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Statewide environmental news roundup – April 2021

The recently established New Community Project Climate Farm in Rockingham County. File photo by Lars Åkerson.

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

Dominion Energy submitted its petition to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) in support of the statutorily required “triennial review”—an audit of its earnings and expenses. What is a triennial review? Here’s an explanation. The company wants higher guaranteed profits.  Despite excess earnings of $26 Million above its four-year target, the company does not want to provide customer rebates. An advocacy group objects, and a broader fight about utility regulation looms. After courts disapproved an already-completed Dominion transmission line project spanning the James River, a mitigation settlement resulted in Dominion’s funding “The Founders District” to attract tourism in the affected area. The SCC affirmed its prior denial of Appalachian Power’s rate increase request; ApCo appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.

Transportation planners in Virginia and Maryland are looking at how to connect rail systems in both states to enable train travel between states. The governor approved creation of the New River Valley Rail Authority to support additional rail service in that area. The Maryland-Virginia agreement may assist the New River Valley effort.  Thanks to federal funding, Virginia has finalized agreements with several railways to launch a $3.7 billion expansion and improvement of the state’s commuter and freight railroads, including in southwest Virginia. VRE has already increased rail service on weekends.

Following Blackjewel’s bankruptcy settlement, in addition to the loss of 500+ coal mining jobs in Virginia, the state now owns “mining permits that no one wants.”

All tree sitters protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) were removed; denial of bond, fines and jail awaited some. The press was denied access to witness the “extractions.” A continuing issue is whether and how MVP can cross hundreds of waterways in the pipeline’s path. One aspect is Virginia DEQ’s permitting process, which is lengthy. A Virginia advocacy group provided specifics. The MVP provided $27.5 million to several Virginia conservation groups as compensation for forest fragmentation and water pollution its operations caused.

Solar projects, especially “large-scale solar farms” continue to be proposed. Recently, they have been or will be considered in these locations: Louisa County, King George County, and Buchanan County. Localities sometimes have concerns about potential negative effects of these projects; the Department of Environmental Quality recently fined Dominion Energy because of stormwater runoff to a creek from another Louisa project. Virginia is home to several data centers and interest in them continues. Equipment suppliers for these centers mean jobs, including in Botetourt County.

A partnership between Harrisonburg non-profit Give Solar and the local Habitat for Humanity will result in solar on new homes during 2021. Thanks to the efforts of a Norfolk resident, an energy company has “brought more than 1,000 [solar] panels to churches and businesses in low-income areas throughout Hampton Roads [and] has hit a major goal: more than $1 million worth of installations.” Virginia has a ways to go in the distributed solar market, however.

Climate and Environment

Harrisonburg Public Works received a Gold Medal in the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards for its Purcell Park Bioreactor Project. DEQ announced reductions in toxic pollution to air, water, and land in 2019, compared to 2018. What to do with waste? Burn it for energy or send it to a landfill? Hampton Roads’ Naval Shipyard has a dilemma.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, with concurrence of the Virginia Bureau, reacted favorably to an EPA report “that farmers are raising more food and fiber and producing more renewable fuels using fewer resources by utilizing smarter practices,” thus serving as carbon sequesters.

The Historic Virginia Land Conservancy recently added 2,600+ acres, across five counties, to its portfolio. The properties all represent “vital” farmland in Virginia.

Plans are underway for a biking trail from Richmond to Virginia Beach; short term plans are to extend an existing trail to Williamsburg, longer term plans would extend it to the ocean at Virginia Beach, with a possibility of a further extension through the Dismal Swamp into North Carolina.

Oystermen lost a suit seeking damages because of pollution to their harvesting grounds from a locality’s sewage treatment facility; the Virginia Supreme Court found their leases do not ensure the absence of pollution.

Coalfields and aquaculture? Who knew they’re connected?

Like other coastal communities, Mathews County wants to preserve its coastline, including both private properties and wetlands located there. Problem is, it’s hard to do both.

Like camping? Here’s are some ideal local sites. How about hiking? Check out this one along Aquia Creek.

Interested in an electric vehicle (EV)? Here is some information about EVs in Virginia.

Ever wondered about the relationship between our underground aquifers and our rivers. Here’s an explanation for the Middle River.

What’s a “green flash?” Virginia recently had one.

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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