Statewide environmental news roundup – September 2020

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

Editor’s Note: This is the latest 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.


Three notable solar energy stories in Virginia: Several Richmond-area Catholic churches have installed panels; Rockingham County tabled a solar farm permit application; and the insurance company Anthem has agreed to buy power from a solar energy project nearing completion in Hanover.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act officially became law when the Governor signed it in late August. The business group Virginia Advanced Energy Economy argues that the state can lead on clean energy while maintaining a reliable grid.

The Washington Metro system has installed LED-lighting in 48 stations to improve its energy efficiency. Rappahannock Electric Cooperative will install a grid-sized battery storage system. An Environment America report ranked eight Virginia universities on electric vehicle deployment; JMU came in seventh. Governor Northam signed legislation that will bring zero‑emission electric buses to Hampton Roads.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will decide whether to extend the timeline for completing the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Dominion Energy filed a nuclear license renewal application for the North Anna Power Station. Some Virginia Democratic lawmakers want President Trump to extend a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling to Virginia. Meanwhile, Virginia and North Carolina have reached a settlement over the 2014 Dan River spill.

Climate and Environment

A scientific collaboration including Virginia Tech developed a workshop, “Fish and Ships,” to assist researchers worldwide in understanding marine animals and the movements of “commercial fishing vessels, two crucial drivers in the effort to maintain a healthy ocean ecosystem.” The Department of Wildlife Resources has funded six habitat projects to protect endangered species, including the rusty patched bumblebee. Smallmouth bass and menhaden populations are improving, thanks to conservation efforts. The summer brought significant algae blooms to the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia joined other states in suing the EPA over its management of the Bay’s watershed agreement. Bay cleanup efforts have long been underway; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s history of these efforts, starting with the 1972 Clean Water Act, suggest more work is needed.

Some Virginia homeowners are taking action to protect their homes from flooding. Staunton recently experienced significant flooding, with costly results. Dorchester County, Maryland, on the Delmarva Peninsula, is sinking as Chesapeake Bay water levels are rising and flooding is increasing. County officials are considering whether buyouts of some homeowners are a good approach, in contrast to approaches in nearby Norfolk ”to invest in new infrastructure and flood prevention.” Climate Central’s interactive map shows coastal communities’ sea level rise vulnerability to. Hampton Roads’ sinking is visible from space.

Governor Northam wants to study whether Virginia should continue to landfill so much out-of-state trash. He also wants to spend more money rehabilitating aging dams threatened by increased precipitation due to climate change. Two area entities recently won the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award: the Harrisonburg‑Rockingham Sewer Authority and Virginia Clean Cities.

A writer who explores Virginia’s waterways wrote about paddling the Appomattox River, offering a fascinating history and describing many creatures in and around the river. And a local writer says the “Growing Climate Solutions Act gives farmers a seat at the carbon market table.”

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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