Statewide environmental news roundup – August 2020

A contributed perspectives piece by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

Editor’s Note: This is another installment of a regular series of contributed news roundups about statewide environmental news. It 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.

Renewables and Energy Efficiency

Now that Virginia’s first offshore wind is in operation, a group in Hampton Roads is working to make that area a hub for the east coast wind industry’s supply chain. The idea is to ”position Hampton Roads as a destination for offshore wind companies to invest … creating new economic prospects for existing businesses, attracting new investments to the region and sparking new permanent job creation.” A longtime wind advocate believes “Workforce investment [is] key to wind power project’s success.” Virginia’s offshore wind projects were highlighted in a recent Siemens Gamesa update, and progress continues on a wind project in Botetourt County.

The Port of Virginia will electrify cargo-handling equipment at its facility in Richmond.

There are multiple efforts to bring large-scale solar to different sites in the state, including Culpeper, southwest Virginia, Surry County, and Orange County.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s climate plan calling for 100% clean energy by 2035 prompted The Washington Post to analyze how much work remains to meet that goal – including in Virginia, despite recent clean energy legislation and use of nuclear energy.

Pipelines, Coal Mines, Gas Plants, and Utilities

There are concerns that the coal industry’s decline will saddle states like Virginia with massive cleanup costs. The state’s longstanding ban on uranium mining was upheld.

The cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was a thrilling outcome for those who worked for years to oppose it. Here are a slideshow highlighting their efforts and a recording of the online party; you might recognize some of the faces! It includes the popular song by area singer-songwriters Robin and Linda Williams, with a new final verse acknowledging the outcome. The Southern Environmental Law Center, which filed many legal actions opposing the pipeline, issued a thank-you to those who assisted their efforts. There are concerns about Dominion’s land acquisition for the ACP and what will happen to the land and landowners. Two bloggers have decidedly differing opinions. “A $350 million gas project spanning much of eastern Virginia has been put on hold, in part due to environmental justice concerns.” Questions have arisen about the Mountain Valley Pipeline and its planned extension from Virginia into North Carolina. Will it go forward or not? Virginia legislators are interested in reforming the federal pipeline approval process.

There is controversy about a proposed rate increase for Appalachian Power Co (ApCo) customers in Southwest Virginia. There’s interest in ApCo’s allowing solar installation on schools in that area. Dominion asked the SCC for “interim storage targets” as it moves to implement requirements of the VA Clean Economy Act passed earlier this year as well as its latest Integrated Resource Plan.

Environment

Many Virginians are thrilled with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which the President signed on August 4. The bipartisan bill will provide long-needed funding for national parks in Virginia and elsewhere across the country. Representative Ben Cline voted against the bill. A recent study showed folks are increasingly turning to public parks “for health and recreation” during the pandemic.

Along Virginia’s coast, flooding is widespread and frequent, even occurring on sunny days. The rate of this “nuisance flooding” is accelerating and damaging roads, buildings, and croplands. Tidewater isn’t the only part of the state experiencing flooding. Recent rains have negatively affected Northern Virginia as well as Staunton. A recent study found that “Rising Seas Could Menace Millions Beyond Shorelines”—including here in Virginia.

In our second perspectives piece, we described efforts to save migrating birds after their traditional nesting sites were destroyed because of road construction. It appears those efforts were successful. In that same piece, we noted that the state is focusing on menhaden. These efforts include some by conservation groups as well as the Atlantic Menhaden Advisory Board. Officials are hopeful Virginia’s Wildlife Corridor Plan will reduce risks to humans and animals.

Concerns about air pollution motivated 20 states, including Virginia, to sue the EPA over its easing of mercury pollution standards. Most states—again including Virginia—have “reduced their carbon emissions while growing their economies.” Analysis of all states’ progress in emissions reduction showed Virginia has room for improvement. Staff shortages resulting from a budget shortfall “are making it harder for agencies to respond to sea level rise and other climate change-related issues.”

Seven East Coast states saw their hottest July on record”. Virginia was one. Roanoke is one of 13 cities that are part of a study of urban heat islands effect.

The Chesapeake Conservancy has launched a series of podcasts—“Chesapeake Conversations”—giving information on the Bay’s status. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) built a “jewel” of a green building that produces 83% more energy than it uses. CBF worked with a Clarke County farmer to “install a rotational grazing system, leading to a more productive farm, healthier soil, and cleaner waterways.” CBF also keeps tabs on Bay health — Blue Crabs and Underwater Grasses. There is some not so good news—about PCBs. The Chesapeake Bay program recently gave Virginia mixed reviews. And then there’s the recent algae bloom.

CBF’s Communications Director described the importance of our state’s waterways to our collective health. Virginians who enjoy using the Shenandoah River will have expanded access, thanks to funding from the DuPont-Waynesboro Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement.

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.


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