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Statewide environmental news roundup – July 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

Solar has been making news:

  • A Harrisonburg non-profit, Give Solar, has partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate to put solar on several newly constructed homes this year. The hope is to provide “a path to homeownership and sustainable energy” and to expand the model to other Habitat affiliates in the state.
  • An area installer has secured $25 million in financing to “develop, own and operate solar power projects in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. Solar projects will include K-12 public schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and local government facilities.”
  • Large-scale solar development is underway across the state, with localities inundated with special use permit applications, some of which proposed solar as a new use for formerly industrial sites, or “brownfields.” Planning commissions and Boards of Supervisors in numerous counties have examined their zoning ordinances and listened to the public. Here are links to stories about this in a few of the many affected localities: Augusta County, Buchanan County, Rockingham County, Halifax County, Surry County, South Boston, Fauquier County, Mecklenburg County, and Gloucester County. Not everyone is enamored of “utility‑scale” solar facilities.
  • With contracts signed between Appalachian Power and several southwest Virginia localities, schools there can finally move toward putting solar on their roofs.

Energy efficiency has also gotten some press:

As did off-shore wind:

A court upheld Virginia’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is intended to reduce our carbon pollution from power plants. Revenue received from carbon polluters will provide funding for coastal resilience actions and energy efficiency initiatives for low income residents.

Owners of a proposed, and controversial, fracked gas plant near Charles City canceled plans to pursue the project after evidence showed DEQ could have revoked the permit it had granted. DEQ announced the Air Quality Control Board delayed consideration of a permit for the Lambert Compressor Station until September. Meanwhile, another company is exploring routes for a pipeline in Charles City, Hanover, Henrico, Louisa and New Kent counties.

EPA believes the Army Corps of Engineers should “not grant [the] Mountain Valley Pipeline stream crossing permit.” Even so, MVP owners recently purchased $150 million in carbon offsets to counter effects of its operations. Two Appalachian Voices staff members think that’s “greenwashing.”

Nelson County residents recently celebrated cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline one year ago. Berkshire Hathaway abandoned plans to purchase a gas pipeline from Dominion Energy because of “uncertainty about whether the deal could get regulatory approval.”

There is a new “state official supporting the rollout of green banks in Virginia”; green banks will help finance renewable energy projects. An analysis showed “Targeted Stimulus Investment in Advanced Energy Would Deliver Nearly $134 Billion to Virginia’s Economy.”

Climate and Environment

There have been numerous reports of sick birds in several states, including Virginia. Scientists are trying to learn why. DEQ reported a large fish kill (~8,000) in Little Creek near Bristol from a lye spill. A UVA-Wise researcher is studying amphibians in a wetlands area at the top of a mountain in southwest Virginia to find out what types of frogs and salamanders live there.

Fredericksburg is wrestling with whether, and how, to tax plastic bags. Fairfax County plans to explore such a tax.

The new state park along the York River, Machicomoco, harks back to when it was the home of native people, with plentiful “tall grasslands and woods.” The only state park dedicated to indigenous tribes, its “dual purpose [is] to honor Native American tribes that trace their ancestral roots to the land and to educate nonnative visitors about the land’s importance to Indigenous people who still live in the region.”

Perhaps there will someday be a Chesapeake Bay National Recreation Area. Still, “cuts to clean water protections threaten Chesapeake Bay restoration.”

There is considerable interest in the planned Shenandoah Rail‑Trail that will link Broadway and Front Royal. The Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley is a proponent. Woodstock’s “bike and pedestrian trail [is] still on pace as [the] town nears engineering stage.”

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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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