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Statewide environmental news roundup – October 2021

Bicyclists on Harrisonburg’s newest bike trail. File photo by Mike Tripp.

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

The US Army Corps of Engineers will conduct two virtual public hearings to solicit the views of interested persons regarding the permit application submitted by Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to cross certain bodies of water along the project’s path in West Virginia and Virginia. In addition, the Virginia State Water Control Board will decide in December whether to approve MVP’s request for a permit “to cross [more than 250] streams and wetlands in Giles, Craig, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin and Pittsylvania Counties.” Some groups believe the Water Board needs to consider the racial and environmental implications of the project. A “Climate Choir”, including Central Valley residents, traveled to Richmond to “sing” their objections to the MVP. MVP developers want Facebook to provide identifying information for owners of a page voicing opposition to the pipeline; two months later, Facebook hasn’t responded. Landowners in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina have questions about what will happen to property easements they provided utilities for the now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline; FERC is evaluating the utilities’ plans. Six landowners who sued MVP for property damages from erosion, sediment, and stormwater runoff have reached a settlement with MVP.  Opposition about another pipeline, Chickahominy, continues in Louisa County.

Virginia regulators will consider a Dominion request for extending the license for its nuclear plants past 2050. Two proposed rate increases from other Virginia utilities also made news: Old Dominion Power in Southwestern Virginia wants the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to approve a second substantial rate hike in less than two years. Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative also wants its second increase in less than two years; the SCC’s decision is pending. Appalachian Voices is among groups working toward energy reform so such increases don’t limit customers’ ability to reduce their electric bills through energy efficiency measures and rooftop solar.

The long-planned onshore wind farm in Botetourt County got a thumbs up from the county Board of Zoning Appeals; its developer plans to continue planning for the project. A planned wind turbine blade facility in Portsmouth for Dominion’s large offshore wind project will bring over 300 new jobs to the Hampton roads region. A Virginia Congressman introduced a bill to boost accountability in the offshore wind development industry. Industry leaders want Congress to “back long-term plans to increase production.”

A local non-profit, Give Solar, exceeded its fundraising goal to put solar on Habitat for Humanity houses in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham area. Buckingham County passed a revenue-sharing ordinance for solar farms. Frederick County’s Planning Commission recommended approval of a 430 acre solar farm Two Southwest VA school districts “go solar”. Two companies—one a solar developer and the other a B-Corporation financing entity—are planning to install 42 MW of solar, including both distributed and community, across the state.

The state Department of Environmental Quality is providing over $10 million in electric school bus funding for cities and counties that apply successfully. Early reports on the newly launched Afton Express, a public transportation opportunity made possible by partnerships between the Staunton, Waynesboro, Charlottesville, Augusta and Albemarle, and U.Va., are favorable. Riders have bus service for trips to locations on both sides of Afton Mountain. Google’s Christiansburg drone delivery project, first in the U.S., is expanding into Texas. Christiansburg now has a new EV charging station.

Climate and Environment

Albemarle County is considering establishing a 5₵ tax on disposable plastic bags.

Revenue from carbon offset auctions following Virginia’s joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will help communities fund flood preparedness efforts. Harrisonburg’s City Council received the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report by Virginia Tech Professor Sean McGinnis and sent it to its Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee to develop action plans.

Virginia Tech’s Cooperative Extension Service hosted the Mid-Atlantic Urban Agricultural Summit, where attendees could learn about urban agriculture and food security; innovations in urban ag; business, technology and policy; and urban community gardening. A U.Va. landscape architecture professor was the inaugural winner of the Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize for her innovative work to re-purpose “brownfields” like “toxic waste dumps,” “derelict factories,” and “abandoned railyards” into, for example urban gardens and public spaces for “art and recreation.” Charlottesville’s efforts toward becoming a greener city have received recognition and awards.

The invasive Spotted Lanternfly is gaining a bigger foothold in Virginia. Scientists are working hard to help save endangered species in the state.

Six Virginia cities and counties received federal funds for water improvement projects. The Town of Chatham received over $3 million in state funds for similar purposes. Results of a bond referendum on Virginia Beach’s November 2 ballot will indicate whether voters are “willing to see their real estate taxes rise to pay for up to $567 million in flood protection projects that would be rolled out over the next 10 years.” Mid‑Atlantic farms managed to do well this growing season despite numerous weather challenges, as did Virginia farmers growing peanuts and cotton.

Action Alert

The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia and Appalachian Voices are working hard to convince the General Assembly to authorize a shared solar program to help their communities’ transition away from their economies’ coal dependence. To support their effort, sign on to their letter here.

Check out…

  • These stunning photos, courtesy of the Roanoke Times, of the Blue Ridge Parkway vistas.
  • Virtual event, “Plastic Pollution in Virginia: Trends, Sources, Solutions”, on Tue, Nov. 9, 7 to 8 pm. Register here.
  • Virtual event, Assateague Coastal Trust’s “Walk on the Wild Side Film Festival”, Nov. 12 6 pm -14 8 pm. Register here. The film festival will feature beautiful films and musical performances. Once you register, you will receive your viewing password and can view on demand. 
  • Virtual conference, “Grit and Gratitude: Celebrating a banner year and rising to the next challenge”, 
  • Sat, November 13th 1-5pm. This CCL conference will give the scoop on the status of carbon pricing in budget reconciliation, CCL’s vision for moving forward, and how to do that. Keynote speaker: Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, co-editor of All We Can Save. Register here.
  • Virtual (& Live) event, Assateague Coastal Trust’s 11th Annual “Wild and Scenic Film Festival where activism gets inspired”, Thurs, Nov 18, 6:30 pm—featuring “14 films, including 30 Below, that takes viewers through the barren, beautiful landscape of Alaska, and Camel Finds Water, which documents surfer Trevor Gordon’s restoration project of a derelict boat….” Register and buy tickets (virtual $25) here.
  • The Mendota Trail near Bristol, which provides the opportunity to bike or walk across several renovated former railroad trestles and enjoy wonderful scenery; it’s now about six miles long, with expansion to 12 in the works.
  • Local author Erik Curren’s new book—Abolish Oil Now!—set to launch officially on October 29. It’s available on Amazon as an ebook and in paperback and from the author in pdf format. The book compares efforts to abolish slavery, the obstacles faced, and the outcome, to today’s need to end use of fossil fuels.

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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