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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for April 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 April 2022

Energy

The 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act required the state’s utilities to move aggressively into the renewable energy arena. Virginia Business reports that “Virginia’s largest electric utilities [Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power] are deploying an array of technologies as they decarbonize, digitalize and decentralize their power grids to meet the state’s and their own clean energy goals.” An SCC hearing examiner will issue a decision on Appalachian Power’s proposals “pretty quickly.” The projected costs of the utilities’ plans are raising concerns.

Dominion’s offshore wind project is maing news:

In 2021 Virginia produced more power from solar than from coal and “was number four in the country … in installation of solar facilities.” “Virginia solar output more than double[d] in one year,” a lot of it in Southside and most of it in utility scale facilities. Dominion will build a solar facility on 800+ acres at Dulles airport. Dominion is moving forward with its plan for a solar facility in Mecklenburg County and in Lunenburg CountyDominion wants to charge a hefty fee for shared solarraising questions about whether such a fee would spell the end of this program, intended to help renters and low- and moderate income people to access solar energy.

Norfolk Solar is offering a program to offer churches in low- or moderate income areas the opportunity to install solar panels under an investor‑funded program offering repayment from saved energy costs. An Arlington County “church [is] ‘leading by example’ on climate action through solar [and] efficiency.” Tiger Solar installed solar panels on McDonough Toyota in Staunton. Carilion announced “the solar arrays at its … New River Valley Medical Center have generated $113,633 from the sales of solar renewable energy credits and reduced Carilion’s carbon dioxide emissions by 5,368 metric tons.” “807 utility-scale, commercial rooftop, community solar and solar storage projects have been stuck in a growing regulatory traffic jam,” [awaiting] PJM Interconnection.” PJM ”coordinates electricity transmission in 13 states [including Virginia] and the District of Columbia, [and needs] to complete the required studies that would move the projects forward.” Other solar project applications, approvals and rejections: Gloucester, Isle of WightSurry CountyScottsburg/Halifax CountyCharlotte CountyNottoway CountyFrederick and Pittsylvania Counties.

“Dominion [E]nergy promise[d] $17 Million over the next three years to help boost reliability in Alexandria. The money will fund 20 improvement projects….” Dominion agreed to study whether/how its costly Wise coal plant, which isn’t producing much electricity, should continue in operation.

The Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance produced a chronicle of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Litigation continues on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The 4th Circuit Appeals Court “left in place a Jan. 25 decision that invalidated federal authorizations allowing the 304-mile … Mountain Valley Pipeline to cross the Jefferson National Forest.”MVP’s owners won’t appeal an adverse ruling on its proposed Southgate Extension. Columbia Gas is seeking the okay to replace 48 miles of existing pipes in Hampton. “Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) is working with state and local governments to modernize its pipeline infrastructure and promote safe digging [b]y upgrading and replacing more than 400 miles of older pipes.” Two bloggers assessed how the Virginia Natural Gas Industry sees its future, based on new state laws.

Dulles Airport eyes [an] all electric bus fleet.” Campbell County is “rolling out” two new electric school buses;” Waynesboro is adding six. “Virginia will receive $165.8 million in funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to provide Virginians with more transportation options, ease congestion in local communities, and reduce carbon pollution.”

Climate and Environment

Bristol’s landfill problems may be on the way to resolution:

DEQ released the 2020 TOXIC RELEASE INVENTORY REPORT showing a “slight overall increase, but individual releases to land and air continue downward trend.” Waynesboro will remake a former landfill into a “public recreational greenspace.” Some residents believe there are better uses for the money. Non-profit Sustainability Matters partnered with Shenandoah County to launch Phase II of their Making Trash Bloom project.

The Virginia Department of Energy is seeking applications for former coal mine reclamationWaste operators will be paying higher landfill fees, based on new legislation. Falls Church’s 5₵ plastic bag tax took effect April 1.

Lynnhaven River Now … is using recycled concrete from all over the city to lay in the Lynnhaven Inlet near the Lesner Bridge in order to rehab the oyster population. Recent legislation provided a “boost [in] spending for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office in Annapolis to $88 million this year.

“Legislation aimed at increasing tree canopies across Virginia passed both chambers of the General Assembly (GA) after legislators compromised on removing language around equity.” Senators Kaine and Warner are “leading an effort to create a Shenandoah Mountain National scenic Area.” A federal district court challenge to the National Forest Service Trump-era regulations expanding “a categorical exclusion to forest management activities including logging in national forests” failed but is on appeal. The Biden administration’s currently proposed regulatory revisions to the same regulations do not “restore the bar” in effect prior to the 2020 changes. The “broad coalition of Appalachian environmental groups, including four Virginia organizations … [that] sued the agency … [believe] the 2020 exclusions would ‘cause significant harm to publicly owned national forests across the country and to members of the public who use those lands.’”

The 2022 GA’s legislative record was mixed in terms of environmental protections. Shellfish growers in the state considered the session successful because no harm was done to the industry.

Charlottesville has made headway on its plan to reduce carbon emissions and is seeking citizen input through two surveys. The UVA Environmental Resilience Institute reported its optimism that the state can meet its net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2050, though more cuts are needed. The American West’s megadrought will be felt in Virginia’s grocery stores, as food prices increase, according to this blogger.

The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges’ heat-mapping study found “major temperature swings within Virginia localities.” DEQ will be monitoring air pollution from coal facilities in Hampton Roads. In contrast to Maryland and North Carolina, Virginia missed an EPA deadline for submitting its air quality report. Even so, the American Lung Association said “Virginia cities have some of the cleanest air in the country”—including Harrisonburg, Roanoke, Staunton and Richmond.

Flooding events throughout Virginia will continue and, according to climate advocates, “there is not nearly enough funding from the state to support current flood survivors and invest in mitigation project.”

“Eastern Mennonite University’s Earthkeepers club and Sustainable Food Initiative (SFI) presented at the first annual Student Sustainability Summit on April 9 at the Staunton Innovation Hub. … [T]he event, which included 10 research and project presentations, … was co-hosted by Sustainable Shenandoah Valley (SSV) and Net Impact, with the goal of bringing together networks of undergraduate students and community organizations who work in similar areas of impact relating to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.” JMU students celebrated Earth Week with a variety of events, and a JMU student made a case that “Climate change is affecting Harrisonburg.”

Action Alerts

  • Donate to the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project’s Energy Efficiency and Solar Effort. CAAV supports helping SVBHP reduce its energy costs; we hope you will too.
  • Give VDOT your views on its proposed project that “widens I-81 northbound and southbound to three lanes between exit 221 (I-64 interchange) and exit 225 (Route 262/Woodrow Wilson Parkway).” VDOT will hold an open forum public hearing from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24, in the VDOT Staunton District office auditorium, 811 Commerce Road, Staunton.
  • Drive an EV, a hybrid, or other fuel-efficient vehicle and don’t pile up the miles? You now pay a flat highway use fee, regardless of how many miles you drive it. Effective July 1, you’ll have the option to choose another payment method. Find out how

Check out…

  • Cville100 Climate Coalition Special Meeting: “Virginia’s Proposal to Leave the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).” Speaker: Prof. Cale Jaffe, Univ. VA School of Law, 6:30 P.M. Tuesday, May 10, 2022. Zoom link at www.cville100-climate.org. For more information, contact Tom Olivier.
  • Shenandoah Valley blogpost about the American chestnut.
  • Profile of Dante, Virginia, “an ex-coalmining town [that] is turning to ecotourism to rebuild its economy.”
  • Assessments of the extent to which rural Virginia areas can “and should shoulder the load for energy production” and whether “Virginia is at a solar crossroad.”
  • Virginia Department of Forestry’s 50% cost-share program to support treatment of ash trees damaged by the Emerald Ash Borer. It’s accepting applications through June 17. “Landowners with ash trees on their property should consider treatment or removal performed by a qualified arborist. If you are not sure if your tree is an ash, see VDOF’s online resources or contact your local VDOF forester for assistance.”

Why not 

  • Attend these on-line workshops on invasive plants sponsored by Blue PRISM:
  • On May 10 from 1 to 3 pm learn how to confidently identify different species in the summer season. Register here. Price is $10. 
  • On May 12 find out how to best manage invasive plants during the summer season and receive instruction on using manual & /or chemical control methods, the proper use of herbicides and ways to minimize it, and planning a work schedule with best timings for multiple plants. Register here. Price is $10.      OR
  • Attend this in-person session on May 22 at Charlottesville’s Pen Park from 12:30 to 3:30 pm. This event will cover the above topics including herbicide safety, using hand tools and power tools safely, and identification of specific invasive shrubs and vines. There will also be a short plant walk in the park. Register here. Price is $25.
  • Learn how oyster reefs in the Virginia Coastal Reserve are helping the Chesapeake Bay eco-system.
  • Find out how and why Virginia Tech is pursuing Bee Campus USA certification as part of its Climate Action Commitment.
  • Watch this story about the “state of litter” in Virginia during this Earth Day month.
  • Hike or mountain bike the Henry County’s now‑open trail along the Mayo River, near the not-yet-open 600+-acre Mayo River State Park.

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 March 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 March 2022

Energy

The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) continues to make the news.

A proposed natural gas plant, Chickahominy, has been canceled by its developers because “opposition from outside interests and regulations, largely advanced by the renewable energy industry and state legislators that supported them, made it impossible to deliver natural gas to the site.”

Business leaders in Southwest Virginia (SWVA) are seeking ways to boost economic prosperity in the wake of the coal industry’s demise in that region.

  • “InvestSWVA, a public-private economic development and marketing initiative for Southwest Virginia,” is looking at two ways “for sealing economic development deals: the right infrastructure and the right location.”
  • “Six old mining sites owned by the Nature Conservancy [in SWVA] will be some of the first utility‑scale solar farms in the region — and the nonprofit group hopes the model can be replicated nationwide.”
  • “Southwest Virginia is looking at what it needs to do to capture part of [the off-shore] wind energy business,” as part of Project Veer. “Nearly 200 companies in Southwest Virginia have the potential to play a role in the growing offshore wind industry, a regional analysis has found.” “A research initiative launched in Southwest Virginia has a goal of turning gob into valuable raw materials for high-tech manufacturing.”
  • Researchers want to answer the question: “Can waste coal help build cellphones and rechargeable batteries?
  • Evolve Central Appalachia, or Evolve CAPP, brings together a university-led research effort with public, private and academic interests … [through] a project that aims to harvest the industrial, environmental and economic potential of rare earth elements, critical minerals and nonfuel, carbon-based products — all out of waste coal.”

Virginia ranked 5th in the top 10 states in solar installations. The State Corporation Commission approved “a series of solar projects expected to generate enough power to light up 250,000 homes. Dominion estimates the projects will also generate more than $880 million in economic benefits across Virginia and support nearly 4,200 jobs.” One of the 16 approvals was for a solar and storage project at Dulles airport that will power the equivalent of over 16,000 homes and be the largest such facility in the US. Every one of these projects will likely enable Dominion to pass along costs, and collect profits, from its ratepayers. The Dulles project is one example. Dominion owns a subsidiary, BrightSuite, which assists prospective solar owners to have solar panels installed. Interestingly, its website touts the benefits of net metering, a system that provides credits for each kilowatt of solar energy a customer sends to the electric grid and one that Dominion frequently argues against. A recycling plant in Troy will offset most of its electricity costs with a 360kW rooftop installation. Massanutten Resort has announced its intent to significantly increase its sustainable operations through more energy efficiency operations and new solar panels.

A proposed on-shore wind farm in Botetourt County continues to have its difficulties, legal and otherwise. A “Botetourt County judge found that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality made procedural errors in approving the project.” Dominion Energy is awaiting construction of a large ship it wants to use to construct its planned off-shore wind farm.

Christiansburg will be the location of a proposed New River Valley train station, based on results of a feasibility study. A short stretch of road in Chesterfield County will serve as a test site for “the state’s first ’plastic road.’” The small section of “the road was resurfaced with asphalt that contains more than 6,000 pounds of a binder product made from recycled plastic.”

Climate and Environment

The Washington Post provided “Five takeaways from the latest United Nations climate change report…–a warning letter to the world. “

The federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended that EPA strengthen its regulations for “facilities that make, use, or store hazardous chemicals” to better ensure that the facilities ”are managing risks from natural hazards and climate change.” Almost 1/3 “these facilities are located in areas with certain natural hazards—like wildfires and storm surges.” GAO’s interactive map shows Virginia has several such facilities.

A recent NOAA report said: “By 2050, Virginia and other states along the Gulf and East Coasts are expected to experience a 1-foot jump…. Existing emissions data also suggests there will be 2 feet of sea level rise by the turn of the 22nd century.” An editorial writer, having used NOAA’s interactive map to visualize what is coming, penned “Response to sea level rise is a matter of great consequence,” citing changing demographics (not just in coastal communities) and changing economics for Virginia. Norfolk has both frequent flooding and a flood protection plan; not everyone thinks the plan is robust enough. A recent sea level rise forum at Old Dominion University focused on “the human side of coastal resilience” to examine proposed solutions to determine “who pays, how much do we pay, who is impacted, to what extent are they impacted? How do we mitigate these impacts?”

NOAA and its partners are using “a system that’s similar to the electronic tolling technology behind E‑ZPass … to help manage these fish species … that are really important to the bay ecosystem and the economy.”

Two opinion writers, citing examples of harm to several communities from waste management facilities argue that “We need to rethink waste.” “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Clean Water Financing and Assistance Program facilitated an effort to protect two streams at Garber Farms in Mount Sidney. The project was honored by the EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund … [through its] Creating Environmental Success program.”

After years of disagreement between the James River Water Association and the Monacan Indian Nation about where a new pumping station should be built, the two parties have agreed on a location other than the original one, which is a sacred site for the Monacan people. The water will be used to “serve future development in Zion Crossroads, Ferncliff, Shannon Hill and other Louisa County growth areas.”

A Loudoun County resident and Executive Director of Faith Alliance for Climate solutions asserts “Virginians can work together on the climate crisis,” and explains why and how. The Dan River Valley is home to a “new chemical-free vertical-farming facility.“ ”AeroFarms will produce tens of billions of leafy green vegetable plants per year at its new facility. Containing 48 plant-growing towers four-and-half stories high, the operation will entail the equivalent of a 1,000-acre farm.” Page County citizens are discussing “what could be done to both strengthen and grow agriculture locally.” Part of the effort included “an agricultural survey to better determine strengths and weaknesses related to Page County’s agricultural industry and what local government, or farmers themselves, could do to overcome certain obstacles and address the variety of issues they face.”

“Legislation aimed at increasing tree canopies across Virginia passed both chambers of the General Assembly after legislators compromised on removing language around equity…. The legislation this year was amended to strip out [existing] language that referenced adding trees in previously redlined areas and urban heat islands, issues which have traditionally disproportionately impacted Black communities.”

Action Alert

  • The General Assembly is deciding whether to approve a Budget Amendment from Governor Youngkin to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is a cooperative effort of eleven Eastern states to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In Virginia, proceeds from RGGI are used to fund energy efficiency improvements for low/middle income folks and coastal flood resiliency efforts. The Governor hasn’t offered alternative sources for the RGGI funds. Your elected officials need to hear from you now! To learn more about the political battle over RGGI, read this article. Find out who represents you and how to contact them.
  • Attend “We Believe We Will Win” virtual rally to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Thursday, April 7, 7pm. This event will bring together community leaders from Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina to share how victories have been achieved, what it will take to stop this disastrous pipeline, and how you can help. It’s sponsored by POWHR (Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights). Register here.

Check out…

  • Earth day Events like –
  • Managing Love’s Love Mother Earth on Earth Day – April 22, a free family fun festival, from 5pm-10pm at The Shops at Stonefield (2100 Hydraulic Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22901). The festival is geared to children and their families and will feature the Kids Climate Club, an initiative supporting our next generation of local leaders in climate and sustainability, as well as yoga, musical entertainment by the Book of Scruff, and a film screening of Harvests of Hope.
  • Send your or your children’s creative work to Earth Day Every Day’s art contest. The idea is to encourage the community to submit a “creative visual entry” for the contest using the 2022 Earth Day theme, “Invest in our Planet.” Submission deadline is Mar 31.
  • CAAV’s Earth Day celebration, Let’s Face it Together, JMU Planetarium, April 21, from 5:30 to 7pm, featuring a screening of Bill Nye’s Global Meltdown documentary and panel discussion about climate anxiety. Bring your kids, friends, co-workers, neighbors!
  • This new online newspaper that focuses on news, including energy and environmental, in or about Southeast and Southwest VA.
  • These sustainable furniture options.
  • These suggestions for reducing your energy usage and therefore your energy bills.
  • These ideas for new and improved trails Virginia should be planning for 2038. And go walking, hiking, or biking along some of the ones we already have.

Why not 

  • Learn how to Identify and Control Non-Native Invasive Plants in Spring/Summer, sponsored by Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards (CATS)–
  • Part 1: Introduction and Identification (Zoom): Tuesday evening, April 12, 2022, 7:00 to 9:00pm. Register here.
  • Part 2: Control Methods (Zoom): Thursday evening, April 14, 2022, 7:00 to 9:30 pm. Register hereThis class will show you how to identify about 30 common invasive plants in the Virginia Piedmont and illustrate a wide range of options for treating them.
  • Buy a tree raised at CATS’ own tree nursery, at its Spring Tree Sale – April 9th from 10:00am to 2pm, at the Virginia Department of Forestry, 900 Natural Resources Drive, Charlottesville. Arboretum and nature trail walks will be available. These young trees are offered at $5.00 to $15.00. Masks are recommended.
  • Sit in on this Virtual Program: Wetlands – What Are They and What Value do They Contain? – April 12. Join Sierra Club/falls of the James Group on Tuesday, April 12th, 2022 at 7pm as Dr. Scott Neubauer, associate professor of biology at VCU and wetlands specialist, speaks about wetlands, their value, and importance. Learn answers to these questions: Do you really know what wetlands are? Do they serve a purpose? How do they fit into the larger ecological picture? Is it ok to build on a wetland and create another somewhere else? Is it fine to use them for recreational use? Register here.
  • Reconsider your views on, of all things, weeds, as spring arrives and you contemplate your gardening chores. Find out if you could learn to “love weeds.”

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 February 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 February 2022

Energy

Once again, Virginia pipelines made headlines:

A local realtor supported the local GiveSolar/Habitat for Humanity project by producing this video about a recent “solar barnraising” in Harrisonburg. Solar panels are being installed on abandoned coal mine lands, including in Dickenson County. The builder of a long-planned on-shore wind project in Botetourt County is now looking for another buyer for the energy its turbines will produce, after its arrangement with Dominion Energy expired at the end of 2021.

The General Assembly (GA) passed a new law to allow ticketing for those who park a non-electric vehicle in a parking space designated for EVs. Virginia will receive “$106.4 million in National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure funding to use towards expanding the electric vehicle charging network.”

The GA is considering bills to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), prompting this opinion piece outlining some of the pros and cons. Not everyone believes that climate changes post serious enough risks for Virginia to remain in RGGI and a Virginia House subcommittee heard from several organizations on this matter. RGGI funds support flood resilience and energy efficiency. A Virginia State Senate panel, on the other hand, rejected a bill to repeal the Virginia Clean Economy Act.

 A Senate committee “rejected a bill that would have allowed local governments to adopt stricter energy efficiency codes than the state, with senators fretting it could prevent badly needed affordable housing from being built.” Perhaps the senators didn’t believe that making homes more energy efficient makes them more affordable over the life of the building.

A Virginia House committee “swiftly shot down a bipartisan proposal to study whether Virginia metal mining regulations are sufficient to protect state air and water quality.” But the Virginia Senate was interested in identifying the locations and extent of abandoned coal waste piles that “could amount to between 50 [and] 100 million tons of toxic mining waste.”

Climate and Environment

Virginia Tech’s Coastal Collaborator Project is tackling “emerging coastal challenges.” A new NOAA report predicts “Sea levels, rainfall and temperatures will keep rising in Virginia.” A Bacon’s Rebellion blogger wasn’t too disturbed by the predictions. “Leadership from 18 Anabaptist organizations in the United States and Canada convened at the Anabaptist Collaboration on Climate Change on Jan. 26- 27 to address what many consider a moral emergency.” The meeting was organized by EMU’s Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (CSCS).

Churchville residents got good news about a sludge pit application a local farm “to be the storage site for millions of gallons of industrial food waste and other sludges ….” Community opposition resulted in “withdrawal of the permit for the building of the 3-million-gallon storage tank ….” The EPA will “investigate North Carolina’s 2019 decision to allow four Smithfield Foods Inc. pig feeding operations to generate biogas from hog waste lagoons.” Smithfield has an arrangement with Dominion Energy to provide that waste for use in the latter’s Virginia plant. Virginia includes hog waste among its renewable energy sources.

Fredericksburg received a “$3.25 million grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality” (DEQ); “the money will aid … in improving the city’s overall stormwater quality and its effects on the Rappahannock River.” Landfills were the subjects of both news and commentary in Charles City County and, again, in Bristol. Virginia received $22+ Million in federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding to reclaim abandoned mine landsHealth advocates are calling for “greater oversight of plants emitting cancer-causing pollutants in Virginia…. Several industrial sites in Virginia have recently been identified as emitting cancer-causing chemicals into the air. Health experts and residents living near these sites say the government’s lax oversight of these plants exposes them and their neighbors to unacceptable risks.” ProPublica’s recent report included Virginia’s Radford Arsenal on its list of air-polluting industrial sites. The “analysis shows for the first time just how much toxic air pollution they emit — and how much the chemicals they unleash could be elevating cancer risk in their communities.”

In about two years, “if all goes according to plan, Woodbridge residents will have a new, scenic trail connecting the historic Town of Occoquan to the Lake Ridge Marina and points further west.” The Occoquan Trail planning has been underway for 10 years. The gift of an “historic Hobby Horse Farm in Bath County … will elevate The Nature Conservancy’s adjoining Warm Springs Mountain Preserve into a flagship preserve for the Appalachians.” “A 280-acre parcel of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship preserve in Loudoun County will form the backbone of a new Virginia state park”—Sweet Run State Park.

Virginia isn’t ready to collect deposits on bottle and cans. It’s likewise not prepared “to impose a fee on manufacturers selling products … based on how much packaging they use.” But it may be studying both issues as part of a recycling focus. The current GA members also decided they want to delay for another five years (until 2028) implementation of “a phased state ban on food containers made from a plastic foam called polystyrene.”

Action Alert

Find steps you can take to address climate change among these 10 suggestions.

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 January 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 January 2022

Energy

The Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to make news:

According to a State Corporation Commission ruling, the Chickahominy Pipeline LLC is a public utility, meaning SCC approval is necessary before the company can build it across several counties in Central Virginia. The Hanover County Board heard from developers about their plans for this 83-mile natural gas transmission line.

As part of its plans to meet requirements of the Virginia Clean Energy Act (VCEA), Dominion will seek SCC approval of its plans to build an energy storage facility in Chesterfield CountyAppalachian Power (ApCo) has also weighed in with its submission to the SCC on its plans to meet VCEA renewable energy mandates. ApCo agreed to purchase a 150MW solar facility in Pittsylvania County. A coalition of Virginia organizations wants electric cooperatives to be more transparent; there is a bill to accomplish this in the current General Assembly session.

Local non-profit GiveSolar’s collaboration with the local Habitat for Humanity (HforH) affiliate to put solar on HforH homes is receiving attention beyond the Central Valley. Efforts in Southwest Virginia to put solar on abandoned mine lands likewise is garnering some national attention. One sign of potential progress on more solar in that region is a new business in Tazewell County “to bring a solar panel manufacturer to Virginia, [with] … additional goals … to pair solar projects with former abandoned mine property … and to work with farmers to consider the development of solar grow houses to produce organic crops, thereby making the growing season year-round.” Another hopeful sign: “The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has awarded a $225,000 grant for a Solar Workforce Accelerator program” in that region. A Fauquier County climate group is promoting ways solar and agriculture can co-exist.

Passenger rail service in the New River Valley is in the process of becoming a reality. “A state authority is seeking public feedback on potential station locations for the extension of Amtrak service” there. The Shenandoah Bicycle Coalition is in favor of the proposed Shenandoah Rail and Trail project becoming a reality and collected 5,000 signatures to show support.

Climate and Environment

Outgoing Governor Northam “announced $24.5 million in grants … from the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund … made possible with funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Charlottesville was one of 22 localities to receive funds. “Hampton is set to receive more than $9 million to deal with sea-level rise and extreme weather.” Flooding is an ongoing problem in many parts of the Tidewater regions, such as in Suffolk. Despite a passed voter referendum for flooding resilience funding, Virginia Beach has slowed its actions while area developers express their concerns.

The Chesapeake Bay’s warmer waters off the Virginia coast has resulted in increased shrimp populations. The decade-long rise in water temperatures is good news for the shrimpers but is likely due to climate change. A “pre-historic-looking” fish, the Atlantic sturgeon, has returned to Bay waters after a long absence. They’re huge animals; their resurgence has surprised biologists.  New regulations will encourage shallow aquifer and discourage water withdrawals from Virginia’s deep eastern aquifers.

The Virginia Farm Bureau has established a program to “connect beginning and expanding farmers with retiring farmland owners who want to keep their land in agricultural production.” The USDA announced a $100,000 grant so “some Virginia farmers and food banks for whom they grow food will receive funding through the Farm to Food Bank Project.” ” The Land Trust of Virginia … announced a conservation easement on [a] 383.62-acre property in Waynesboro.” This easement “is the Trust’s first in the Greater Augusta region and brings its conserved acreage to 25,142 across 22 counties.” A freelance journalist who writes on environmental issues asked and answered this question: “How does Virginia fit into a national effort to conserve 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030?

Bristol’s landfill smell problem isn’t over. Virginia senators want the US EPA to help.

Three Virginia localities adopted a plastic bag tax that took effect January 1; one was Roanoke. An area company, Refill Renew, offered numerous tips for how individuals can reduce waste, including plastic. Fredericksburg’s new tax is raising concerns in nearby counties.

The Chickahominy Tribe of Virginia recently re-acquired land that it formerly owned.

Action Alerts

  • CAAV would like to hear from you. We’re looking for effective ways to distribute information to our community. Give us your preferences by filling out this quick questionnaire.
  • Tell the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization what you would like to see in its 2045 Long-Range Transportation Plan, by completing this brief survey.

Check out…

Why not sign up for …

  • This program, sponsored by Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club: “Plastic Wars” – Feb. 23, 6:30 PM. “Plastic Wars,” a joint investigation from FRONTLINE and NPR, reveals how plastic makers for decades have publicly promoted recycling, despite from almost the beginning privately expressing doubts that widespread plastic recycling would ever be economically viable. Register here.
  • This webinar–Affordable Housing is Sustainable Housing – Jan. 31, 6 – 7:30 pm– hosted by UVA Sustainability and the Community Climate Collaborative (C3). Housing can’t be truly affordable unless it is thoughtfully designed with sustainability principles in mind. Speakers from Piedmont Environmental Council, Cultivate Charlottesville, and LEAP will each share points of interconnection for just and equitable housing and climate solutions. Register for the event here.
  • The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) volunteer opportunity – Feb 3-5, 9 AM til, at Augusta Forestry Center, 90 Forestry Center Lane, Crimora, VA 24431. Help sow ~2,000+ American and hybrid chestnut seeds in containers. Sowing will happen over 3 days. You will maintain all COVID safety protocols (masks, safe distance), participants should be fully vaccinated). The bulk of the work will be inside of an enclosed greenhouse, next to a big warehouse. Take first left from the driveway, then cut back on the gravel road to your right. Stay as long as you want, bring water, lunch & snacks, dress for the weather, and bring work gloves. Purpose: The seeds represent TACF chapters and Virginia Department of Forestry’s advanced backcrosses, used for seed orchards and research. Contact is Tom Saielli.
  • Citizen Water Quality Monitoring webinar – Feb 17, 6 PM – sponsored by Wild Virginia and Izaak Walton League. Explore ways volunteer monitors can help protect and improve conditions in the places they use and value. Monitoring results can help affect the ways we and decision makers act, in planning activities on the land and in the streams to prevent problems and addressing problems that already exist. Register here.

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 2021

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

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


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

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for December 2021

Energy

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

Proposed pipeline projects made headlines this month—

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

Climate and Environment

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

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

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

Virginia’s coastal region garnered several stories, about:

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

Water was another topic of note….

As was “Old, and Possible New” hazards:

Action Alert

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

Check out…

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

Why not…

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

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

Happy 2022!

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

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for November 2021

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

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


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

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for November 2021

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action Alert

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

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

Check out…

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