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Statewide environmental news roundup – February 2021

File photo by Tristan Lorei

A contributed perspectives piece by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV)

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.

So far this year, the Virginia General Assembly has considered many energy, transportation, utility, and land and water conservation bills; the legislature’s regular session ended late last month and the special session ends shortly. CAAV has tracked several of these and will produce a summary that will appear in this space in early March.

Energy

The Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to make headlines–about water permits, opponent activities, litigation, public opinion surveys, and operations.

Efforts are underway to “stitch Virginia, Maryland and DC closer together” through a vision of an expanded train network. The economic development organization, GO Virginia, has awarded funding to create jobs in the Tidewater area to address seal level rise. A Virginia representative submitted proposed federal legislation to ban offshore drilling.

Automaker Tesla is moving to add three new dealerships in Virginia. A new battery electrical energy storage facility has been proposed for Southside Virginia. An electrical cooperative and a Charlottesville solar installer teamed to propose a battery storage facility and solar array near Batesville in Albemarle County. There are big plans for offshore wind along Virginia’s coast. Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, which supplies energy to many Virginia electric cooperatives, pledged to be net-zero carbon by 2050. Sigora Solar and Isle of Wight County are partnering to put solar on seven of its nine schools.

Climate and Environment

Humpback whales, and other marine creatures, face many risks as they traverse shipping lanes in and out of the Chesapeake Bay. Ongoing research aims to reduce these dangers. A Shenandoah Valley farmer employs rotational grazing, which provides benefits to her land and, because her farm is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, also to the Bay. Ducks Unlimited will preserve 1,300 acres in the Great Dismal Swamp by restoring it to wetlands. A Harrisonburg farmer is practicing restorative farming along Blacks Run. Prince William County Supervisors recently approved rules to promote agri-tourism. Eelgrass is important to the Bay ecosystem; unfortunately it’s in trouble. Thanks to funding from a DuPont settlement, Shenandoah National Park Trust and partners acquired 900 acres of rolling woodlands in Page County. The Virginia Outdoors Foundation has awarded grants to Buena Vista and Rocky Mount to improve the towns’ parks and to Nelson County to create a new boat landing near the Rockfish River. The Joseph Pines Preserve in Sussex County expanded its conservation easement by 196 acres.

In somewhat stark contrast, efforts to have the General Assembly stop a proposed “mega” landfill in a community of color in Cumberland County failed. As happened in Buckingham County with the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor station, the landfill owners offered relatively small amounts of money to a cash-strapped county so 3,500 tons of waste could come into the county from elsewhere daily. A study funded by the owners showed the county would receive great economic benefits.

As part of efforts to aid Southwest Virginia in its move away from coal, Virginia agencies are assisting farmers to identify and grow new crops, such as barley for craft breweries. The Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy will use a federal grant to help restore abandoned coal mine sites and boost local economic development.

Ever heard of the Carolina Bays? They are in Virginia too. They’re a bit mysterious and may have extraterrestrial origins. Like Applejack? Distillers, including in Virginia, are bringing it back and updating it. A fascinating short film by a father and his 7 year old son, about the dangers of kayaking near a dam in the James River near Richmond, won an award at the recent RVA Environmental Film Festival. A blogger wrote about the Roanoke area’s efforts to re-brand itself as an “outdoors-friendly community.” The Virginia Department of Wildlife and Resources site, Go Outdoors Virginia, offers guidance for safe water use and gives an online way to obtain access licenses. An EMU professor produced a marvelous book, Vernal Pools of Appalachia, available as a free, downloadable e-book. The Throwing Solar Shade project offered high school students a competitive opportunity to offer suggestions for innovations in solar energy.

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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