Statewide environmental news roundup – November 2021

A woodpecker taps at a tree along the under construction, path of Cale Trail section of the Garbers Church Road Shared Use Path between Thomas Harrison Middle and Westover Park. 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

Several Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) protesters faced a judge in late October and were convicted on misdemeanor charges and fined. Both the State Water Control Board (WCB) and the US Army Corps of Engineers are considering whether to grant what’s called a “401” water crossing permit; this opinion writer from the non-profit Mothers Out Front said the WCB should not approve it. The non-profit Wild Virginia hosted an almost 3-hour citizen ‘public hearing” (because the WCB and VA’s DEQ refused to do so). An appeals court heard arguments in a lawsuit asking the courts to strike down key MVP permits; the court could issue its decision by the end of this year. All this as the pipeline is nearing completion despite hurdles.

The SCC is considering an application by another pipeline company that wants to run the Chickahominy Pipeline across five Virginia counties. One of the questions is whether the company is a “public utility.” A hearing examiner said yes.

A reporter for the newly established Cardinal News asked “Why don’t we have more wind energy in Southwest Virginia? Or any?” One reason might be: The proposed wind farm in Botetourt County continues to have opponents; a second lawsuit has been filed. A prior one was unsuccessful.

On the other hand, Virginia’s a leader in offshore wind. The price tag for Dominion’s flagship wind project just went up nearly $2 billion and is now pegged at almost $10 billion. A blogger wondered what information Dominion didn’t include in its massive application supporting the increase cost; another blogger wants the Attorney General to ensure any missing relevant information is made public. And a third blogger wonders whether Dominion customers will be paying for the wind infrastructure in their utility bills, perhaps as early as December 2022. North Carolina is getting into the wind business; a project off Kitty Hawk will send power to Dominion’s Virginia grid and, North Carolina hopes, bring new jobs in that state. The Coast Guard wants to understand the implications of offshore wind farms to its mission.

Solar use is thriving in Shenandoah Valley homes,” thanks to programs such as those offered by LEAP, a Charlottesville area non-profit. “Shared solar” may represent a way for multi-family residents to enjoy solar’s benefits says a local solar installer. Advocates are hoping the upcoming General Assembly will see a bill passed allowing shared solar in southwest Virginia.

Blacksburg and Montgomery County are moving to increase the number of EV charging stations as the number of local EV owners increases. Generation 180 produced a report that suggests the rest of the state should perhaps follow suit. Appalachian Power will be funding electric school buses in five Southwest Virginia counties as part of a settlement between the EPA and its parent company.

Climate and Environment

Virginia’s state agencies are doing away with single-use plastics, and not everyone is pleasedWegman’s will stop using plastic bags in its Fairfax County stores; that county established a 5-cent tax per bag to become effective in January 2022.

Virginia’s broken ground on Mayo River State Park, in Henry County near the North Carolina border. Outgoing Governor Northam dedicated Virginia’s 66th natural area preserve, Piney Grove Flatwoods, part of a 10,000-acre conservation area in Sussex County. The Governor also announced the dedication of “Charlotte State Forest, opening the first publicly-accessible state land in Charlotte County.” An Augusta County farmer, and blogger, wrote about his success getting changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan to change part of his farm’s acreage as “low density housing” to a designation that would allow him to put the land into a conservation easement.

A very large hydroponic greenhouse in Goochland County is producing LOTS of baby leafy greens.  The company, “Greenswell, is [making] a local play for the leafy greens market, which is largely dominated by companies on the West Coast.”

Virginia Beach voters approved a referendum for bonds to fund projects to curb coastal flooding. The city has been aware of the risks for some time. Current predictions for sea-level rise along Virginia’s coast are “more dire.” Some Middle Peninsula residents believe some of the state funding for flood protection should go to private landowners. Grist, a national online environmental news organization reports on what an iconic Chesapeake Bay island teaches us about the costs of sea level rise, saying that Tangier Island could be uninhabitable by 2051.

Bad news for an iconic Virginia aquatic animal; “American shad on ‘brink of collapse’ in James River.” More bad news: Virginia’s freshwater mussel population is in trouble. And the Chesapeake Bay is warming, according to a report by the William and Mary Institute for Marine Science. On the plus side, Bay restoration got a boost in the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Virginia’s Transportation Department wants to see some that Act’s funds go to “roads, bridges, electric vehicle charging stations and addressing climate change.”

Better news? There have been armadillo sightings near Roanoke and in Wise County.

The Nature Conservancy is working on “Conserving Appalachia” in a changing climate. It’s also trying to restore seagrass levels on Virginia’s coast. And it’s working in Virginia’s “Pinelands” on swamp, rare birds, and forest protection.

Action Alert

Complete this survey and tell the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation what you’d like to see in the state’s 2023 Outdoors Plan about recreational activities.

Tell the Virginia Department of Transportation, at its online site by December 1, what you think about a 100‑mile hiking trail from Galax to Greenfield in the Roanoke and New River Valleys.  

Check out…

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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