Climate and Energy News Roundup 9/7/2022

The future is a replay of the past—a combination of admirable advances and (un)avoidable setbacks. But there is something new as we look ahead, that unmistakably increasing (albeit not unanimous) conviction that, of all the risks we face, global climate change is the one that needs to be tackled most urgently and effectively. —Vaclav Smil

Our Climate Crisis

A third of Pakistan has been flooded and more than 1,000 people were killed in a “monster monsoon” that has swept away lives, homes, crops and bridges. Local climate experts are drawing a direct line to human-made climate change, saying their country has made a negligible contribution to global warming but is now suffering from its effects.

Scientists have known for some time that the Arctic is warming faster than other regions. Recent research shows that it’s occurring four times faster than average, not the two to three times that has been previously reported. One result is the even faster melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which one study shows will cause the ocean to rise about 12 inches by the end of the century even if greenhouse gas emissions were halted today.  It also influences weather, like extreme rainfall and heat waves in North America and elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.

A severe heatwave and drought has caused China to suspend production in several major manufacturing regions to conserve electricity. It is also pushing them to expand their use of coal for energy as they have had to cut back on hydroelectricity. The extreme heat and drought that has been roasting a vast swath of the country for at least 70 straight days has no parallel in modern record-keeping in China.

In the American Southwest, a climate exacerbated historic drought is forcing severe reductions in water taken from the Colorado river. Together with historic heat, drought, and flooding in other places around the world, this is making climate change a secret driver of inflation by disrupting both manufacturing supply chains and agriculture.

Drought conditions and extreme weather have wreaked havoc on agriculture across the United States, but especially in the Central and Southern Great Plains, reducing yields by as much as a third compared with last year. The poor yields are likely more than a one-year blip, as climate change alters weather patterns across the country.

Saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels is threatening coastal agriculture on the Delmarva Peninsula and in the Carolinas. Thousands of acres are already unable to be farmed and it’s projected that an additional tens of thousands of acres will be unusable within the century. The Nature Conservancy is promoting conservation easements to facilitate a transition of cropland to salt marsh, providing numerous ecosystem services and up to 90% of the market value for farms.

Politics and Policy

Democrats delivered a dramatic win in the effort to fight climate change.  The Inflation Reduction Act will accelerate U.S. emission cuts and put the country on a path to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.  This will significantly narrow the gap in our goal, under the Paris climate agreement, to cut emissions by at least half by that date.

The landmark Inflation Reduction Act amends the Clean Air Act by defining carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels as “air pollutants.” This language was written specifically to address the Supreme Court’s justification for reining in the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year by arguing that Congress had never given the E.P.A. the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Other states are poised to follow California’s lead in banning the sale of new gas-powered cars beginning in 2035. It will halt the sale of such vehicles in Virginia because a 2021 law, pushed through by state Democrats, links the state to vehicle emissions standards and electric car sales targets set by California. This year, Republicans tried but failed to repeal the law, which is supported by the influential Virginia Automobile Dealers Association.

A Republican led effort in the Virginia General Assembly would have prevented cities and towns from restricting access to gas utility service and propane. The bill was defeated in the House by environmentalists and Democrats because it would have stripped local governments of their ability to set climate policy.

In turn for Sen. Joe Manchin’s support for the Inflation Reduction Act, congressional Democratic leaders agreed to advance legislation to streamline the approval process for infrastructure projects such as the Mountain Valley Pipeline.  Manchin’s political maneuvers in support of the pipeline are, however, not necessarily certain to succeed. Environmental activists are committed to continuing the fight. Despite such opposition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently granted the company a four-year extension to complete the pipeline.

Energy

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act climate and health bill includes a big win for the solar industry by including a 10-year extension of the 30% investment tax credit. The tax credit had dropped to 26% this year and was going to go to 22% next year. After that, it was going to end for residential projects, and go to 10% for large-scale projects.

New York City announced a $70 million initiative that will install 30,000 electric heat pumps to bring climate-friendly comfort to residents of its aging public housing units. This is part of a broader effort by New York state and city governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings 40% by 2030.

The 835-acre solar farm that Dominion Energy plans to build at the Dulles International Airport will be the largest airport-based solar and battery development in the United States. At peak production it will provide enough energy to power about 37,000 Northern Virginia homes.

Fervo Energy, a leading geothermal energy startup, just raised $138 million to build and run a fleet of power plants fueled by the Earth’s heat. They will use the same drilling techniques as the oil and gas industry, to access geothermal resources that are otherwise too expensive or technically complex to reach. Their first commercial project now under construction will produce 5-megawatts of power to support Google’s data center operations in Nevada.

Virginia now has more acres in solar energy production than in tobacco. We’re now creating energy in Virginia that we previously had to import as fossil fuels from other places. This is a big gain to the state economy, saving electric customers close to $50 million.

Climate Justice

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act climate and health bill includes up to $60 billion in environmental justice initiatives. These initiatives include: 1.) reducing greenhouse gas emissions in low-income and disadvantaged communities, 2.) cleaning up industrially polluted Superfund sites that disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income residents, 3.) block grants for community-led environmental and climate projects, and 4.) funds to help make affordable housing more energy efficient.

RCF Connects, a nonprofit in Richmond California, restores abandoned homes and facilitates first-time home ownership among the city’s Black and brown residents. Now, working with a grant from the California Energy Commission, they are turning these houses into a source of green energy for the grid by making each house part of a “virtual power plant.” Each house will have solar panels, energy efficient appliances, and battery storage, allowing the owner to not only enjoy low energy bills but even sell energy back to the grid.

The recent catastrophic floods in eastern Kentucky, one of America’s poorest areas, have exacerbated the brutal cycle of poverty. That’s because low-income people are more likely to be located in flood zones, and less likely to access relief funds to repair the damages. People most often have no option other than rebuilding in the same flood prone area.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is trucking millions of tons of contaminated coal ash from an inactivated power plant. This involves huge dump trucks rumbling through the historically black community of south Memphis for the next 8-10 years to dump it in a nearby landfill. And residents have discovered that there is nothing they can do to stop it.

Climate Action

Former vice president Al Gore, a tireless crusader against climate change, couldn’t believe that it took Congress so long to respond to the crisis. That changed when President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law several weeks ago. Gore ecstatically exclaimed, “It will create jobs, lower costs, increase U.S. competitiveness, reduce air pollution and, of course, tackle the climate crisis. We have crossed a major threshold, and it’s going to have significant impacts on international climate action.”

Spending hours in a commercial kitchen standing over the open flame and heat of a gas-burning stove can be suffocating. That’s why chef Christopher Galarza has become such a big proponent of switching to induction electric ranges that he and a friend started a consultancy called Forward Dining Solutions. Switching to electric cuts down on fossil fuel consumption while improving the physical and mental toll of working in a commercial kitchen.

Harrisonburg recently added the first two EV cars to its fleet. The city has also secured grant funding for a pilot program for two electric school buses and infrastructure for the first 10 electric school buses. Councilwoman Laura Dent says next steps in cutting down the city’s carbon footprint includes shifting “the entire city fleet, and transit buses, and school buses” to become electric.

Moving to a four-day workweek could be a net plus for the environment by cutting down on transportation and other energy consumption but this depends on what people do during their time off work. The move to remote work also has environmental pros and cons but appears to be a net positive by cutting down on the use of fossil fuels and improving air quality.

Universal cycling could roughly erase one-fifth of CO2 emissions from using passenger cars. To do that we need to start bicycling like the Dutch. The transformation will depend on designing our communities to make it easier for people to get around by public transportation, on foot, and on bicycle.

The Virginia Clean Energy Plan, developed every four years, establishes a plan to achieve a “net-zero carbon energy economy” by 2045. Comments on what should be included in the 2022 plan are welcome through October 1, 2022.

  1. You can email your comments to: energyplan@energy.virginia.gov
  2. Or you can fill out the survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5VN2VNT)

Harrisonburg Electric Commission’s Friendly City Solar program now offers customers the opportunity to participate in a community solar partnership that supports renewable energy without the high upfront costs or ongoing maintenance of installing solar panels on their home. You can find out more here.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for August 2022

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

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


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

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for August 2022

ACTION ALERT

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out…

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

Saturday’s events:

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

Sunday’s events:

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

Why not…

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/3/2022

Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things. — Lao Tzu

Our Climate Crisis

Ancient giant sequoias in California, once considered impervious to flames, are again under threat from wildfires, this time in the Yosemite National Park. The wildfire has grown into the state’s largest of the season. Bristlecone pine trees in Death Valley, which have lived for more than 1,000 years, are likewise under threat from climate change induced drought and bark beetle infestations.

Europe experienced a bout of exceptional heat across Britain, France, Spain and Portugal that then moved east across central Europe. Temperatures surged to as high as 117 degrees Fahrenheit over the Iberian Peninsula, and the United Kingdom saw the hottest temperatures ever recorded there. People have been evacuated from their homes across southern Europe due to heat related wildfires blistering the landscape.

Deadly climate induced summer heatwaves and the war in Ukraine are pushing European countries—but also other countries like China and India—into a desperate scramble to secure energy for electricity. This is upending plans to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. In effect, our ability to slow down climate change is being undermined by the producers of the very fossil fuels that are responsible for climate change.

Politics and Policy

President Biden has made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030. A study by an independent research firm, however, reveals that our country is on track to reduce emissions by only 24 to 35% below 2005 levels by 2030.  It will take substantial additional policy action to reach the goal of reducing emissions 50% by 2030.

In a fast moving story, after months of negotiations, Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he could not support climate legislation, leaving President Biden with the option of making some climate related executive actions. Then, after lots of urging from corporate CEOs, other senators, climate activists, and labor unions, Sen. Manchin announced that he and senate leader Chuck Schumer had agreed on the outline of a bill involving $369 billion in climate incentives in the newly dubbed Inflation Reduction Act, H.R. 5376 (117). If enacted into law, this promises to be a huge climate action game changer.

A conservative climate advocate says the recent Supreme Court decision in West Virginia vs. EPA demonstrates the need to further incentivize clean energy innovation rather than relying on regulations to slow greenhouse gas emissions. Empowering innovators will play to America’s comparative advantage and provide cleaner choices at lower prices.

California’s aggressive policy of cutting back on the use of fossil fuels is experiencing pushback from localities that depend heavily on tax revenue from oil, gas and coal to fund their schools, hospitals and roads. Because California is ahead of other states in the fight against climate change, this struggle portends similar future struggles across the country.

Rising temperatures in heavily populated countries like Indonesia and India are encouraging more and more people to invest in home air conditioning, which is still relatively uncommon in their countries. This creates a vicious cycle because these countries still rely largely on inefficient, carbon emitting coal-fired electric power plants, which inordinately contribute to global warming. Breaking out of this cycle will require major policy changes and clean energy investments.

Mainstream economic and political thinking assumes that social stability and rising standards of living depend on economic growth. Our pursuit of growth is, however, causing great ecological harm and incurring more costs than gains. Economist Herman Daly, therefore, advocates a steady-state economy, which forgoes the environmentally destructive drive for growth. It’s also why Virginia conservationist Brian Czech founded the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy in 2003.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has received lots of public reaction against the request by Mountain Valley Pipeline to extend the project for an additional 4 years. Submissions opposing the extension include a letter from 27 Virginia state legislators, a sign-on letter by 270 participating organizations, as well as thousands of individual comments. Alternatively, it appears that Sen. Joe Manchin has received a pledge from Democratic leaders that they will support finishing this contested pipeline as part of his agreement to support the $369 billion climate bill.

The Sierra Club Virginia Chapter has given our area state legislators a failing grade on energy policies. Here’s the score: Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-24), Del. John Avoli (R-20), Del. Tony Wilt (R-26), Del. Chris Runion (R-25) and Del. Ronnie Campbell (R-24) all received an “F” rating.

Energy

A Consumer Reports survey finds that more than a third of Americans would consider buying or leasing an EV. Respondents who said they would not consider an EV, raised concerns about charging logistics, vehicle range, and the overall cost. While some of these worries are perhaps justified, they may have more to do with perception than reality.

Buying an EV is now a better deal than a comparable car that runs on gasoline, due to much lower fuel and maintenance costs. For example, comparing the numbers on a 2022 Nissan Leaf and a 2022 Nissan Sentra, the Leaf will pay for itself in 5 years even with its higher sticker price. It will pay for itself in less than one year with a $7,500 tax credit.

The fastest way to slash greenhouse gas emissions is to switch as many buildings as possible to using electricity as their sole power source for heating and cooling. The fastest way to achieve that is through installing two-way heat pumps that both heat and cool. The cost of manufacturing them is only a few hundred dollars per unit more than a central air-conditioner. We should, therefore, encourage the federal government to incentivize manufacturers to make that simple switch.

Walmart announced that they agreed to buy 4,500 electric vans from manufacturer Canoo. The vans will be used to deliver online orders in a way that’s environmentally sustainable, beginning next year.

Buoyed by stronger than expected demand, Ford has set ambitious global production targets to manufacture over two million EVs by 2026. For perspective, Tesla, the largest EV manufacturer at this time, built 936,000 EVs in 2021. Ford’s line of EVs will include cars, pickup trucks, and commercial vans.

China installed eighty percent of the world’s new offshore wind capacity last year. Even though that percentage is expected to drop significantly in the future, China is expected to dominate the sector for years to come.

President Biden’s plan to open up more than 700,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico to commercial wind farms is receiving surprising support from the oil and gas industry in the region. That’s because they see their infrastructure and skills used for oil rigs in the Gulf as transferable to the offshore wind industry.

After intense pressure, the US Post Office has pledged to electrify at least 40% of its new delivery fleet. This is a significant change from its earlier commitment to have only 10% EV trucks in its new fleet. This reversal goes a long way toward President Biden’s goal for the entire government fleet to be EVs by 2035.

Heatwaves in Texas have broken records for energy demand at least 11 times this summer. What prevented the state from experiencing rolling blackouts is that it has nearly tripled its solar capacity in the past year.

Climate Justice

Caribbean nations are trapped between being indebted to the global financial system and a looming climate disaster. The legacy of colonialism that syphoned resources to rich countries and the post-colonial experience of being indebted to foreign banks shapes the crisis. Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, is fighting for a way out through tough negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to equitably restructure her nation’s debt. The goal is finding the necessary financial resources needed to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The Presbyterian Church USA voted to divest from five oil companies that it believes are not doing enough to address climate change. These companies join a divestment list of 85 other companies, most with ties to the military or weapons industry. A spokesman for the denomination said, “Divestment is never the goal. Corporate change is the goal.”

The climate anxiety discussion has a whiteness problem because the perspectives of  marginalized people are often not included in the conversation. Climate anxiety as a term can be very privileged. People experiencing climate induced trauma in places like the Philippines and India may not even have words for such trauma. The hope is that the conversation will evolve to include marginalized people and their experience.

Climate Action

Searing heatwaves in urban centers are an increasingly common and deadly manifestation of our warming planet. In response, the cities of Phoenix, Miami, and Los Angeles have recently hired  a “chief heat officer” to help them focus on the risks posed by sweltering temperatures and to seek opportunities for adapting.

Faith leaders in West Virginia are trying to change minds about the climate crisis by moving the conversation to a moral imperative instead of the typical political discourse. They begin small by advocating for planting native species and energy efficiency in places of worship but also recognize the importance of public advocacy.

The US Department of Energy recently hosted the Carbon Negative Shot Summit, which explored low-cost, clean and innovative ways to store huge amounts of carbon. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said that the Biden administration’s priority continues to be preventing emissions from entering the atmosphere as she insisted, “Carbon dioxide removal is key to restoring our climate.” Carbon removal technology is in its infancy and remains prohibitively expensive.

California keeps scaling up battery storage in its effort to convert to renewable energy. It now has 3,100 megawatts of utility-scale battery storage systems but this is still small compared to other energy sources. For perspective, a large coal, gas or nuclear power plant has a capacity of about 2,000 megawatts. Natural gas power plants continue to regularly provide more than 13,000 megawatts to the California grid.

A consortium of construction firms, property developers and building engineers have pledged to increase the proportion of ​“low-emissions” concrete that they use to 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. One way to do that is by adding aggregates such as fly-ash, slag and rice hulls to cement mixes. The bigger challenge is cutting down the emissions used to make Portland cement, which is manufactured by heating limestone to temperatures of greater than 1,400 degrees Celsius (2550°F)—a level of heat that’s hard to achieve without burning fossil fuels.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for July 2022

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

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


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

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for July 2022

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out…

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

SVEC Board Candidate Questionnaire

The Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) is currently holding an election for three seats on their Board of Directors. Only the seat for the Southern District is being contested, with three candidates: incumbent Brent Arbogast, Eric Beck, and Charlie King.

To learn more about these candidates’ views on how SVEC can be instrumental in efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions that are causing global climate changes, members of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s steering committee have requested their opinions through the questionnaire below:

Hello Candidates for SVEC Southern District,

We hope this email finds you well. This request is being sent out on behalf of the Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV). We hope to elicit responses, either in written or video form, from you all regarding the following questions so that we may share the information with our members on our social media.

Our questions are as follows:

1. What is your vision for how SVEC might become more environmentally sustainable?
2. Do you have ideas for how SVEC ratepayers can be protected from the rising price of fuel used to generate electricity?
3. What are your ideas for how SVEC might rely more heavily on renewable energy?

We request that your responses be submitted back to us by July 19 at 12 noon at the latest.

We truly appreciate your time, and we look forward to hearing back from you.

-Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley


From SVEC Board candidate Eric Beck:

1. What is your vision for how SVEC might become more environmentally sustainable?  As an electric provider, I tend to orient my thinking in lines of sources of electricity.  ODEC is the not for profit electric generation company, who have been more focused on fossil fuels as a source for energy.  I would like SVEC to engage in exploration of alternative renewable sources of energy, or encourage ODEC to develop more sustainable sources.  The Member Owner model also could be deployed in a way to leverage the customer/owners to use distributed solar on their properties to create additional sources, i.e. acres of poultry buildings, factories, and so forth.

2. Do you have ideas for how SVEC ratepayers can be protected from the rising price of fuel used to generate electricity?  Having diversity in fuel sources is key.  Currently the cost of electricity produced by solar is less expensive.  Additionally, distributed energy with more widely distributed solar production can be used to minimize the vast loss of electricity thru miles of transmission.  I think solar, though consistently growing, is still a long ways off of being in balance with the use of coal or fossil fuels.

3. What are your ideas for how SVEC might rely more heavily on renewable energy?  To be honest, the utility industry is complex and I will have much to learn about large scale development of renewable energy.  It is a different “animal” from smaller residential or light commercial deployment of renewable energy.  SVEC has been somewhat opaque in its higher level decisions or board deliberations.  Privacy is valued in its bylaws about board of directors abilities to share deliberations.  However, I do want to be a voice in the room to actively advocate for different considerations, options of alternative energies, pilot programs, and broader policy decisions.

Thanks for your consideration of how to support voices supporting Climate Action in SVEC.

– Eric Beck


As of July 19, neither of the other candidates has submitted responses.

The election “closes” on August 8, 2022. Members may vote by email or USPS mail.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 7/5/2022

Whether we and our politicians know it or not, nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do. Wendell Berry

Our Climate Crisis

Unprecedented floods in South Asia and China have forced mass evacuations and left millions miserable. In our country, the destructive flooding along the Yellowstone River in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming was a 500-year event. At the same time, parts of Europe, Japan, China, and the US have been experiencing intense, record breaking heatwaves. Furthermore, heat and drought have contributed to devastating, widespread wildfires in Alaska and New Mexico. The wildfire in New Mexico was accidently set by a controlled burn by the Forest Service. Increased heat and a drier climate has narrowed the window of time for safely doing such burns.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased again this year. “Watching these incremental but persistent increases in CO2 year-to-year is much like watching a train barrel down the track towards you in slow motion. It’s terrifying,” says climate scientist Andrea Dutton. CO2 in the atmosphere now averages 421 parts per million compared to 280 parts per million before the industrial revolution.

The Great Salt Lake has already shrunk by two-thirds and the surrounding area is facing an environmental nuclear bomb as it continues to dry up. The lake’s flies and brine shrimp are on the verge of dying off, threatening the 10 million migratory birds that stop at the lake annually to feed on the tiny creatures. Even more alarming, the dried-up lake bottom will most likely create a bowl of toxic dust that would poison the air around Salt Lake City.

Virginia could lose 42 percent of its coastal wetlands to sea level rise by 2100. These wetlands are critical ecosystems that serve as a home to an array of fish, plants, birds and other species. They also store carbon and protect communities from encroaching seas. Acting now to conserve coastal land into which these wetlands can migrate is a ‘decisive factor’ in offsetting future losses.

In many coastal cities around the world, land is subsiding, due to groundwater extraction, even faster than the sea level is rising. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is sinking at an alarming rate and one-third of the city will be underwater by the middle of this century. Many other major cities, such as Manila, Tampa, and Alexandria will similarly experience coastal flooding much sooner than predicted by models of sea level rise alone.

Climate anxiety is widespread among young people. More than half of those surveyed in a recent study agreed with the statement “humanity is doomed.” Almost half said such anxiety interferes with their sleep, their ability to study, to play, and to have fun. They have grown up on a different planet with tougher choices than their parents had. Some are finding that accepting this is the first step to avoiding despair and leading productive lives.

Politics and Policy

A Supreme Court ruling last week severely limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate climate pollution by power plants. The case was part of a coordinated strategy by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists, and their fossil industry funders to use the judicial system to rewrite environmental law and weaken the executive branch’s ability to tackle global warming. Even so, Biden can turn to other avenues in the effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Supreme Court ruling will most likely not greatly affect utility companies’ already considerable commitment to transition to clean energy. Furthermore, across the country, states, cities, and local governments are accelerating their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, even as federal climate fighting tools are being taken away.  An example of this is the City of Harrisonburg’s “Environmental Action Plan” as noted in the Climate Action section below.

Years-long waiting times and potentially project-killing upgrade costs are creating an expensive process of connecting new solar, wind and battery projects to U.S. electrical transmission grids. In response, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently proposed a host of major regulatory changes meant to unclog these bottlenecks to building the carbon-free electrical grid needed to forestall the most catastrophic harms of climate change.

Virginia Gov. Youngkin recently issued an executive order on curbing food waste and boosting recycling across Virginia. It might pass environmental muster, by keeping leftovers out of landfills and doubling down on composting efforts statewide, if it didn’t simultaneously get rid of the previous administration’s single-use plastics phase-out.

Climate activists and some House Democrats are urging President Biden to push for a transit fare holiday instead of a gas tax holiday if he’s serious about tackling climate change. Biden is appealing for Congress to suspend the federal gasoline and diesel tax for three months in response to rising gas and diesel prices. This will incentivize the use of fossil fuels in the transportation sector which accounted for 27% of carbon emissions in our country in 2020.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled against Mountain Valley Pipeline’s request that it draw a new three-judge panel to reconsider permits for the embattled project that have repeatedly been struck down by the present panel hearing the cases. Because of these delays, the pipeline developers then asked federal regulators for an additional four years to complete the project that is way over budget.

Energy

Solid-state sodium-sulfur batteries have recently made a leap toward mass production. They will allow EVs to run much longer on a charge than is possible with present lithium-ion batteries. Solid-state batteries also show lots of promise for long-duration energy storage in electrical grids and other applications. The advantages of solid-state batteries is that they are low cost, easy to build, have a high degree of mechanical stability and are chemically stable.

Roughly only one percent of public buses in Virginia run on electricity. Thanks to federal funding through the recently passed Infrastructure Law, that’s set to more than double this year. The challenge, moving forward, is how rapidly bus fleets can be converted to electric energy given the challenges of startup costs and needed infrastructure. Conversely, the reduced operating costs of electric buses is a huge incentive during a time of high fuel prices.

Amogy, an energy startup company, has raised $46M to develop green ammonia as a fuel to decarbonize tractors today and ocean freighters in the near future. Their goal is to develop technology to decarbonize industries that are the highest emitters of greenhouse gases but cannot run on battery power alone.

Arrays of floating solar panels on reservoirs and other large bodies of water have the potential to solve several problems plaguing conventional solar energy. Among them are limiting the use of prime land, more accessible energy distribution, and the added benefit of cutting down environmentally destructive heat buildup on large river reservoirs.

Climate Justice

Gov. Youngkin has been doing everything possible to dismantle the popular Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which collects carbon emissions dues from power utilities and uses the millions of dollars generated to augment coastal resilience against sea-level rise and in energy efficiency home upgrades for low-income residents. Check out this inspiring article by the Southern Environmental Law Center about how the Collins family in Blacksburg was able to use RGGI funds to reduce their energy bill last winter from an average of $330 to just $112 a month.

Bringing the benefits of solar power to low and middle-income households is a matter of equity and justice. Virtual power plants, which coordinate solar power generated and stored by individual rate payers, could be part of the solution. An ambitious plan by the city of Richmond, CA,  includes a VPP that directs electric bill savings to low-income residents along with increased grid reliability, safety, and efficiency. The plan also includes energy-efficient rehabs for abandoned homes, which will be sold to low-income home buyers.

As a new hurricane season begins, Native Americans along the Louisiana coast are still struggling to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida when it roared through their communities last year. Centuries of colonization have pushed Native people into this fragile, deteriorating coastal ecosystem. The tribes most affected by Ida still do not have federal recognition, even though they have been engaged in a decades long process seeking it. This makes it difficult to get desperately needed federal disaster relief resources.

Another looming catastrophe is that some insurance companies in Louisiana have gone bankrupt from massive claims related to Hurricane Ida. Other companies are fleeing the state, leaving many homeowners without storm insurance at the beginning of another hurricane season.

Climate Action

Fed up with poor electrical utility infrastructure, residents of Puerto Rico have more than doubled the installation of rooftop solar since Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017. They have done this without meaningful support from government or their electrical utility. It’s a bottom-up movement that’s changing Puerto Rico’s energy landscape.

Harrisonburg’s updated Environmental Action Plan prioritizes converting city vehicles to EVs because its cars, trucks and public transit make up 35% of municipal greenhouse gas emissions. Related goals include building more EV charging stations, improving traffic signals to decrease time spent waiting at stoplights, increasing the use of public transit by optimizing bus routes, and encouraging walking and biking by adding sidewalks and bike lanes.

Protecting our local natural resources is a crucial part of climate action. An article by Erin Burch describes what the Alliance of the Shenandoah Valley is doing to protect our part of the Chesapeake Bay. These efforts include stream bank restoration along Mossy Creek, planting a streamside forest and initiating sustainable grazing practices along a creek that flows into the Middle River, and putting a 432-acre property along the South Fork into a conservation easement.

‘Elder power’ is becoming a force in Virginia as more retirees step up and get involved in climate action. One example is a recently formed state chapter of environmentalist Bill McKibben’s recently formed group called Third Act. They organized a two-week “Walk for Appalachia’s Future” to protest the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and are pressuring big banks to shut off funding for the pipeline and other fossil fuel infrastructure.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for June 2022

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

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


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

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for June 2022

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action Alert

Check out…

Why not 

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/6/2022

We all face real-world challenges and tough choices that complicate the effort to completely decarbonize our lives in a system that is still reliant on fossil fuel infrastructure. We must change the system. Individual efforts to reduce one’s carbon footprint are laudable. But without systemic change, we will not achieve the massive decarbonization of our economy that is necessary to avert catastrophic change. – Michael Mann

Our Climate Crisis

Thousands of firefighters in New Mexico are presently battling a colossal wildfire that has become the largest in state history. In a recent PBS interview, Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and author of The New Climate War, says that such wildfires are a function of heat and how dry the climate has become. We need to address the problem at its core—our consumption of fossil fuels.

A World Meteorological Organization report shows global temperatures above pre-industrial levels could temporarily hit the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold within the next five years. While a single year of temperatures above the 1.5°C threshold set by the Paris Climate Agreement does not mean we have breached the agreement, it will reveal that we are edging ever closer to a situation where it could be exceeded for an extended period.

Climate change is exacerbating rising temperatures combined with high humidity beyond levels the human body can endure. The threshold of human endurance is 95 degrees Fahrenheit combined with wet bulb or 100% humidity. The Persian Gulf, India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Central America are all careening toward this threshold before the end of the century. People should be advised that any temperature above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, especially when combined with high humidity, can be dangerous and deadly.

A recent analysis finds that extreme heat that used to occur every 300 years in northwest India and Pakistan may now happen about every three years. Related news is that a recent heat wave has decimated the mango harvest in India.

Heavy pre-monsoon rains have washed away train stations, towns and villages, leaving millions of people homeless in India and Bangladesh. Both countries are particularly vulnerable to such events exacerbated by global warming because of their proximity to the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. This extends a pattern where extreme rainfall and landslides washed away a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp overnight last year. Torrential rains submerged at least a quarter of Bangladesh in 2020.

Politics and Policy

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, the Shenandoah Group of the Virginia Sierra Club, and 50 by 25 Harrisonburg are proposing that the Harrisonburg City Council add the words “environmentally sustainable” to the mandate of the Harrisonburg Electric Commission, Harrisonburg’s municipal utility. They are also asking council members and candidates to publicly state their response to the proposal. A recent article in the Harrisonburg Citizen explains how this will help the city to reach its goal of having 100% renewable energy on our local electrical grid by 2035. To view the letter that was sent to the candidates, click here. To view candidate responses, click here.

Most of the past three decades have been a painful slog for Australian climate activists. The conservatives, who ran Australia under Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have unabashedly promoted the fossil fuel industry and scoffed at concerns about climate change. This has now changed dramatically when the Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, trounced the conservatives in the last election with the promise to make Australia a “renewable energy superpower.” While supporting renewable energy and EVs, Labor’s strategy, however, largely leaves Australia’s huge fossil fuel energy sector untouched. That makes especially significant the surge of votes for Green Party candidates and others outside the two-party system who make it a priority to combat global warming by reducing consumption of fossil fuels.

Electric heat pumps are two to four times more efficient than competing fossil fuel devices and can dramatically reduce indoor air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. A recent Senate bill, introduced by Amy Klobuchar, would incentivize manufacturers to build two-way heat pumps that both heat and cool. This has the potential to quickly cut emissions while saving consumers money. The bill has the potential of gaining needed bipartisan support in the Senate.

There is a boom in large-scale solar electric farms in Virginia.  The number of large-scale solar farms in Virginia has grown from zero in 2015 to 51 today. Furthermore, 279 applications for large-scale facilities have been, or are being, reviewed across the Commonwealth. This is pushing the need to develop comprehensive land plans governing the size, location, and environmental impact of solar farms.

A Charlottesville clean energy company has applied for a permit to build a 138-megawatt solar farm on approximately 650 acres in southeast Albemarle County. The site is on a 2,300-acre property with pine trees that have been heavily industrially timbered over the past 80 years. The installation would supply electricity to 25,000 homes in the area.  The Albemarle County Climate Action Plan supports utility scale solar energy and prioritizes placing them on roof tops, parking lots, brownfields, landfills and post-industrial or other open lands over forested or ecologically valuable lands.

New York state’s landmark 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act commits the state to reaching 100 percent zero-emissions electricity by 2040. A major obstacle is that 85% of New York City’s electricity comes from fossil fuels. State regulators accordingly recently approved two clean energy projects that will reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuels by more than 50 percent over the next 10 years. The first project will supply the city with wind and solar power from upstate. The second, more controversial project—opposed by some environmental and community groups—will supply the city with hydro-power from Quebec, Canada.

Energy

Green hydrogen has the potential to become a key energy source—especially for heavy industry and trucks. That’s why a $9.5 billion package for the development of hydrogen as a fuel was wrapped into the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Alleyn Harned, the executive director of Virginia Clean Cities, is a proponent of green hydrogen. In an interview with Elizabeth McGowan, a reporter for the Energy News Network, he explains how it can benefit Virginia’s economy and environment.

A recent report by Energy Innovation demonstrates that EV models are competitive or cheaper to purchase and maintain than their gasoline-fueled equivalents over the life of a six-year auto loan. The real savings comes after the loan has been paid off. Depending on the EV model, the annual comparative savings is between $800 to $1,400.

A new generation of electric trucks is beginning to hit cost and range targets that makes them competitive for short-haul U.S. freight-moving. To facilitate the transition to electric trucks, the Port of Long Beach in California, one of our country’s busiest freight hubs, is installing 26 high-speed electric truck charging bays as part of its push to reach a zero-emissions fleet by 2030.

Climate Justice

Climate modeling at NASA and other agencies is increasingly focusing on the impact that global warming is having on food production. It’s becoming increasingly clear that climate change is a “threat multiplier,” making hunger emergencies worse. The United Nations reports that a record number of 283 million people in 80 countries went hungry or were at high risk of going hungry last year and that this number is expected to increase in the future. Global warming is creating much more year-to-year variability in food production. A major worry is climate-induced “food shocks” in many countries.

Climate anxiety is now part of the zeitgeist, as evidenced by data from Google Trends. Stanford University researcher Britt Wray’s newly released book Generation Dread dives into the hard emotional truths of the climate crisis. It’s also about real, acute mental health impacts of disasters in frontline communities such as what’s happening to Indigenous people who live very close to the land.

The Hadza people in Tanzania, one of Africa’s last hunter-gatherer tribes, are embracing environmentalism. They are doing so by selling carbon credits generated from conserving their forests and using the revenues to employ their youth as scouts to protect their land. The Ujamaa Community Resource Team, a local NGO, has helped the Hadza secure legal title to their territories and works in concert with The Nature Conservancy to secure carbon credits to fund the effort.

Climate Action

ACTION ALERT: Many of us who live, work, or volunteer in Harrisonburg, have participated in Phase 1 in-person meetings and/or the online survey to get community input on how our city should allocate the $23.8 million it will receive in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in response to the Covid pandemic. We now have the opportunity to fill out a Phase 2 survey here for more targeted responses (the survey will be open for two weeks). This is a great opportunity to advocate for responding to human needs in ways that help to combat climate change and enhance our natural environment. There is more opportunity to do so in this Phase 2 survey than there was in the Phase 1 survey.

Making the transition to solar energy is easier and more affordable than ever, thanks to Solarize Virginia. Sign up through June 30 to access discounted prices and get connected with a vetted installer. Experts will be by your side to answer any questions and take the guesswork out of the process. Get started at SolarizeVA.org and find out if your home is solar-ready.

You can also register at this link for Solar United Neighbors (SUN) Ready Set Solar program, happening online on June 15 at noon. You can also attend a SUN in-person session at Massanutten Regional Library (174 S Main St, Harrisonburg) on July 17 at 6 pm. These programs are for Shenandoah Valley residents.

Community Housing Partners Energy Solutions and the Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC) are partnering to provide no-cost weatherization services for income-qualifying households to help lower utility bills and improve energy efficiency. The first 25 HEC customers to complete their application will receive a $100 bill credit. Click here or call 888-229-3714 to see if your household qualifies.

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.

The loss of bee populations is a harbinger of the impact of climate change. The extinction rate of bees and other insects is eight times greater than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. Scientists have, therefore, begun mapping the genomes of dozens of different bees to bolster our knowledge of bee biology and behavior. They can then use this information to tackle big picture questions like how to protect bees and how they’ve evolved alongside us over time.

Dominion Energy investors recently supported a resolution calling on the utility to reevaluate its natural gas investments in response to climate change. Ruth Amundsen, a solar project financier who is a Dominion shareholder, said that “Dominion cannot keep investing in natural gas while saying they’re going for net-zero by 2050.”

Washington and Lee University is partnering with a solar energy developer to build a solar farm in North Carolina to purchase enough solar energy to match 100% of the university’s annual electricity consumption.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Virginia Environmental News Roundup for May 2022

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

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


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

Statewide Environmental News Roundup for May 2022

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Environment

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

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

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

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

Action Alerts

Check out…

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

Why not 

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

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

We Must Start Reducing Emissions

Daily News-Record, May 13, 2022
Letter to the Editor: Les Grady

Regarding Mona Charen’s column in the May 9 DN-R: I agree with Ms. Charen’s message that climate change “is not an extinction-level event” — for humans.

Nevertheless, the need for action is urgent.

Contrary to her statement, climate scientists know very well how much Earth will warm: Warming is directly proportional to the amount of fossil CO2 emitted to the atmosphere. This has allowed the establishment of carbon budgets. The remaining budget for a two-thirds chance of holding warming to 1.5°C “will likely be exhausted before 2030” at the current rate of CO2 emissions (IPCC, WGIII, 2022). The budget for a similar chance of holding warming to 2°C is larger, so it won’t be exhausted for 25 years at current emission rates. Either way, it is obvious that the sooner we start reducing emissions, the longer the time required to exhaust the budgets and the longer we have to solve the problem. The message — we must start now, even as we perfect our technologies.

So, who should be doing the cutting? Ms. Charen seems to be concerned about the current emission rates of China, India, etc. However, a look at history provides another perspective. From 1751 to 2020, China contributed 13.8% of the CO2 emitted and India 3.4%. The U.S., on the other hand contributed 24.4%, the largest of any nation. So rather than worrying about who will enforce current climate agreements, we should be more concerned about putting our own house in order, while improving our economy in the process.

Leslie Grady Jr.

Rockingham