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Statewide environmental news roundup – March 2021

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.

Energy

A report from UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center describes ways to accelerate Virginia’s transition away from carbon-source fuels toward clean energy. Not everyone believes these are feasible solutions. Powhatan County approved a 20 MW solar farm. A Harrisonburg resident leads Give Solar, which will help Habitat for Humanity install solar on several area homes in 2021.

In its first Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auction, Virginia netted $43+ million, part of which will fund energy efficiency programs for low income Virginians. RFFI is a multi-state coalition to reduce carbon pollution. Multiple Virginia energy groups want Congress to pass “Biden’s 100 % Clean Electricity Standard Now.” Virginia Tech’s board wants a carbon neutral campus by 2030.

Dominion faces a challenge getting onto the grid the electricity from the 188 wind turbines it’s building off Virginia’s coast. Another challenge is receiving needed approvals from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. A for-profit school in Norfolk is training students for wind industry jobs. Virginia continues to “scope out” opportunities for becoming a player in the wind industry supply chain.

A southwest Virginia group is beginning the process of adding more residential solar in coalfield areas. Five localities there are cooperating to attract more data centers. New rail service in the New River Valley may become reality after 2021 legislation to enable fundraising. A former coal mining equipment manufacturer has pivoted to energy storage, with help from a grant.

Taking its first steps to join the EV bandwagon, Virginia enacted clean car standards comparable to those in California and established an as-yet unfunded rebate process to incentivize Virginians to purchase EVs. Six utilities are cooperating to greatly expand EV charging stations throughout the southeast, mid-west, and Atlantic destinations; Dominion is one of the participants.

Dominion wants approval to continue operation of its North Anna nuclear plant for another 20 years. Opponents question its safety after the 2011 earthquake.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) remains a source of news: It will be completed this year. Arguments in a court case that it’s not needed failed. Work continues while tree-sitters watch. One sitter was removed. A second sitter was removed, effectively ending that protest. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy received a $19.5 million pledge from MVP, with which it signed a 2020 voluntary conservation agreement.” Owners of the Transco Pipeline filed suit against MVP owners who want to take land through eminent domain that Transco previously acquired the same way.

Pittsylvania’s NAACP asked Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to have the Air Quality Control Board review MVP’s air permit. Builders of a proposed natural gas pipeline in Prince William County withdrew its application. Despite vocal community opposition to a Wegman’s distribution center in a wetlands area, the Virginia Water Control Board approved its construction.

Climate and Environment

Southwest Virginia has a huge gypsy moth problem but may have found a way to address it.

Northern Virginia tap water may have high levels of “forever chemicals.” The James River has a pollution problem despite past and current efforts to solve it.

Virginia saw some environmentalwins” during the 2021 General Assembly session. Prince William County is considering whether to establish a “plastic bag tax.”

Virginia Beach will restore 200+ acres of wetlands to help reduce flooding. Virginia contracted with an engineering firm to receive a “roadmap” for responding to the threats from sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Several EMU students organized a summer 2021 “Climate Ride” to “get folks interested in saving the world.” An EMU alumna is airborne to study air quality, “measuring aerosols and greenhouse gases by plane.”

Get ready for the 17-year cicadas; they’re coming our way. As you may have noticed, spring has sprung; seen any bluebirds? Encountered any black bears on your hikes? Virginia’s population is flourishing.

Some “to dos”: Thinking of taking some hikes this spring? Virginia offers some good ones.  An Amherst resident managed to complete her goal along the Appalachian Trail. Hike the newly opened Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail under Afton Mountain; and learn its history. See the importance of the “Goose Creek Watershed” from this documentary. Check out a recent “Fata Morgana” mirage over the Chesapeake Bay, and learn what it is. Tell Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance what your vision of the city’s 2040 downtown looks like.

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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