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Statewide environmental news roundup – December 2020

File photo by Randi B. Hagi

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

Pulaski County will host a new Volvo Electric Truck plant. Virginia wants Congress to authorize transferring four acres of National Park land to the Commonwealth to construct a passenger rail bridge across the Potomac River.

Mountain Valley Watch submitted aerial photographs to request State Water Control Board action  addressing bare earth and stream sediment from Mountain Valley Pipeline activities. The same group filed a federal lawsuit objecting to FERC’s allowing the MVP project to move forward. Pipeline projects continue to be proposed.

The State Corporation Commission denied Appalachian Power’s rate increase request; the utility will appeal the decision. In response to a lawsuit, a Federal Judge declined to order removal of Dominion’s controversial transmission line across the James River, ordering an improved Environmental Impact Statement. The Army Corps of Engineers completed the revised draft, because there’s no better alternative; public comment period closes February 21, 2021. Dominion canceled a planned “peaker” power plant in Pittsylvania County. Dominion is acting on its deal with Smithfield Foods to pipe hog waste from North Carolina pig farms to a plant using the “natural gas” to power 4,000 homes. The State Air Quality Control Board approved the Navy’s request to build a steam- and natural-gas-turbine power plant at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, despite significant increases in small‑particulate matter. It will be “near a predominately Black community with higher-than-normal rates of respiratory illnesses.” (“Navy spending accounts for 15% of Hampton Roads economy.”)

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond continues its solar deployment. The Southwest Virginia Coalfields Authority will use its coal tax credits to establish a renewable energy fund. The American Battlefield Trust issued a how-to report on protecting Virginia’s historic sites while meeting clean energy goals. Newport News City Council will decide whether to approve conditional use permits for the City School Board’s contract for solar on the schools.

Off-shore facilities could be powerful economy‑boosters, as described in this video. The Kitty Hawk off‑shore project will bring hundreds of jobs to Hampton Roads.

A series of articles published by the Virginia Mercury explained Virginia’s clean energy transition. A Rocky Mountain Institute report said Virginia Clean Economy Act initiatives are insufficient to meet carbon-reduction goals.

Climate and Environment

Virginia’s Maritime Resources Commission extended 2020’s crab pot season by 20 days, and the shrimp season until January 31, 2021, saying there shouldn’t be a negative effect on the 2021 season. A Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) video highlighted 2020 Bay activities. CBF sold its Fox Island facilities because of sea-level rise. It touted passage of two recent federal bills to boost funding for Bay restoration. The Potomac Conservancy dropped the River’s report card to B- for 2020. Norfolk Shipyard is “turning to oyster ‘castles,’ ‘bergs’ to help clean up the Elizabeth River’s polluted waters.” Virginia has made progress in convincing farmers to fence cattle from Bay watershed streams; Delegate Wilt is proposing a tax credit (HB1652).

This map shows how 2020’s hurricane season affected Virginia. Hampton will fund three projects to “capture, store, redirect and filtrate some 8 million gallons of stormwater” and reduce flooding. Virginia Beach residents are planting trees to slow flooding. A $130 million flooding overhaul for two Norfolk neighborhoods near the Elizabeth River is ahead of schedule. VDOT’s Beautify Virginia project seeks help to pick up road-way litter. Virginia is closer to acquiring land for its 40th state park, Machicomoco, in Gloucester Co. Conservation groups funded acquisition of 600 acres on McAfee’s Knob to preserve views from the Appalachian Trail.

A satirical article “connects” fewer coal plants and more wind turbines. This interactive map and story map show how land cover affects water quality, including the Chesapekae Bay.

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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