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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for October 2021

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

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


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

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for October 2021

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Environment

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

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

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

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

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

Action Alert

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

Check out…

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

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

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for September 2021

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

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


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

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for September 2021

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also check out:

Find out how….

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

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for August 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 August 2021

Energy

proposed Botetourt County wind farm in missed a deadline in the approval process; the developer appealed that determination. Offshore wind (OSW) is coming to Virginia and the State Corporation Commission has opened a docket anticipating a “coming application from Dominion Energy Virginia for its massive offshore wind proposal”; a blogger discusses pros and cons. OSW is under review for the North Carolina coastif built, some of the energy produced would be sold to the Virginia marketArea residents differ in their receptiveness to the prospect of large wind turbines offshore.

blogger discussed findings from a Wood McKenzie study giving Virginia top rankings as a “top state for new solar capacity additions,” pointing out that, nonetheless, “it’s still common to see proposed solar developments meet defeat at the local level.” A Valley farmer and solar advocates recommends “Stop whining about solar panels — we need more now.”

Solar United Neighbors intervened in a Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) Rate Increase application now pending before the State Corporation Commission (PUR-2021-00054), arguing another “20% increase … doesn’t align with members’ needs.” SVEC increased its fixed charge from $13 to $25 within the last 18 months. The SCC will hold a public hearing on October 6. Member‑owners can comment here.

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A Harrisonburg non-profit, Give Solar, has partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate to put solar on several newly constructed homes this year. The hope is to provide “a path to homeownership and sustainable energy” and to expand the model to other Habitat affiliates in the state. A well‑respected Virginia energy policy expert and blogger touted this local effort. (CAAV and other local organizations will host a benefit concert, “Songs for Solar”, to support it: September 10th, 7 – 9:30 PM, Community Mennonite Church, 70 S. High St, Harrisonburg VA 22801. All free will donations will go to GIVE SOLAR. Come and bring your mask.)

Fredericksburg’s Clean and Green Commission, partnering with Local Energy Assistance Program, launched a Solarize Fredericksburg campaign, through which “Fredericksburg [residents] and surrounding counties can sign up to receive a free solar satellite assessment and access discounted prices.”

An EPA letter to the Army Corps of Engineers recommended the Corps disapprove a water permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) because “[t]he current design of the pipeline threatens a variety of water bodies across Virginia and West Virginia.” Wild Virginia agrees. Although MVP owners plan to purchase carbon offsets for the project’s projected annual 730,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, environmentalists are unimpressedProtesters continue to raise objections to the MVP and some were arrestedDirectly affected property owners sued to prevent blasting for [the] pipeline on Bent Mountain.” The Department of Environmental Quality said it’s looking into complaints.

One legacy of the cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline: “A federal review of a plan to restore land disturbed by construction of the … Pipeline… recommends that some 31 miles of installed pipeline and 83 miles of trees felled … be left in place to minimize further disturbance to wildlife and vegetation.” Some of the infrastructure is on easements on privately held property. Nelson County residents want Dominion to rescind those easements; Dominion said they should stay in place until restoration is complete.

The market for coal is negative and utilities are evaluating when and how to discontinue its use. Coal’s negative environmental effects were underscored by a late July 13-car train derailment that sent coal into the James River. Charles City County residents “fended off” a proposed natural gas-fired plant.

Climate and Environment

Virginia’s Conservation and Recreation “received a $1 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to expand … living shorelines in Rural Coastal Virginia to reduce coastal erosion and benefit water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.” Environmental groups want the state to put one-sixth of funds due from the new American Rescue Plan to step up the pace of efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay.” The Governor is supportive but not all General Assembly members agree. The Chesapeake Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center released a reportClimate Benefits of Chesapeake Bay Restoration in Virginia–examining “how efforts to improve water quality in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed have also provided a secondary benefit of helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere.” Underwater sea grass is important to a clean Bay; for the second year in a row, abundance of such grass declined, possibly affected by “impacts from extreme weather and changes in water quality.” The Virginia Living Shorelines program should flourish thanks to a $1 Million grant that will help homeowners install “natural water breaks like sand, marshes, and oyster reefs that stabilize shores and conserve habitats—to stop … erosion.”

A recent Inspector General audit found Virginia’s current decentralized approach to monitoring and addressing drinking water quality is flawedAnother IG audit concluded the state’s oversight of its conservation easement program needs improvement. Virginia’s Natural Resources Secretary concluded the program is inequitableAddressing flooding in Virginia Beach will cost millions; voters will decide whether to borrow the funds. Here are 10 “takeaways” from a recent study examining the effects of climate change on Hampton Roads.

The Center for Biological Diversity may sue the federal government “over its failure to examine how a program that encourages the use of waterways for shipping affects endangered species, including Atlantic sturgeon in Virginia’s James River.” A scientist studied the freshwater mussel and found a lot to like.

The 2021 General Assembly authorized a study on the potential impact of gold mining; the National Academies will conduct it. Several military base sites contain dangerous “forever chemicals.”

In July, UVA joined other state agencies in following Governor Northam’s March 2021 executive order to “drop all single-use plastics by 2025.” JMU announced the order in June.

  • Wild Virginia is sponsoring a webinar on September 16, 7-8 pm, titled “The Current & Future Geography of Conservation in Virginia.” The speaker is Dr. Healy Hamilton, Chief Scientist of NatureServe. Register here.
  • Want to reduce your use of plastic? A Staunton business “refills recycled plastic containers with all‑natural products, such as dishwashing detergent, clothes washing detergent, shampoo and hand soap.” It’s expanding to Charlottesville.
  • Generation 180 published this article on the relative costs of Electric and fossil-fuel-powered Vehicles.
  • Find the latest CAAV Roundup of national and international climate-related news here.
  • CCL will host a virtual discussion about heat, one of the most severe effects of climate change. The event “The Planet Has a Fever” will be held on Tuesday, August 311 at 6:30 PM ET. Register here.
  • Appalachian Voices will host a webinar on “How Communities are Gaining Control Over HOW Power is Produced – Aug. 31, 5:30 PM ET. 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 July 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 July 2021

Energy

Solar has been making news:

  • A Harrisonburg non-profit, Give Solar, has partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate to put solar on several newly constructed homes this year. The hope is to provide “a path to homeownership and sustainable energy” and to expand the model to other Habitat affiliates in the state.
  • An area installer has secured $25 million in financing to “develop, own and operate solar power projects in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. Solar projects will include K-12 public schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and local government facilities.”
  • Large-scale solar development is underway across the state, with localities inundated with special use permit applications, some of which proposed solar as a new use for formerly industrial sites, or “brownfields.” Planning commissions and Boards of Supervisors in numerous counties have examined their zoning ordinances and listened to the public. Here are links to stories about this in a few of the many affected localities: Augusta CountyBuchanan CountyRockingham CountyHalifax CountySurry CountySouth BostonFauquier CountyMecklenburg County, and Gloucester CountyNot everyone is enamored of “utility‑scale” solar facilities.
  • With contracts signed between Appalachian Power and several southwest Virginia localities, schools there can finally move toward putting solar on their roofs.

Energy efficiency has also gotten some press:

As did off-shore wind:

court upheld Virginia’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is intended to reduce our carbon pollution from power plants. Revenue received from carbon polluters will provide funding for coastal resilience actions and energy efficiency initiatives for low income residents.

Owners of a proposed, and controversial, fracked gas plant near Charles City canceled plans to pursue the project after evidence showed DEQ could have revoked the permit it had granted. DEQ announced the Air Quality Control Board delayed consideration of a permit for the Lambert Compressor Station until September. Meanwhile, another company is exploring routes for a pipeline in Charles City, Hanover, Henrico, Louisa and New Kent counties.

EPA believes the Army Corps of Engineers should “not grant [the] Mountain Valley Pipeline stream crossing permit.” Even so, MVP owners recently purchased $150 million in carbon offsets to counter effects of its operations. Two Appalachian Voices staff members think that’s “greenwashing.”

Nelson County residents recently celebrated cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline one year ago. Berkshire Hathaway abandoned plans to purchase a gas pipeline from Dominion Energy because of “uncertainty about whether the deal could get regulatory approval.”

There is a new “state official supporting the rollout of green banks in Virginia”; green banks will help finance renewable energy projects. An analysis showed “Targeted Stimulus Investment in Advanced Energy Would Deliver Nearly $134 Billion to Virginia’s Economy.”

Climate and Environment

There have been numerous reports of sick birds in several states, including Virginia. Scientists are trying to learn why. DEQ reported a large fish kill (~8,000) in Little Creek near Bristol from a lye spill. A UVA-Wise researcher is studying amphibians in a wetlands area at the top of a mountain in southwest Virginia to find out what types of frogs and salamanders live there.

Fredericksburg is wrestling with whether, and how, to tax plastic bagsFairfax County plans to explore such a tax.

The new state park along the York River, Machicomoco, harks back to when it was the home of native people, with plentiful “tall grasslands and woods.” The only state park dedicated to indigenous tribes, its “dual purpose [is] to honor Native American tribes that trace their ancestral roots to the land and to educate nonnative visitors about the land’s importance to Indigenous people who still live in the region.”

Perhaps there will someday be a Chesapeake Bay National Recreation Area. Still, “cuts to clean water protections threaten Chesapeake Bay restoration.”

There is considerable interest in the planned Shenandoah Rail‑Trail that will link Broadway and Front Royal. The Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley is a proponent. Woodstock’s “bike and pedestrian trail [is] still on pace as [the] town nears engineering stage.”

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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.