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Statewide environmental news roundup – January 2021

File photo by Mary Ann Zehr.

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

Appalachian Power wants the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to approve a rate increase to cover costs of “environmental improvements” at coal power plants. It also wants SCC approval of transmission line upgrades for five counties. The SCC did approve a service fee of $1.80/month. Dominion Energy wants the SCC to approve raising rates to pay for solar projects. The 2021 General Assembly session happening now will consider numerous energy and environmental bills. Some relate to utility reform.

The General Assembly will be voting on several clean energy and transportation bills during the current session: EVs, energy storage, wildlife, data centers, so-called “advanced recycling,” and emissions standards. Local Del. Chris Runion (R-Bridgewater) has partnered with Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-McLean) on a bill to expand the definition of “small solar agricultural generator” to include wineries, cideries, and distilleries. Louisa County now has two electric school buses; Fairfax County has one. In what may be a sign of what’s to come, Giant Food announced installation of an EV charging station at its Purcellville store. Virginia is working with Norfolk Southern to expand passenger rail service in the New River Valley.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to be the focus of federal and state regulators, and protestors. Its future is anybody’s guess; a recent survey indicates it does have supporters. North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality approved a permit so Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods could start using hog waste to produce energy. A Dominion power plant using such material will be in Virginia. Atlantic Coast Pipeline cleanup will happen from 2021-2023 in Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

Danville’s City Council approved an energy storage project to save the city’s energy costs. Augusta County’s planning commission determined that a proposed solar farm near Stuarts Draft is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan. A guest columnist addressed whether solar panels should be put on food-production land.

Climate and Environment

Eagles are having problems with survival in Virginia; humans are causing them. Mark Viette, a horticulturist, has ideas for helping all birds. The invasive spotted lanternfly will adversely and noticeably affect Virginia agriculture.

The federal EPA continues to clean up a former titanium mine and refinery superfund site in Piney River. The Monacan Indian Nation and the James River Water Authority are working to address the former’s concerns about a controversial water project in Fluvanna County. A new report by a coalition of groups documents efforts in Central Appalachia to clean up and repurpose abandoned coal mine lands.

More than 2,500 acres in Charlotte County are now a state forest. Over 800 acres of old growth forest in Giles and Bland Counties are now protected. An additional 400 acres has been added to the Poor Mountain Natural Area Preserve near Roanoke. Reforest Richmond is a campaign to plant over 8,000 Eastern Redbud saplings to help restore tree canopy. VA GRAZ is modeling software to help Virginia farmers assess potential impacts of conservation and other practices they are considering. Farmers can complete this survey to report on their conservation management efforts. Virginia representatives have proposed that the Historic Dismal Swamp be designated a National Heritage Area. One of these representatives convened the House Chesapeake Bay Advisory Board to consider the Bay’s effects on Virginia’s coastal communities. An article discusses the challenges of protecting species diversity in national forests such as Virginia’s Jefferson because commercial use is often allowed.

Norfolk’s problems with sea level rise and sinking land necessitates planning for dealing with chronic flooding. Stormwater runoff is a big problem.

Here’s a great story about a Chesapeake Bay skipjack skipper, oysters, and history. Chesapeake Bay restoration is an ongoing effort but more progress is needed; Bay advocates hope the Biden administration will be supportive. A Virginia delegate will head the tri-state Bay Commission in 2021. This video describes an intensive job training program to support Virginia’s wind industry. This dashboard lets you monitor Virginia’s progress toward its clean energy goals. Virginia Tech researchers say one way to reduce threats from Asian carp is to eat them. A Floyd County blogger provides some history about native forest bees before honeybees were imported. Biden named the Virginia commissioner of agriculture and consumer services to serve as deputy secretary of agriculture.

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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