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.

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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.

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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for June 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 June 2021

Energy

Dominion has approval to continue operating the Surry nuclear plant for another 20 years. Google’s Loudoun County data center will be powered by carbon-free energy for 10 years. The EPA awarded Virginia’s DEQ $300,000 to convert “brownfields” into sites producing renewable energySouthwest Virginia solar advocates are pleased at a new contract between Appalachian Power (ApCo) and several of its jurisdictional customers that will allow them to use Power Purchase Agreement arrangements to put solar on their schools and other facilities. Although solar energy installation slowed statewide in 2020, the industry is “on a roll” and was among the top five states for new solar capacity installed in the first quarter of this year.

Several local, state, and federal elected officials praised Powhatan County for its efforts to put solar on several of its schools. The superintendent noted expected savings, pointing out one school’s roof was replaced as part of the project. Officials highlighted the educational benefits and the schools’ lowered carbon footprint.

A Harrisonburg non-profit, Give Solar, has partnered with Central Valley Habitat for Humanity to install solar on Harrisonburg and Rockingham Habitat homes built starting late 2020 and continuing for 5 years. The two organizations hosted a “Solar Barnraising” on June 18. Give Solar is fundraising to establish a seed fund to eventually cover costs for future Habitat homes. The hope is to expand the project’s model to other Virginia Habitat affiliates.

ApCo customers can pay an extra $4.25/month so “all of their electricity would come from wind, water and sunlight.” But ApCo “currently gets about 80% of its electricity from power plants that burn coal and natural gas.” Because of ApCo’s offering, no other company can offer ApCo customers a real renewable energy choice. A blogger explained why “most ‘renewable energy’ options don’t add new wind and solar to the grid.” Virginia will be one of three states to decide the fate of ApCo’s West Virginia coal plants.

Energy efficiency provides “the most affordable electricity … you don’t use.” A small business owner cities a new report—“Pathways for Energy Efficiency in Virginia” — arguing Dominion should improve its current programs to boost homeowner and small business owner ability to benefit from energy savings.

A long‑planned Botetourt County wind farm continues to undergo changes in its size and scope. Off‑shore wind farms off Virginia’s coast demonstrate how challenging and complex achieving goals for this technology has been and will continue to be.

Despite 2021 legislation supporting (but not funding) conversion of the state’s school buses from diesel- to electric‑powered, advocates are seeking ways to make e-buses a reality. New River Valley localities now have rental e-bikes.

Nelson County will celebrate the Atlantic Coast Pipeline cancellation July 5. Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) protests resulted in arrests. An opinion writer disagrees with the assertion that the MVP is “critical to energy security,” citing its rising costs and long delays but omitting direct reference to the environmental damage it’s already caused.

Climate and Environment

Virginia’s climate change vulnerability points to the need for adaptation. How, how much, and when to adapt depend on the projected scenario. Land erosion and climate-change-related sea level rise are bringing contamination, flooding, and “farther‑reaching storm surges” beyond the coast into Virginia’s Historic Triangle.

Several Attorneys General urged the EPA to include “Forever chemicals”—“29 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances” (PFAS) — in its monitoring and analysis processes. Sources of Virginia’s 2020 solid waste included 25% from outside the state. An extensive evaluation of US dams and their hazards identified 80 locations with the greatest susceptibility to contamination from dam failure. Emporia Virginia has a site—a former foundry—and an aging dam—113 years old. Virginia’s Department of Health awarded Harrisonburg’s Public Utilities and Water Treatment staff “the 2020 Silver Water Treatment Plant Performance Award for Excellence in Filtration and Backwash.”

Virginia and other Chesapeake Bay states have worked on Bay clean-up for years. Recently, the states’ governors asked for $1billion in federal funds to boost progress, given “a 2025 deadline for major pollution reductions.” Governor Northam committed to reducing polluted runoff to advance Chesapeake Bay restoration. A blogger described the role trees can play. Part of Bay pollution originates in the Shenandoah Valley; Virginia does not do an adequate job warning users of the Valley’s waterways about the contaminants they could encounter, say environmental groups. Cognizant of their county’s “impaired” waters, Loudoun Supervisors want to find out if requiring expanded buffers around some larger bodies could reduce the negative effects of the rapid development there.

Plants can suffer from pandemic diseases; Virginia Tech researchers are studying how and what can be done to prevent outbreaks.

Federal funds improve several outdoor recreation projects in Southwest Virginia. The non-profit Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center will “offer funding [and] services to innovative agribusinesses.” Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation provided “$4.8 million in grant awards … [to] help conserve more than 6,100 acres.” The Virginia Land Grant Foundation announced its FY2022 $7,500,000 state funding grant round in five categories: farmland, forestland, and historic preservation, natural area protection, and open space/parks.

Air pollution is one consequence of transportation powered by fossil fuels. A “study estimates 485 Virginians died prematurely in 2016 as a result of transportation emissions.” A blogger bemoaned recent federal data showing atmospheric CO2 concentrations reached their highest levels since measurements began. Virginia Tech established a first‑of‑its‑kind School of Environmental Security – to help understand and manage the natural and other consequences of human activities.

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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.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for May 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 May 2021

Energy

A Virginia energy policy expert describes whether and how the state can reach carbon-free electricity by 2035, while pointing out that Dominion and ApCo ratepayers face so-called renewable energy choices that don’t actually provide them such energy. The State Corporation Commission recently approved renewable energy plans put forward by the two large utilities to implement requirements of the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). The SCC will evaluate future plans as to how well they carry out “the [VCEA’s] RPS and carbon dioxide reduction requirements.” An ApCo rate hike, if the SCC agrees, will mean customer bills will rise $22 on average. The federal Interagency “Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities” found southwest Virginia to be the fourth most coal‑dependent region in the U.S.

Solar installations on Virginia schools continue apace. Augusta County’s project is among those featured in this item. As part of a Green Business Alliance of Charlottesville area businesses, Tiger Fuel installed solar panels and also purchased Alt Energy, an area solar installer. Applications for utilityscale solar facilities in rural localities are having mixed success: Roanoke Valley (Smith Mountain Lake area), Campbell CountyCity of Chesapeake, and Central Appalachia. Bedford’s council approved installation of solar panels on the former “Bedford Middle School building, which is being converted into apartments.” Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is seeking proposals to develop 400MW of new solar to increase solar energy onto Virginia’s electric cooperatives’ grid. This blogger argues the recent hack of the Colonial Pipeline is one reason for more decentralized distributed (rooftop) solar. One example is community or shared solar. Dominion has an installation it owns and controls community solar. Another form is when a group of individuals cooperatively produce and share solar energy. The VCEA tasked Dominion with developing a prototype of the latter model. Dominion wants to assess a minimum $75 fee for shared solar; not everyone is in favor.

new training program, part of Virginia’s plan to make the state a hub for offshore wind services, is off to a good start.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality established a new Environmental Justice Office to assist in decision making involving social justice considerations. DEQ is proposing a reduction in currently allowed “hazardous waste that’s incinerated in an open burning ground at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant.” Opponents of the Chickahominy Power Plant want DEQ to reopen the “air permit issued to Chickahominy Power in 2019 for a proposed natural gas plant in Charles City County” because of inadequacies in the environmental justice analysis. Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board has other controversial permits to consider, including one related to the Mountain Valley Pipeline. North Carolina’s DEQ recently denied for a second time a water permit for MVP Southgate extension , which would run from Virginia into North Carolina. Two MVP protesters were arrested for trying to stop a truck carrying pipeline materials. Project delays are one result of litigation and protests.

Blacksburg Transit has its first five electric buses—part of a plan to convert its bus fleet over the next 10 years. Negotiations with CSX are underway as part of the planning for passenger service rail expansion into the New River Valley. Norfolk Southern Railway has reached agreement to provide such service under the “Western Rail Initiative.” Northern Virginia will see more rail service also.

A northern Virginia condo-owner association approved a member’s request to install Tesla chargers at his two basement parking spaces; Virginia law allowed the change but the condo board needed convincing—and educating. Electricity demand will grow as Virginia sees more data centers and Virginians buy more EVs.

Climate and Environment

This article describes regenerative agriculture efforts in southwest Virginia. Opponents of the state’s plan to establish a seabird sanctuary on Fort Wool argue that it lacks “a balance between cultural and natural resources.” Seagrasses off Virginia’s coast absorb carbon? They do more than that.

A state delegate introduced a bill “to break down barriers for farmers, ranchers, and foresters interested in participating in carbon markets.” On May 1 the state began levying a litter tax on “manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and/or retailers of groceries, soft drinks, carbonated water, beer and other malt beverages” with penalties for late payments.

An National Park Service environmental assessment done as part of a proposal to restore Shenandoah National Park’s Meadow Run watershed found there would be no significant impact from the two alternative actions. The US Forest Service has done prescribed burns in areas of the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests to open up the tree canopy and allow greater plant diversity—part of an Appalachian forest regeneration effort. The Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley recently named Professor Charles Ziegenfus its 2021 Valley Treasure for his longtime efforts to study and protect wild birds.

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.