State environmental news roundup – August 2021

A contributed perspectives piece by 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.


A proposed Botetourt County wind farm in missed a deadline in the approval process; the developer appealed that determination. Offshore wind (OSW) is coming to Virginia and the State Corporation Commission has opened a docket anticipating a “coming application from Dominion Energy Virginia for its massive offshore wind proposal”; a blogger discusses pros and cons. OSW is under review for the North Carolina coast; if built, some of the energy produced would be sold to the Virginia market. Area residents differ in their receptiveness to the prospect of large wind turbines offshore.

A blogger discussed findings from a Wood McKenzie study giving Virginia top rankings as a “top state for new solar capacity additions,” pointing out that, nonetheless, “it’s still common to see proposed solar developments meet defeat at the local level.” A Valley farmer and solar advocates recommends “Stop whining about solar panels — we need more now.”

Solar United Neighbors intervened in a Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) Rate Increase application now pending before the State Corporation Commission (PUR-2021-00054), arguing another “20% increase … doesn’t align with members’ needs.” SVEC increased its fixed charge from $13 to $25 within the last 18 months. The SCC will hold a public hearing on October 6. Member‑owners can comment here.


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. A well‑respected Virginia energy policy expert and blogger touted this local effort. (CAAV and other local organizations will host a benefit concert, “Songs for Solar”, to support it: September 10th, 7 – 9:30 PM, Community Mennonite Church, 70 S. High St, Harrisonburg VA 22801. All free will donations will go to GIVE SOLAR. Come and bring your mask.)

Fredericksburg’s Clean and Green Commission, partnering with Local Energy Assistance Program, launched a Solarize Fredericksburg campaign, through which “Fredericksburg [residents] and surrounding counties can sign up to receive a free solar satellite assessment and access discounted prices.”

An EPA letter to the Army Corps of Engineers recommended the Corps disapprove a water permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) because “[t]he current design of the pipeline threatens a variety of water bodies across Virginia and West Virginia.” Wild Virginia agrees. Although MVP owners plan to purchase carbon offsets for the project’s projected annual 730,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, environmentalists are unimpressed. Protesters continue to raise objections to the MVP and some were arrested. Directly affected property owners sued to prevent blasting for [the] pipeline on Bent Mountain.” The Department of Environmental Quality said it’s looking into complaints.

One legacy of the cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline: “A federal review of a plan to restore land disturbed by construction of the … Pipeline… recommends that some 31 miles of installed pipeline and 83 miles of trees felled … be left in place to minimize further disturbance to wildlife and vegetation.” Some of the infrastructure is on easements on privately held property. Nelson County residents want Dominion to rescind those easements; Dominion said they should stay in place until restoration is complete.

The market for coal is negative and utilities are evaluating when and how to discontinue its use. Coal’s negative environmental effects were underscored by a late July 13-car train derailment that sent coal into the James River. Charles City County residents “fended off” a proposed natural gas-fired plant.

Climate and Environment

Virginia’s Conservation and Recreation “received a $1 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to expand … living shorelines in Rural Coastal Virginia to reduce coastal erosion and benefit water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.” Environmental groups want the state to put one-sixth of funds due from the new American Rescue Plan to step up the pace of efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay.” The Governor is supportive but not all General Assembly members agree. The Chesapeake Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center released a reportClimate Benefits of Chesapeake Bay Restoration in Virginia–examining “how efforts to improve water quality in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed have also provided a secondary benefit of helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere.” Underwater sea grass is important to a clean Bay; for the second year in a row, abundance of such grass declined, possibly affected by “impacts from extreme weather and changes in water quality.” The Virginia Living Shorelines program should flourish thanks to a $1 Million grant that will help homeowners install “natural water breaks like sand, marshes, and oyster reefs that stabilize shores and conserve habitats—to stop … erosion.”

A recent Inspector General audit found Virginia’s current decentralized approach to monitoring and addressing drinking water quality is flawed. Another IG audit concluded the state’s oversight of its conservation easement program needs improvement. Virginia’s Natural Resources Secretary concluded the program is inequitable. Addressing flooding in Virginia Beach will cost millions; voters will decide whether to borrow the funds. Here are 10 “takeaways” from a recent study examining the effects of climate change on Hampton Roads.

The Center for Biological Diversity may sue the federal government “over its failure to examine how a program that encourages the use of waterways for shipping affects endangered species, including Atlantic sturgeon in Virginia’s James River.” A scientist studied the freshwater mussel and found a lot to like.

The 2021 General Assembly authorized a study on the potential impact of gold mining; the National Academies will conduct it. Several military base sites contain dangerous “forever chemicals.”

In July, UVA joined other state agencies in following Governor Northam’s March 2021 executive order to “drop all single-use plastics by 2025.” JMU announced the order in June.

  • Wild Virginia is sponsoring a webinar on September 16, 7-8 pm, titled “The Current & Future Geography of Conservation in Virginia.” The speaker is Dr. Healy Hamilton, Chief Scientist of NatureServe. Register here.
  • Want to reduce your use of plastic? A Staunton business “refills recycled plastic containers with all‑natural products, such as dishwashing detergent, clothes washing detergent, shampoo and hand soap.” It’s expanding to Charlottesville.
  • Generation 180 published this article on the relative costs of Electric and fossil-fuel-powered Vehicles.
  • Find the latest CAAV Roundup of national and international climate-related news here.
  • CCL will host a virtual discussion about heat, one of the most severe effects of climate change. The event “The Planet Has a Fever” will be held on Tuesday, August 311 at 6:30 PM ET. Register here.
  • Appalachian Voices will host a webinar on “How Communities are Gaining Control Over HOW Power is Produced – Aug. 31, 5:30 PM ET. Register here.

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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