Virginia Environmental News Roundup for July 2020

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 2020

Renewables

Spotswood County will be the site of the largest solar project in the Eastern U.S.; Wells Fargo approved financing for the 620-megawatt project its Utah-based developer first proposed in 2018. Dominion Energy solicited proposals for “up to 1,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of solar and onshore wind generation and up to 250 megawatts of energy storage”. These are part of its latest Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), released after enactment of 2020’s Virginia Clean Economy Act, or VCEA. While the IRP sets out more ambitious targets than its 2019 IRP, critics say the 2020 plan continues to rely too much on fossil fuel sources. The IRP includes storage as well. Wells Fargo stepped up again, financing a Shell subsidiary that plans to install 150,000 MW in California and three Virginia counties.

Secure Futures, a Staunton-based solar company, will add 2 MW to the 1.8 MW of solar panels it installed on county schools in 2019. The company is also adding 2.5 MW to Orange County schools. In Southwestern Virginia, advocates are working to ensure that the 2020 VCEA’s emphasis on solar energy will bring more of it to their area, thereby addressing the urgency for a transition away from coal, as demand has plummeted. The Nature Conservancy wants to partner with someone to develop solar on 13,000 acres of cleared coal mine land in Southwestern Virginia. In the Winchester area, “Solar energy makes local car wash even ‘greener’”. Thanks to 2020 legislation, residential and business property owners have eight new ways to help them go solar. And Fredericksburg’s baseball team, a minor league affiliate of the Washington Nationals, will light their stadium using solar power.

Finally, Virginia now has offshore wind power. Governor Northam signed enabling legislation for wind turbines off the Virginia coast, and The Daily Press reports on a second offshore turbine now towering over the Atlantic. Meanwhile, a Dominion engineer discusses the company’s huge wind project.

Pipelines and Gas Plants

The biggest recent environmental news in Virginia was Dominion Energy’s decision to abandon the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Here is a sampling of the extensive local, state and national coverage of this announcement:

Utility Giant Kills Gas Pipeline, Sells Assets to Berkshire” [July 6]

SELC’s pipeline team reflects on the path to victory” [July 9]

 “How Buffett’s $10 Billion Pipeline Deal Is Doing Environmental Double Duty Helping Dominion Energy Turn Acres Of Manure Into Clean Power” [July 9]

Dominion’s Post-ACP Clean Energy Awakening: Fact or Fiction?” [July 14]

The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is not yet canceled, though its developers continue to confront legal obstacles. One in particular relates to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for waterbody crossing. An environmental hydrologist thinks the MVP permit process illustrates a nationwide failure. As a result of judicial rulings, this process, developed to streamline pipeline projects, might well threaten them.

Here are some stories about the state’s existing natural gas plants:

Two Controversial Virginia Gas Plants Face Increasing Uncertainty, Documents Show

Police academy says new gas pipeline could disrupt training, harm high-speed driving course

 “Over strong opposition, Water Control Board allows Chickahominy Power to tap into Potomac aquifer

Environment

There was good and bad news in the 2020 American Lung Association’s report on air quality for Hampton Roads. For the sixth consecutive year, it has “held firm or improved;” however, the region ranked 169th of 204 areas reporting data, indicating there remains room for improvement.

Hampton Roads also scored a win for migrating birds. This happened after a chorus of Virginians cried “fowl” at the destruction of a migratory nesting site due to tunnel construction. Dogs safely helped arriving birds find their new site, “urging” them to stay away from their old one.

Hampton Roads scored another big win when the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) awarded $100M in funding to water improvement projects.

Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC are dissatisfied with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) oversight of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan and filed suit; they’re also unhappy with 2 states, New York and Pennsylvania, who aren’t meeting their commitments. The EPA Administrator isn’t “amused” at the “frivolous” lawsuit.

Virginia has taken steps to manage and save its menhaden population in the Chesapeake Bay. The fish is critical to that ecosystem and its commercial fishing industry.

A drier spring may mean that the Chesapeake Bay will have reduced “dead zones” due to, among other things, reduced agricultural runoff.

With the Covid-19 lockdowns worldwide, U.S., carbon emissions are down. Here’s a map showing how much Virginia’s have fallen.

Augusta County now has a protected conservation site, the 350-acre Lyndhurst Ponds Natural Area Preserve. The site protects sinkholes and forests, with the aim of improving water quality, plants, and animals that live there.

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 23, 2020

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 23, 2020

The VA Clean Economy Act (VCEA) passes, and the state joins the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

Governor Northam signed two significant environmental bills that the General Assembly passed. The scope of the VCEA is far-ranging and far-reaching. It provides a roadmap for the state and its utilities to move away from fossil-fuel-sourced energy and provides authorizations to carry out the Governor’s clean energy mandates in his September 2019 Executive Order 43. VCEA resulted from lengthy and complex negotiations among numerous stakeholders, including utilities, ratepayers, environmentalists, conservationists, economic/environmental justice advocates, business/industry representatives, and civic groups. Enacting the bill represents a breakthrough for Virginia and the South, resulting in widespread news coverage and recognition from various sources.

Major provisions of the law require the state to:

  1. Place a moratorium on the construction of new gas peaker plants until 2022.
  2. Join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), thereby incentivizing VA’s move away from fossil fuels.

The VCEA also requires the state’s investor-owned utilities to:

  • Ensure 30% of their power comes from renewables by 2030.
  • Transition to 100% renewable energy by 2045 (for Dominion Energy) or 2050 (for Appalachian Power).
  • Shutter all coal plants by 2024.
  • Close all carbon emitting power plants by 2045 (Dominion), by 2050 (Appalachian Power).
  • Bring 16 GW of solar and onshore wind, along with 3GW of battery storage, online in the next decade.

The VCEA also established a new energy efficiency standard that

  • Sets a 5% energy-savings target for Dominion and 2% target for Appalachian Power by 2025, as compared to 2019 levels.

Finally, the VCEA lifted or eased solar barriers and endorsed offshore wind; the new provisions:

  • Increase the current solar net metering cap from 1% to 6% (broken out as 1 percent for low- and moderate income customers, and 5% for everyone else).
  • Increase the allowable size of residential net metered solar arrays to 25kW.
  • Remove standby charges for residential customers with solar facilities of less than 15 kW in Dominion territory, and for all Appalachian Power or Old Dominion Power customers.
  • Allow Dominion customers to install enough solar to meet 150% of their previous year’s demand, recognizing the needs of growing families and EVs. (In Appalachian Power territory, the limit remains at 100% of the past 12 months’ demand.)
  • Permit residents of apartment buildings and condos to share the output of any onsite solar.
  • Say that HOA restrictions on solar systems cannot increase costs by more than 5%, nor reduce energy output by more than 10%.
  • Give Dominion the authority to build 3000MW of offshore wind.

In addition to the VCEA, the General Assembly passed a somewhat related bill that raises questions about Dominion’s ability to complete two proposed fossil fuel projects, the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.

Earth Day 2020 Celebrations Happened Despite the Pandemic!

April 22, 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. April 2020 saw numerous virtual celebrations; many managed to commemorate the event while socially distancing. The anniversary also produced numerous online educational and visual opportunities for observing “Earth Day Month” while obeying stay‑at-home requirements. Some JMU professors weighed in on how the current coronavirus pandemic illustrates the importance of caring for our environment.  A local blogger offered his reflections.

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.