Statewide environmental news roundup – November 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.


Advocacy group Generation 180 is promoting solar on schools in Virginia. Several Southwest Virginia school systems want solar panels but face obstacles. Fairfax County has contracted with multiple companies to provide solar on several government facilities. Danville’s municipal electric utility added more solar to its grid, and a Big Stone Gap business went solar. Several other localities, including Front Royal, Pittsylvania County, Culpeper County, Pulaski County, Amherst County, and Rockingham County have considered or are considering applications for large solar farms. Dominion Energy says it’s the country’s third‑largest solar-owning utility. A Virginia solar company will build a large solar facility in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Virginia joined its northern and southern neighboring states in a program to spur off‑shore wind development, although a Tangier family of conch fishermen says Dominion’s off-shore wind farm threatens its livelihood. The Botetourt County on-shore wind farm received a “final” approval, but the FAA said, “not so fast”.

A UVA professor says Virginia can de-carbonize by 2050. Virginia is defending a lawsuit challenging the state’s joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a regional carbon “cap‑and-invest” program. Solar World touted the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). Appalachian Power said it would comply with the VCEA and become “carbon free by 2050.” Several lawmakers told the State Corporation Commission that proposed energy storage rules violate the VCEA. Dominion will provide E-buses to Chesterfield County schools.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline project continues to face legal challenges and public opposition, including long-time tree sitters.

Climate and Environment

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) reported five “wins”. Fewer Bay “dead zones” is another good sign. Hopewell and CBF partnered to plant trees as a riparian buffer near the James and Appomattox Rivers. Several restoration projects, and litigation, concern oyster and shrimp (Elizabeth River, Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, Bay tributaries, Chesapeake Bay) and underwater vegetation (Eastern Shore, Virginia Beach, Eastern Seaboard). The Chesapeake Bay Commission monitors the Bay’s status. Climate change will make cleanup efforts harder. Plastic is imperiling sea turtles and marine mammals.

A derailed coal train spilled coal into the Roanoke River, requiring water testing. Although state environmental funding was supposed to be at record levels in 2020, that’s no longer expected. A new environmental justice study calls for ‘a cultural shift’ at the Department of Environmental Quality.

Virginia Beach ranked 72 of 100 cities in the “2020 City Clean Energy Scorecard.” Sea level rise remains a challenge despite efforts to mitigate it. Virginia is losing salt marshes. Buckingham County residents dodged the Atlantic Coast Pipeline but face open-pit gold mining.

The Blue Ridge Discovery Center will receive DEQ grant money to help transform two brownfields “into a unique Southwest Virginia destination.” Virginians are informed about the climate crisis and have opinions on the need to act. Two Virginia Tech professors are researching the climate change implications for mountainous regions and coastal living. Shenandoah County wants the state to designate part of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River as “scenic.” A new report underscores the economic importance of outdoor recreation to states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. And the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority set up a $1 million Renewable Energy Fund.

Also of note:

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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