A contributed perspectives piece by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley
Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a regular series of contributed news roundups about statewide environmental news. This piece highlights, with links to further coverage in various media outlets, recent environmental news stories of significance to Virginia, with a focus on energy and the environment.
Spotswood County will be the site of the largest solar project in the Eastern U.S.; Wells Fargo approved financing for the 620-megawatt project its Utah-based developer first proposed in 2018. Dominion Energy solicited proposals for “up to 1,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of solar and onshore wind generation and up to 250 megawatts of energy storage”. These are part of its latest Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), released after enactment of 2020’s Virginia Clean Economy Act, or VCEA. While the IRP sets out more ambitious targets than its 2019 IRP, critics say the 2020 plan continues to rely too much on fossil fuel sources. The IRP includes storage as well. Wells Fargo stepped up again, financing a Shell subsidiary that plans to install 150,000 MW in California and three Virginia counties.
Secure Futures, a Staunton-based solar company, will add 2 MW to the 1.8 MW of solar panels it installed on county schools in 2019. The company is also adding 2.5 MW to Orange County schools. In Southwestern Virginia, advocates are working to ensure that the 2020 VCEA’s emphasis on solar energy will bring more of it to their area, thereby addressing the urgency for a transition away from coal, as demand has plummeted. The Nature Conservancy wants to partner with someone to develop solar on 13,000 acres of cleared coal mine land in Southwestern Virginia. In the Winchester area, “Solar energy makes local car wash even ‘greener’”. Thanks to 2020 legislation, residential and business property owners have eight new ways to help them go solar. And Fredericksburg’s baseball team, a minor league affiliate of the Washington Nationals, will light their stadium using solar power.
Finally, Virginia now has offshore wind power. Governor Northam signed enabling legislation for wind turbines off the Virginia coast, and The Daily Press reports on a second offshore turbine now towering over the Atlantic. Meanwhile, a Dominion engineer discusses the company’s huge wind project.
Pipelines and Gas Plants
The biggest recent environmental news in Virginia was Dominion Energy’s decision to abandon the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Here is a sampling of the extensive local, state and national coverage of this announcement:
The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is not yet canceled, though its developers continue to confront legal obstacles. One in particular relates to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for waterbody crossing. An environmental hydrologist thinks the MVP permit process illustrates a nationwide failure. As a result of judicial rulings, this process, developed to streamline pipeline projects, might well threaten them.
Here are some stories about the state’s existing natural gas plants:
There was good and bad news in the 2020 American Lung Association’s report on air quality for Hampton Roads. For the sixth consecutive year, it has “held firm or improved;” however, the region ranked 169th of 204 areas reporting data, indicating there remains room for improvement.
Hampton Roads also scored a win for migrating birds. This happened after a chorus of Virginians cried “fowl” at the destruction of a migratory nesting site due to tunnel construction. Dogs safely helped arriving birds find their new site, “urging” them to stay away from their old one.
Hampton Roads scored another big win when the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) awarded $100M in funding to water improvement projects.
Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC are dissatisfied with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) oversight of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan and filed suit; they’re also unhappy with 2 states, New York and Pennsylvania, who aren’t meeting their commitments. The EPA Administrator isn’t “amused” at the “frivolous” lawsuit.
Virginia has taken steps to manage and save its menhaden population in the Chesapeake Bay. The fish is critical to that ecosystem and its commercial fishing industry.
A drier spring may mean that the Chesapeake Bay will have reduced “dead zones” due to, among other things, reduced agricultural runoff.
With the Covid-19 lockdowns worldwide, U.S., carbon emissions are down. Here’s a map showing how much Virginia’s have fallen.
Augusta County now has a protected conservation site, the 350-acre Lyndhurst Ponds Natural Area Preserve. The site protects sinkholes and forests, with the aim of improving water quality, plants, and animals that live there.
The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group in the Central Shenandoah Valley that educates legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis.