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State environmental news roundup – September 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

Several Southwest Virginia (SWVA) communities have received funding to support “industrial, agricultural, community development, and tourism” economic development projects to help them transition from a dependence on coal. A Cumberland Plateau Planning District commissioner echoes the value of such projects, arguing that prior efforts have a good track record.

The Nature Conservancy and Dominion Energy are partnering to install large solar facilities on 1,700 acres, part of a reclamation effort on a former strip mine site; these projects will be developed within the Cumberland Forest Project. There may be additional, similar projects in SWVA and elsewhere, given the ubiquity of abandoned coal sites and Dominion’s need to meet Virginia Clean Energy Act solar energy requirements. RMI believes Appalachia ”could be the region to see the biggest economic benefit from the deployment of wind and solar projects over the next decade.” 

Dominion wants to power 250,000 Virginia homes with solar plants. In recent testimony before the State Corporation Commission (SCC) about one of Dominion’s proposals related to the VCEA, an attorney representing Appalachian Voices said the proposal would not necessarily benefit customers because it “is predicated on a flawed analysis that exaggerates benefits and fails to consider numerous other options likely to deliver the same or similar benefits at a fraction of the cost.” In a separate case, the SCC’s staff said “Dominion Energy earned more than $1.1 billion above a fair profit from customers in Virginia in a four-year span…. [Because of state law, however,] “customers aren’t likely to see that much in refunds.”

Will solar+battery storage make a difference? Apparently, Dominion Energy wants to try this approach. What about the cost of the energy transition? A Virginia solar installer thinks it could lower costs quite a bit. Another solar advocate de-bunked 5 myths about solar.

A Virginia blogger points out that subsidies have long been part of the US strategy to develop energy resources.

Dominion Energy has inked a deal with the Portsmouth Marine Terminal that will provide a staging area for constructing wind turbines and other infrastructure. Dominion has also committed to working with unions on its wind projects.

Virginia is moving to electrify its school bus fleet; one question is, after the first round, where will the funding come from? A Chesterfield bank installed an EV charger for customer use at no charge while banking.

“Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport recently installed runway lights with LED technology. The fixtures … use less energy and throw off more light, an aid to pilots and navigation.”

SWVA “landowners [are] still fighting [the Mountain Valley] pipeline’s use of eminent domain.” Virginia Conservatives for Clean Energy believes the reluctance to allow farmers to rent their land for large-scale solar farms represents an attack on landowners’ property rights. Is pig waste, aka biogas, “renewable energy?” This article’s lead sentence suggests it is: “Surry County’s Planning Commission will hold public hearings Sept. 27 on two proposed renewable energy projects.” Can a gas plant reduce the stench from a landfill? Some Chesterfield County residents may find out. A Tennessee official wants Virginia “to do more to fix Bristol landfill’s malodorous emissions.”

Climate and Environment

A Virginia blogger says Virginia could learn some lessons about flood control from Louisiana. A Virginia representative introduced a bill to curb flooding, and stormwater runoff, on military bases. A Norfolk advocacy group, Mothers Out Front, wants more moms to step forward and call attention to the city’s serious and chronic flooding.

SWVA farmers and brewers envision “a new industry for the coalfields region” through a resurgence of “Appalachian Grains” such as barley. Recent Appalachian Regional Commission grants may help make this vision a reality while also supporting other economic development in SWVA and other Appalachian communities. “Can Southwest Virginia remake itself as a laboratory for renewables?

Bedford County leaders want the USDA to issue a disaster declaration; this summer’s drought has devastated crops.

Fairfax County passed a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic bags. Alexandria and Arlington County did so as well. Virginia Tech’s project to reduce single-use plastic use and waste has made progress. An industrial plastics company will expand its operations in Rockingham County, adding 92 new jobs.

“Hampton Roads aquifer recharge project gets [a] $477 million EPA loan.”

Arlington now has county-wide curbside composting. The end-product will be “a nutrient-rich soil amendment that makes plants healthier. Finished compost will be available for free to county residents.” 

Shenandoah Green, an environmental advocacy group in Staunton, received kudos from the Climate Reality Project for its great work in planting trees and engaging large numbers of community members to do it.

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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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