2.6 GW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project.”

Fairfax County is exploring creation of a “green bank” to help promote clean energy funding. “The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded $11 million to the Hampton Roads Workforce Council in Norfolk to make a training network that focuses on clean energy, cybersecurity and blue economy jobs.”

The recently announced federal “climate deal” may help insure that the Mountain Valley Pipeline goes forward, thanks to the insistence of West Virginia Senator Manchin and Democratic leaders. A “one‑page summary of the deal … says the Biden administration and top congressional Democrats will ‘require the relevant agencies to take all necessary actions to permit the construction and operation of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and give the D.C. Circuit jurisdiction over any further litigation.’ That latter provision is important because … the pipeline has been stymied by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; presumably the D.C. Circuit might look more favorably on the pipeline.” MVP opponents are unhappyfearing “that it may contaminate rural streams and cause erosion or even landslides”, including some West Virginia residents. MVP “opponents vow to keep up fight despite Manchin deal.” MVP developers “praised the deal.” Senator Manchin offered his own views about the agreement he reached with the President and Congressional leaders. The “Manchin deal” raised these questions (and probably others): “Permitting deal: Pipeline boom or ‘propaganda exercise?’” “Will climate bill lead to more mining in Virginia?” A respected blogger Virginia energy issues says: “Buckle up, folks: this federal climate bill is going to supercharge Virginia’s energy transition.”

“The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has unanimously approved a proposed 65-mile biogas pipeline network that would cross the Blackwater River and two swamps at seven locations in Surry, Sussex, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties.” The proposed network is “a joint venture of Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods [and] secured approval … to build a regional processing facility [to] turn methane from hog manure, also known as biogas, into pipeline-quality natural gas.” Not everyone thinks the proposal is a good idea. A Surry County Supervisor resigned in protest over the County Board’s vote of approval. The “regional biogas facility … would be sited near his home.”

Virginia’s “Department of Energy (Virginia Energy) … received $22,790,000 in federal funding [for abandoned mine cleanup] — more than five times the usual amount — which … will significantly increase the projects and job opportunities made possible through the Abandoned Mine Land program.” “Reclamation work on mine sites [is expected] to expand across southwest Virginia over next 15 years.”

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling “sharply cut back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce the carbon output of existing power plants…. The … President … and environmentalists said it raised formidable obstacles to the United States meeting its climate goals, including the president’s goal of running the U.S. power grid on clean energy by 2035.” The decision “could have far-reaching consequences, according to legal experts….” The Court determined the EPA “lacks authority to broadly regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants” and the “ruling threatens to constrain federal climate action at a time when it should be aggressively ramping up.” The Southern Environmental Law Center believes that, because of recent legislation, “Looking ahead, Virginia’s clean energy efforts could be a model for climate action,” although these laws “face an uncertain future under the current Republican leadership in Virginia.”

Climate and Environment

Charlottesville joined Albemarle County in implementing a 5₵-per-plastic-grocery-bag tax. Albemarle County “has partnered with The Piedmont Environmental CouncilResilient Virginia, climate modeling engineering firm Sobis, and Richmond-based marketing firm Green Fin Studio to analyze the risks and vulnerabilities of climate changes within …[the] County. The study examines extreme heat, drought, flooding, fire, disease and pestilence, and the intersections of all of these hazards. It also views their impacts through the lens of people, the natural environment, our built environment and the economy.” Loudoun County supervisors recently approved its “wide-ranging” environmental plan, with the aim of making the county “greener and more energy efficient“; local environmental groups urge the supervisors to set specific goals in support of specific commitments. Rockingham County approved funds to hire a consultant to assist with development of an updated Comprehensive Plan.

King William County will see “a significant extension of sewage dumping as fertilizer on fields” because the Department of Environmental Quality approved a private company’s application notwithstanding strong public opposition.

Virginia Tech has earned a Bee Campus USA certification for commitment to sustaining native insect pollinators.” “Virginia’s Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine has expanded to include the counties of Albemarle, Augusta, Carroll, Page, Prince William, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Wythe and the cities of Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Lynchburg, Manassas, Manassas Park, Staunton, and Waynesboro.” The purpose of the expansion is “to slow [the] spread of [the] invasive pest.” “The spotted lanternfly is a threat to wine industry” among other adverse effects. “The Virginia Department of Forestry … confirmed the presence of the emerald ash borer, an invasive tree-killing insect, in Gloucester County” and Hampton Roads. “Efforts are ramping up to root out an invasive plant that biologists say is a very bad actor — a type of water chestnut that’s been found in Northern Virginia in recent years.”

A Southwest Virginia effort to supply brewers with locally grown barley aims to limit shipping-related emissions and offer an opportunity for farmers during what’s usually the fallow season.”

“Oyster poaching [is] feared [because of a sharp decline in the oyster population in the James River’s Wreck Shoals sanctuary off Newport News, … a major nursery for oysters, a $22 million a year fishery.” The decline happened in an area closed to harvesting and with no other obvious cause.

Virginia’s barrier islands are moving toward the mainland,” based on a recent study that examined the relationship of the retreat and sea-level rise. The “Naval Weapons Station Yorktown [is] building [a] living shoreline to combat erosion [and] sea level rise…. The base is set to construct about 2,900 feet of living shoreline along the York River this summer” as a first step toward reducing its vulnerability.

Virginia Beach receive[d] $25 million for flood mitigation project in [a] national competition…. The event, hosted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was open to communities vulnerable to climate change and needing help with funding mitigation plans.”

Check out…

  • The Rivanna Trail Foundation’s (RTF) 30th Anniversary celebration, Loop de ‘Ville, Sept. 24 & 25. Find registration and more information here.

Saturday’s events:

  1. A hike of the main Rivanna Trail 20 mile loop (free)
  2. A guided mountain bike ride of the main Rivanna Trail 20 mile loop (free)
  3. After party at the Rivanna Roots concert—doors open at 5PM (tickets $15 or free to the first 100 people who registered for Saturday’s program)

Sunday’s events:

  1. A 5 mile “no-drop” run (free)
  2. A family-friendly walk of a short segment of the trail (free)
  3. After party at the Wool Factory—doors open at 12PM (free entry)
  4. A guided mountain bike ride of the Rivanna Trail River North section (free)
  5. This information from Blue Ridge Prism about controlling the invasive Japanese stiltgrass. Now (August) is the time to beginin the weeks just before it flowers and sets seed. In Virginia, it is present in nearly every county.
  6. ClimateXChange’s website offering data about Virginia’s Climate Policy Tracker.
  7. Legislative Scorecards issued by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter.
  8. The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) and the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Landowner Legacy Planning Workshops (online), Sept. 7,8,14, & 15. Learn how the Generation NEXT program, a collaboration between VDOF and VCE, helps Virginia landowners make plans to keep forests intact, in forest, and in family. Registration opens up six weeks prior to each workshop. Visit the VCE website for more information.
  9. The Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance Conservation Hub, featuring “Development Projects Affecting Regional Communities and Ecosystems.”

Why not…

  • Register for the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards’ Tree Basics Classes on Zoom: Select, Plant, and Care for Trees – Tuesday, September 20, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Register here. Perfect timing before its October 1st tree sale to learn how to select a tree for your property that will have the best chance to survive and flourish in the place that you choose for it. Also learn about best practices for planting and show you how to care for your newly planted tree and your other landscape trees for the long term.
  • Listen to the Cville100/ PEC Meeting to discuss the new climate vulnerability and risk assessment for Albemarle County – Aug. 23, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. The hope is that this presentation will be widely attended and will catalyze attendees to put pressure on the County to take next steps on resilience and mitigation. Learn what climate change means for your community, especially in Albemarle County. Register here. Alternative dial-in information: 470-250-9358.
  • Take your kids and join Project Grows for its open house September 16, 4 to 7 pm, at 608 Berry Farm Rd, Staunton 24401. Take a farm tour, enjoy light refreshments, join the activities, and use the “new barn facility and high tunnel to new farm areas like ‘the mountain,’ sunflower labyrinth, and bridge crossing.” Register here.
  • Read this Virginia Conservationist’s views “on the ‘fundamental conflict’ between climate and consumerism.”

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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for July 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 July 2022

Energy

The just-issued, first‑of‑its‑kind Virginia Solar Survey aimed to collect data and information related to each county and city’s experience, readiness, efforts and needs related to solar development. This report contains a summary of results and preliminary analysis of key findings. The City of Charlottesville’s partnership with Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP), a non-profit, hopes “to make the switch to solar energy easier and cheaper for city residents.” A new program from the Virginia Department of Energy is seeking proposals from companies “willing to finance and install solar at low- to moderate-income homes in Wise County.” Proposals for utility-scale solar farms continue to make news, with decisions for and against in Surry CountyChesterfield CountyHenry County, Fauquier CountyCharlotte County, and Pittsylvania County.

UVA will “begin multi‑year effort to find ways to create, store, and use clean energy.” The federal Department of Energy is seeking public input about its plan “to turn [abandoned’ mines into clean energy hubs…. [T]he proposal came from] the Biden administration’s Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, which seeks to deliver federal investment to revitalize hard-hit energy communities…. The clean energy hubs could feature solar photovoltaic systems, microgrids, geothermal energy, direct air capture, fossil-fueled power generation with carbon capture, utilization and sequestration, energy storage, including pumped storage and compressed air, and advanced nuclear.”

Virginia fishing industries are concerned about future federal plans for more offshore wind facilities. The Governor signaled his support of offshore wind, but declined to join a federal partnership of 11 East Coast states to boost offshore wind. He warned that “potential new offshore wind sites could cause ‘millions of dollars of negative impact’ to Virginia fishing industries.” A blogger noted concerns raised by environmentalists and others about increases to Virginians’ electric bills when Dominion seeks cost recovery for its wind projects; another blogger wants Dominion to set its projections into binding promises, to lessen such impacts on its customers. Martinsville’s New College Institute developed “Virginia’s first wind technician training program certified by the Denmark-based Global Wind Organisation” so workers can receive needed safety and other training. The SCC “approved Appalachian Power Co.’s latest plan to tap more power from the sun and wind in an effort to generate all carbon-free electricity for the utility’s Virginia customers by 2050…. To cover the utility’s expenses [of doing that], the commission allowed a rate increase that adds another $2.37 to the monthly bill of an average residential customer.”

Virginia received $106.4M in federal funding to develop an electric vehicle charging network over five years, with guidance that “the ideal recipients of these funds are the existing gas stations and convenience stores that line every interstate exit in the commonwealth.” Priority locations are “federally designated ‘alternative fuel corridors,’ which in Virginia include interstates 64 and 95 … [and] interstates 66 … and 81…. [Virginia’s] initial plan will be focused on building public direct current fast chargers on the [priority] corridors … while also supporting charging in rural and disadvantaged communities.” VDOT is seeking public input on transportation needs via two surveys.

EV owners must pay an annual highway fee of $116.49 in addition to standard vehicle registration fees. Beginning July 1, 2022, EV drivers may choose to enroll in a mileage-based fee program in lieu of highway use fee.” If an EV owner “ends up driving more than they expected to, the fees can never exceed the highway use fee the driver would’ve paid if they didn’t sign up for the per-mile program.” “A new [bipartisan] state law could jump‑start the conversion of much of Virginia’s government vehicle fleet from gas-powered to electric cars by asking state officials to look at a vehicle’s lifetime costs rather than just its sticker price before buying.” Fairfax Connector, “[t]he county-run bus service[,] plans to introduce eight electric buses by December, according to a presentation to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ transportation committee.” Noting a SW Virginia EV plant’s addition of a new truck model, an editor argues that “the geography of the future electric vehicle industry is being drawn now” and that SW Virginia has the opportunity to have a bigger slice of that pie.

The DC area regional Transportation Planning Board voted “to adopt aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals for the transportation sector, pledging to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.” Effective July 11, “Amtrak has scheduled a second daily departure from Roanoke, offering another option for travel to Washington, D.C., and to cities in the Northeast and Southwest Virginia.” “New round trips … to Norfolk and … to Roanoke bring to eight the number of state-funded round trips from Washington. The expansion … addresses [the] growing demand for more intercity train service in the state.” “Significant ridership increase [is] predicted” in the Roanoke area. A state study requested by legislators concluded east-west passenger rail service, from “Newport News to the New River Valley,” is feasible. Suffolk residents want an Amtrak stop in their area.

In response to the Governor’s desire to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, several Virginia organizations, including CAAV, have urged the Air Pollution Control Board not to take such action.

Writing in The Trek, an online site telling the stories of Appalachian Trail hikers, a thru-hiker issued “A Call for Thru-Hikers to Learn About the Mountain Valley Pipeline.” “A federal appeals court … turned back the latest of many attempts by Southwest Virginia landowners to keep … [the MVP off their property [through eminent domain].” A Court of Appeals denied “Mountain Valley Pipeline’s request for new judges.” MVP wants FERC to grant it a second extension, for four years, to complete the project. Another appeals court dismissed a suit against the proposed extension of the MVP (the Southgate project), although legal hurdles remain.

Climate and Environment

“Almost $400,000 in federal funding is coming to the Blue Ridge Parkway earmarked to enhance tourism, outdoor recreation and overall economic development in Virginia.” Chesapeake has a new park in a largely industrial area along the Elizabeth River, intended to preserve green space. Virginia’s Douthat State Park is one of seven state parks recommended by Blue Ridge Country magazine as worthy of “national status.” The Governor formally dedicated Seven Bends State Park, in Shenandoah County. “Virginia has 41 state parks, with at least two more on the way.” A small, 7-acre park in Alexandria “was designated a Community Forest by the Old-Growth Forest Network” because “it displays some characteristics of those important natural areas [old growth forests], as both a habitat and a place where harmful carbon is stored in the roots of aged trees. Red oaks, white oaks, chestnuts and tulip trees thrive there.”

Virginia Tech researchers are working to “measure farmto-fork food loss … [that] occurs in all phases in the supply chain—not only in processing, distribution and retail, but on-farm too.” “A flour mill in Nelson County is one of 11 recipients of state-funded grants meant to bolster the infrastructure of food and farming enterprises.”

The “national environmental nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity filed a [federal] lawsuit … against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its failure to determine or finalize protections for four species that have faced steep losses over the past decades.” One species, the freshwater mussel native to Southwest Virginia, is included in the suit.

The spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect, has found its way into the Valley and is being added to the quarantine in effect elsewhere in Virginia.

“As Wegmans ends use of plastic bags at Virginia Beach store, [the] city consider[ed a] 5-cent bag tax.” “VB [deferred a] vote on plastic bag tax, as some council members look[ed] to address litter on a ‘broader scale’. The Governor rolled “back plastics phase-out, seeking to … [promote] recycling” [while eliminating]“ a commitment by his predecessor to phase out single-use plastics at state agencies and universities. He delayed the “Polystyrene takeout container ban … five years.” One commenter argued the Governor’s “mixed signals on plastic bags [and] recycling indicate we should do better by our habitat.” “Warrenton restaurants [signed a] pledge to reduce single-use plastic straw waste.” Fredericksburg’s “Revenue from [its] plastic bag tax could top $40K.” Charlottesville is “considering adding a 5₵ plastic bag tax.”

The National Park Service is partnering with “states, localities, and private entities” to establish 10 “guiding principles” to guide legislation governing the proposed Chesapeake Bay National Recreation Area designation, establishing “a voluntary collection of sites that represents the nation’s largest estuary and the diverse communities, culture and history that surround it.” A surplus in Virginia’s budget resulted in record funding to support Bay cleanup efforts. The costs of those efforts are also rising, thanks to inflation. Maryland is beefing up its cleanup activities. The Bay’s crab population is way down and Virginia and Maryland have imposed stricter limits on harvests. “Low blue crab counts have led to new restrictions on harvesting male and female crustaceans that [went] into effect July 1.” The Virginia Marine Resources Commission halted Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s work on artificial oyster reefs in the Bay, citing “a substantial violation of the state code.” CBF said it’s working to correct the problems.

FEMA and VDEM awarded the town of Drakes an almost $1million grant “to acquire and demolish” several buildings severely damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018. “Flood damage in Buchanan County [following recent heavy rainfall has been] called ‘apocalyptic’ … [with] a long cleanup ahead.”

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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for June 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 June 2022

Energy

Washington & Lee University inked a “long-term virtual power purchase agreement” with a solar developer “to purchase enough solar energy to match 100% of the university’s annual electricity consumption.” Meanwhile, the Port of Virginia says it’s ahead of schedule on its goal to be carbon neutral by 2040, and will be meeting all its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2024.

In a petition to the Federal Trade Commission, over 200 advocacy groups, including Solar United Neighbors, accused “investor-owned utilities of taking advantage of their status as regulated monopolies to uphold ‘market control’ at the expense of consumers and certain climate‑friendly policies.” Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power are investor-owned regulated monopoly utilities. A blogger said “Fuel Costs [Will] Explode on Dominion Bills in July,” pointing out that “The dramatic electricity cost projections made a few years ago when the General Assembly adopted the Virginia Clean Economy Act [VCEA] did not include these explosions in fossil fuel prices.” To meet its emissions goals under the VCEA, Appalachian Power issued a Request for Proposals for up to 100 megawatts (MW) of solar and/or wind resources via one or more long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs).

blogger wrote that Appalachian Power customers in Southwest Virginia may have to ”shoulder their ‘share’ of the cost of propping up two money-losing West Virginia coal plants.” The same blogger wrote: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? Dominion Energy begins selling residential solar.” A State Corporation Commission hearing “examiner recommends approval of Dominion’s relicensing plans for North Anna and Surry plants,” saying these plants “’may become more important to the transmission system’ as Virginia and the utility move to decarbonize the power grid by midcentury.”

Harrisonburg resident Alleyn Harned’s opinion piece concluded that, despite the limitations of producing hydrogen from renewable energy, [it’s] “a critical piece of the puzzle for reducing emissions.” Thanks to the Ukraine-Russia war, Virginia’s coal production is rising. A Virginia Tech professor pointed out that, “for over a century, this region has powered the country’s growth with coal, gas, and oil. But its communities have not seen the prosperity and health the fossil fuel industry continues to promise them.”

North Carolina and Virginia are getting $58 million of USDOT money for rail projects in 32 states. It will help build anticipated high-speed passenger rail service between Raleigh and Petersburg, including funds for improvements at the Ettrick Amtrak station. Virginia is also searching for funding opportunities for “a $3.7 billion passenger rail plan that depends on construction of a second two-track bridge over the Potomac River to Washington, D.C.”

 A commenter asked: “As Congress bankrolls electric conversion for bus fleets, is Virginia ready?”

“The City of Martinsville partnered with American Electric Power (AEP)” to establish a 10MW battery energy storage facility. The city will receive a percentage of the savings the facility will generate and will save money “by reducing its peaks when the electric grid needs that power the most.”

Roanoke Delegate believes “It’s not too late to call it quits on the Mountain Valley Pipeline [MVP].” MVP owners are seeking the appointment of new appellate court judges to rule on litigation. This storymap, produced by Appalachian State University, links the stories of landowners in Giles, Montgomery, and Roanoke Counties about their experiences with MVP construction.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance Report, The State(s) of Distributed Solar — 2021 Update, shows “The U.S. electricity sector is evolving toward a clean, decentralized system at an ever‑accelerating pace.” ILSR says “Distributed solar, which can be owned by individuals, businesses, and public entities, is turning the electricity industry upside down as individuals choose to generate their own solar power.” Virginia is behind many states.

Charlotte County Supervisors postponed deciding the fate of a proposed 240MW solar faron 2,000+ acres. “Russell County … cut the ribbon on a new regional industrial park that turns an area of old coal mines into an area of potential economic development opportunities.” A Staunton solar development company created a “Solar Installer Apprenticeship Program in Southwest Virginia…. High School Students in Virginia’s Coalfield Region [Will] Install Solar on Their Own Public Schools through an Innovative Partnership Program.” A solar developer filed a notice of intent for a 15.68 MW Endless Caverns South Solar Project near New Market. “Lynchburg Parks and Recreation [celebrated} the opening of [its] new Solar Power Education Facility … [that] contains an array of features about solar…. [It’s] developing a curriculum on solar power.”

Climate and Environment

“The city of Alexandria has allowed toxic chemicals to discharge into the Potomac River for more than 45 years, and has not taken action to fix the problem, according to a new lawsuit by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network.” “Two environmental organizations that filed a citizen lawsuit … against Henrico County, alleging that the county has repeatedly violated the Clean Water Act during the past three decades, now are challenging the decision of a federal judge who ruled … that their suit could not subject Henrico to civil financial penalties because the county already was facing such penalties from the state.”

This blogger offers an example of a Louisiana approach to flood control that he believes Virginia should follow. Hampton wants public input as it looks for ways “to combat sea level rise.” The non-profit Climate Central issued results of a study that “Virginia could lose 42 percent of tidal wetlands to sea level rise by 2100. Researchers say conserving coastal land where marshes can migrate is a ‘decisive factor’ in offsetting losses. A “Hampton Roads group wants to help save historic homes from flooding — using science.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public input on ways to reduce flooding along the west bank of the Potomac River. “The proposal … follows flooding from Hurricane Isabel in 2003 — among other big named storms — which caused millions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses.” Governor Youngkin vetoed legislation to give an appointed citizen board authority over the “Virginia’s Community Flood Preparedness Fund, a pot of millions of dollars earmarked for community flood protection work across the state, [which] will remain under the oversight of the executive branch….”

Bristol Tennessee sued its sister city in Virginia “over [the latter’s] lack of action on its embattled landfill.” There was to have been a “hearing on Bristol, Tennessee’s motion for a preliminary injunction on June 21 …. On June 14 the cities reached a settlement agreement. Virginia lawmakers approved a biennial budget that includes $2 million in funding for the landfill. DEQ wants the city to come up with an action plan by July 6; as part of its agreement with DEQ, the city decided to stop accepting trash and eventually “closing and capping” the landfill. Cumberland County’s water may be in trouble similar to Flint Michigan’s, according to testimony given to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality about a proposed mega-landfill.

From Shenandoah Valley farms to the Chesapeake Bay: ‘Historic’ cleanup proposal included in state budget deal.” There is funding for improving farming practices to reduce pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer run-off and keep cattle out of waterways, plus money to address stormwater runoff.

“A veteran government scientist and meteorologist [has] become director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which oversees federal and regional Bay environmental monitoring and cleanup efforts … [over] 64,000 square miles across New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.” A recent University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science report gave the Bay only a C+ health score, up from a C last year. The Chesapeake Bay blue crab population is way down, concerning fishery managers because “it has been accompanied by a three-year streak of below-average reproduction.” “Virginia is proposing tighter regulations on the crab harvest after [a] survey showed the population of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay is the lowest in the survey’s 33-year history.”

Thanks to efforts by volunteers to collect “millions of eelgrass seeds [as part of a restoration effort] …, an underwater eelgrass meadow near Virginia’s Barrier Islands now spans about 10,000 acres…. The underwater fields store enormous amounts of carbon dioxide in the seabed, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming.” Scientists want to know “what feeds the fish in the Chesapeake Bay” and are “casting a wide net” to find out. This storymap “highlights Chesapeake Forest restoration during Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, … shows how trees and forests throughout the watershed contribute to a healthy Chesapeake Bay[,] describes specific practices and strategies for restoring forests in different landscapes and contains information about the role that forest restoration can play in mitigating and adapting to climate change.” The Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley described “how we experience the Bay here in the Valley.” The description by Erin Burch, penned in honor of the Bay Awareness Week, included this wonderful map of the Shenandoah Valley’s part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

 “A Cape Cod science center and one of the world’s largest shipping businesses are collaborating on a project to use robotic buoys to protect a vanishing whale [right whales] from lethal collisions with ships.” One buoy will be located off the Virginia coast.

An Arlington group opposes “changes to Arlington housing policy [that] could have a cataclysmic impact on existing tree canopy in the community.” Richmond’s summer “heat and humidity are getting worse, and global warming plays a part.” The heat island effect there is becoming more and more apparent; planting more trees can help.

A Virginia Beach coalition led by Lynnhaven Now wants the city to join other Virginia localities and set a 5₵ tax on plastic bags. Wegman’s announced it will discontinue use of plastic bags in its Virginia Beach and North Carolina stores effective July 1; the company plans to eliminate plastic bag use completely by the end of 2022.

Action Alert

Check out…

Why not 

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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for May 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 May 2022

Energy

A joint UVA-Virginia Department of Energy solar survey revealed that “the total amount of electricity generated annually by solar in Virginia went from 30 GWh in 2015 to 3,675 GWh in 2021; [and] … identified property values, economic benefits, and the impact on farmland as topics related to solar that Virginians are most interested in.” A federal investigation of solar equipment imports may slow installations. There are concerns that predatory residential solar installation companies will “sow distrust;” advocates want “more guardrails.”

Solar farms continue to make news around the state, with voices raised for and againstCharlotte CountyFrederick CountyHalifax CountySouthsideKing William, King and Queen and New Kent CountiesHenrico CountyAlbemarle CountyWinchester, and Caroline County. There is growing interest in transforming brownfields into solar farms. EPA awarded DEQ “$2 million in brownfield grant money by the EPA, the most funding of its kind ever received by the agency.” The designated areas are “the cities of Emporia and Newport News and the towns of Appalachia and Blackstone.”

PJM, the grid operator for Virginia and other eastern states has put “1,200 Mostly Solar Projects on Hold for Two Years … [so it can] cope with the “unprecedented influx” of proposals to generate electric power. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “released a new rule proposal that acknowledges the increasing prevalence of renewables throughout the country and seeks to address issues in the transmission of renewable energy from source to consumer.” It wants PJM and other transmission operators to look ahead and consider the effects of renewable energy on grid management. Eight Virginia organizations “have joined more than 230 consumer, environmental and public interest groups in asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate electric industry practices that they say ‘impede renewable energy competition and harm consumer protection.’”

The potential compatibility between agriculture and solar panels is being looked at: The state promotes pollinator friendly plantings among the panels. A local solar installer developed and presented a ”Hands‑on School Curriculum on Solar Power,” illustrating that “Solar Companies Offer Both Solar Panels and Solar Education.” Virginia’s DEQ has tightened regulations to reduce stormwater runoff from solar installations; they’ll go into effect in 2023. Advocates for utility-owned “shared solar” are concerned that high utility fees will dampen or kill the market and reduce solar’s availability for multi‑family buildings. Acknowledging that Dominion customer bills could rise 12 to 20 percent because of the global energy price rises, Dominion pointed “to renewables as a long-term shield against volatility.” blogger notes that Dominion’s recent request to the SCC to raise electricity prices by about $9/month because of rising fuel costs was untimely. Another blogger reminds us: “Under Virginia state law, regulated utilities like Dominion are permitted to raise customer rates in order to recover fuel costs. Rate adjustments intended to recover fuel costs are not legally able to increase utility profits, however.” A shareholder proposal seeking a report from Dominion over its risk from “stranded natural gas assets” passed despite Dominion’s objections to the proposal that the SEC overruled.

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is weighing the approach Appalachian Power wants to take (and charge) for meeting its renewable energy requirements under the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). If the SCC approves ApCo’s pending application to install 500 MW of solar in the next three years, Martinsville residents will see an increase in their electricity bills, even though some of it comes from its surrounding county.

Work and planning continue for the planned wind farm off Virginia’s coast. The state is behind others in its wind development. Advocates for wind energy want Dominion to hire local workers. They also want ratepayer protections from possible cost overruns and other project risks. The SCC is considering whether Dominion’s request for reimbursement for the costs of its wind projects is “reasonable and prudent.” Parties to the proceeding can’t agree on how to address ratepayer protections. Governor Youngkin has endorsed the project.

The long‑planned on-shore wind farm in Botetourt County has had its ups and downs. The developers will hold another public hearing on June 15. “Anyone interested in submitting their input on the proposed Rocky Forge Wind — which would be the first on-shore wind farm in Virginia — can [attend the hearing and] also make written comments during a 30-day period beginning May 26.”

Generation 180, based in Charlottesville, is pushing for more use of electric vehicles, including at a recent auto show in the Big Apple. Fredericksburg is now one of 24 US localities to join the Department of Energy’s Drive Clean Rural USA project, the goal of which is to include rural communities in the pursuit of a clean environment. Southern and Southwest Virginia localities are cooperating with Virginia Tech on ways to make these areas a major “nextgeneration” transportation hub. A study is underway on the feasibility of adding Amtrak service to Bristol. Thanks to “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” Virginia will receive billions to address, among other issues, public transit and clean drinking water. The condition of many dams, including several in Virginia, is kept secret in a Federal database. The Department of Environmental Quality awarded grants for electric school buses in several central Valley locations, including Harrisonburg, FredericksburgAlexandria, and Montgomery County.

Virginia Natural Gas will use drone technology to assist its pipeline inspections and problem identification issues, including methane leaks. Mountain Valley Pipeline planning, delayscosts, and litigation continue. “Equitrans, the [MVP] lead investor …, announced [in May] they will reapply for permits from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Those permits have been twice approved and twice rejected by the courts.

Some Virginia residents are facing the air pollution effects of an asphalt plant next door, while others are concerned about possible gold mining activities near their homes. A state panel is studying the “potential impact of gold mining in Virginia.” Environmental groups sued a coal company owned by the West Virginia governor for “its failure to clean up three mines in Wise County.” “A byproduct of the Roanoke Valley’s wastewater will soon be put to use as a renewable form of natural gas, the first such endeavor of its kind in the state.”

Climate and Environment

Many areas are at considerable flooding risk, especially from flash floods. Jamestown is facing disaster from chronic flooding. Chesapeake Bay states, including ours, are receiving help with Bay cleanup from Federal partners. One partner, the EPA, recently awarded Virginia $40 million. Bay-area non-profits also have a strategy for combatting climate change. “Four Virginia-based small businesses focused on coastal resiliency and flooding will receive funding to develop their products, Norfolk-based nonprofit RISE Resilience Innovations announced [May 12].”

Virginia Beach residents passed a referendum to deal with its flooding issues, but its city council has delayed a “vote to fulfill [the] flood referendum promise for fourth time.” Coastal residents are worried that a recent change in Virginia law will make it more difficult for them to develop property. The change “directed the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to approve only living shoreline designs when property owners seek permits for shore stabilization projects, ‘unless the best available science shows that such approaches are not suitable.’” A joint study by UVA and The Nature Conservancy offered the good news “that restored reefs can match natural reef oyster populations in about six years and continue to hold strong thereafter.” There’s been a significant decline in the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population and scientists aren’t sure why.

The Shenandoah National Park added over 200 acres through a purchase from the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

JMU researcher examined why humans want to save endangered species and found multiple reasons. Despite years of conservation efforts, poaching and development are threatening Virginia’s wood turtle population.

Action Alerts

Check out…

  • One of Virginia’s state parks designated as International Dark Sky Parks by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) – Staunton RiverJames River, and recently added Natural Bridge and Sky Meadows.
  • Wildlife Center of Virginia’s award-winning public TV series “Untamed—Life is Wild.”
  • How a small Virginia former coal mining town “is seeking to transform itself into a hub of ecotourism by nurturing the environment around it, and bring some of the natural beauty back to the community.”
  • This “Full Disclosure” podcast on “Solar’s present and future in Virginia.”
  • These National Forest sites in Wise, Dickenson, Scott, and Lee Counties; they’re open this summer.
  • This tool to learn about changes to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
  • How Charlottesville businesses formed a Green Business Alliance and set themselves a goal to “cut their carbon pollution by 45% by the end of 2025.”
  • How this Franklin County farmer is improving water quality and won an award for his conservation efforts.
  • This webinar on “The Social Life of Trees”, Tuesday evening, June 14th at 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. by Zoom Register here. Find out: Do trees really communicate with one another? What is a ‘mother tree’? Can a tree do anything to repel a pest? How do trees share nutrients with one another? What is the role of mycorrhizal fungi in sharing messages and nutrients among trees? How do trees protect themselves and neighboring trees against pests? What is the value of old growth forests?

Why not 

  • Take your next trip to the DC area on the VA Breeze busesRidership has gone back up from the pandemic numbers and someone else can do the driving on I-81 and deposit you and your family in downtown DC!
  • Weigh in on the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization’s study to identify transportation needs in 2045. A relatively small number of area residents responded to the Phase I survey; Phase II will begin in early summer.
  • Plan a vacation trip to Nature Conservancy preserves and public lands in Virginia.
  • Learn how a Roanoke area organization, the Harvest Collective, found grant money for a community garden to help young people learn about growing their own food.
  • Watch this news story “Birds, biology, Baltimore orioles: How a William & Mary class turns campus wildlife into a lesson.”
  • Take a look at this story about sea turtles that become hooked or ensnared in fishing lines and equipment and the efforts to help them.
  • Consider saying “Goodbye to grass”; learn why some folks are embracing “‘eco-friendly’ lawns and gardens.”
  • Use an electric lawn mower. If you want to keep your grass, and keep mowing it, you can “electrify your lawn care.”
  • Use this guide to stargazing and visit the Sky Meadows State Park.
  • Find some delicious sweet berries this summer. Virginia expects a good crop of strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
  • Learn about what plants to include in your garden to attract pollinators.

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.