Statewide environmental news roundup – October 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 and 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.

Energy

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a two-year extension for completing the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s (MVP), as MVP owners are seeking FERC permission to resume construction. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reissued three permits for an MVP “path across nearly 1,000 streams and wetlands.” Environmental groups have sued over a U.S. Fish & Wildlife service “biological opinion” concerning MVP construction’s impact on endangered species. Previously, FERC approved a 75‑mile MVP extension into North Carolina. It recently denied a request for a re-hearing by pipeline opponents on that approval.

President Trump announced extension of the ban on off-shore drilling along Virginia’s coast through 2032. The Virginia Manufacturer’s Association has sued to keep the state from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s carbon market.

Gov Northam signed legislation funding Virginia’s first zero-emission electric buses in Hampton Roads, while a partnership between Fairfax County & Dominion Energy has created “Virginia’s first publicly funded autonomous electric shuttle pilot project.”

Virginia’s off-shore wind industry could produce 5,000 jobs and $740M in economic impact over the next several years; Dominion’s newly-operational wind farm could provide 1,000 jobs and $209M. Virginia received a federal grant to “support the siting of wind energy projects across the Commonwealth.” A Danish company that supplies the wind energy sector will build a plant in Henrico County. Shenandoah County Supervisors approved a large-scale solar farm near Mt. Jackson. Albemarle Co approved its first climate action plan; supporters want action on municipal solar. A former Navy fuel yard could become the site of a 20-MW solar farm in York County. With help from an area solar developer  and a local roofer, a Waynesboro school recently installed solar panels.

Climate and Environment

Severe flooding in Hampton Roads resulted in overflow of “millions of gallons of sewage during recent heavy rain.” A U.S. Forest Service plan may threaten Lynchburg’s water supply. Staunton’s recent severe flooding didn’t merit federal disaster assistance, but the community is pulling together. Aging wastewater systems in Southwest Virginia represent large expenses for cash-strapped communities.

A comparative study of how each state’s public schools science standards address climate change–“Making the Grade”—gave Virginia an “F”, but state officials disagree. A George Mason University survey of Virginia adults showed 78% want news and information about climate impacts.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released its annual air quality report, saying “the state had 34 more ‘good’ air quality days this year than the previous record set in 2017.” Using federal grant money, DEQ will study the effects on air quality of coal dust in Hampton Roads.

Nelson County residents want to work with Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project owners on environmental restoration of property disturbed by construction prior to ACP cancellation. October marked the 10th anniversary of the Smith Creek Showcase Watershed project. Its purpose: serve as a model for how stream-fencing and grass buffers can reduce run-off into Chesapeake Bay watershed waterways. In early December, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) will sponsor three days of tree planting on a Staunton farm “to create a forested buffer.” Virginia’s 40th state park, Machicomoco State Park in York County, will open by the end of 2020.

A travel writer visited several southwest Virginia locations that reminded him of the American West. A Southern Environmental Law Center video, “Broken Ground,” tells personal stories about how sea-level rise and sinking land affect lives in coastal communities, including Hampton Roads. “One Minute for Earth” is an Earth Day Every Day video project to encourage citizens to “Vote Earth” on November 3.

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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