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.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline continues to make news:
- Virginia’s “State Water Control Board allow[ed] the infrastructure to cross streams and wetlands; that decision gave rise to a lawsuit by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
- West Virginia allowed a controversial water permit, prompting Appalachian Voices (AV) to respond that “contrary to robust evidence that the MVP cannot be built without violating state water quality standards.” AV promptly appealed that action, as did Sierra Club.
- MVP developers indicated they haven’t given up yet, despite the legal battles. But that was prior to a subsequent unfavorable ruling by a US appeals court rejecting permits issued allowing pipeline crossing through a portion of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia.
According to a State Corporation Commission ruling, the Chickahominy Pipeline LLC is a public utility, meaning SCC approval is necessary before the company can build it across several counties in Central Virginia. The Hanover County Board heard from developers about their plans for this 83-mile natural gas transmission line.
As part of its plans to meet requirements of the Virginia Clean Energy Act (VCEA), Dominion will seek SCC approval of its plans to build an energy storage facility in Chesterfield County. Appalachian Power (ApCo) has also weighed in with its submission to the SCC on its plans to meet VCEA renewable energy mandates. ApCo agreed to purchase a 150MW solar facility in Pittsylvania County. A coalition of Virginia organizations wants electric cooperatives to be more transparent; there is a bill to accomplish this in the current General Assembly session.
Local non-profit GiveSolar’s collaboration with the local Habitat for Humanity (HforH) affiliate to put solar on HforH homes is receiving attention beyond the Central Valley. Efforts in Southwest Virginia to put solar on abandoned mine lands likewise is garnering some national attention. One sign of potential progress on more solar in that region is a new business in Tazewell County “to bring a solar panel manufacturer to Virginia, [with] … additional goals … to pair solar projects with former abandoned mine property … and to work with farmers to consider the development of solar grow houses to produce organic crops, thereby making the growing season year-round.” Another hopeful sign: “The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority has awarded a $225,000 grant for a Solar Workforce Accelerator program” in that region. A Fauquier County climate group is promoting ways solar and agriculture can co-exist.
Passenger rail service in the New River Valley is in the process of becoming a reality. “A state authority is seeking public feedback on potential station locations for the extension of Amtrak service” there. The Shenandoah Bicycle Coalition is in favor of the proposed Shenandoah Rail and Trail project becoming a reality and collected 5,000 signatures to show support.
Climate and Environment
Outgoing Governor Northam “announced $24.5 million in grants … from the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund … made possible with funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Charlottesville was one of 22 localities to receive funds. “Hampton is set to receive more than $9 million to deal with sea-level rise and extreme weather.” Flooding is an ongoing problem in many parts of the Tidewater regions, such as in Suffolk. Despite a passed voter referendum for flooding resilience funding, Virginia Beach has slowed its actions while area developers express their concerns.
The Chesapeake Bay’s warmer waters off the Virginia coast has resulted in increased shrimp populations. The decade-long rise in water temperatures is good news for the shrimpers but is likely due to climate change. A “pre-historic-looking” fish, the Atlantic sturgeon, has returned to Bay waters after a long absence. They’re huge animals; their resurgence has surprised biologists. New regulations will encourage shallow aquifer and discourage water withdrawals from Virginia’s deep eastern aquifers.
The Virginia Farm Bureau has established a program to “connect beginning and expanding farmers with retiring farmland owners who want to keep their land in agricultural production.” The USDA announced a $100,000 grant so “some Virginia farmers and food banks for whom they grow food will receive funding through the Farm to Food Bank Project.” ” The Land Trust of Virginia … announced a conservation easement on [a] 383.62-acre property in Waynesboro.” This easement “is the Trust’s first in the Greater Augusta region and brings its conserved acreage to 25,142 across 22 counties.” A freelance journalist who writes on environmental issues asked and answered this question: “How does Virginia fit into a national effort to conserve 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030?”
Bristol’s landfill smell problem isn’t over. Virginia senators want the US EPA to help.
Three Virginia localities adopted a plastic bag tax that took effect January 1; one was Roanoke. An area company, Refill Renew, offered numerous tips for how individuals can reduce waste, including plastic. Fredericksburg’s new tax is raising concerns in nearby counties.
The Chickahominy Tribe of Virginia recently re-acquired land that it formerly owned.
- CAAV would like to hear from you. We’re looking for effective ways to distribute information to our community. Give us your preferences by filling out this quick questionnaire.
- Tell the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization what you would like to see in its 2045 Long-Range Transportation Plan, by completing this brief survey.
- Recording of Abolish Oil Now! author talk by Erik Curren, held January 20 at Eastern Mennonite University.
- Article about expanding Virginia’s wine industry and challenges associated with it.
- TV news story on the success of an Arlington County daycare center that opposed a gas company’s Gas Well Drilling Permit; the center persuaded the County’s board to reverse its prior approval of the permit.
- Success story about “a collaborative marine restoration program on the coast of the state of Virginia.”
- Another success story, this one about oyster restoration.
- This report that the “Chesapeake Bay’s waters could suffer extreme heat for half the year by 2100.”
- Article about Virginia’s history of mining other than for coal.
- A gardening “guru’s” tips for becoming a more effective gardener.
Why not sign up for …
- This program, sponsored by Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club: “Plastic Wars” – Feb. 23, 6:30 PM. “Plastic Wars,” a joint investigation from FRONTLINE and NPR, reveals how plastic makers for decades have publicly promoted recycling, despite from almost the beginning privately expressing doubts that widespread plastic recycling would ever be economically viable. Register here.
- This webinar–Affordable Housing is Sustainable Housing – Jan. 31, 6 – 7:30 pm– hosted by UVA Sustainability and the Community Climate Collaborative (C3). Housing can’t be truly affordable unless it is thoughtfully designed with sustainability principles in mind. Speakers from Piedmont Environmental Council, Cultivate Charlottesville, and LEAP will each share points of interconnection for just and equitable housing and climate solutions. Register for the event here.
- The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) volunteer opportunity – Feb 3-5, 9 AM til, at Augusta Forestry Center, 90 Forestry Center Lane, Crimora, VA 24431. Help sow ~2,000+ American and hybrid chestnut seeds in containers. Sowing will happen over 3 days. You will maintain all COVID safety protocols (masks, safe distance), participants should be fully vaccinated). The bulk of the work will be inside of an enclosed greenhouse, next to a big warehouse. Take first left from the driveway, then cut back on the gravel road to your right. Stay as long as you want, bring water, lunch & snacks, dress for the weather, and bring work gloves. Purpose: The seeds represent TACF chapters and Virginia Department of Forestry’s advanced backcrosses, used for seed orchards and research. Contact is Tom Saielli.
- Citizen Water Quality Monitoring webinar – Feb 17, 6 PM – sponsored by Wild Virginia and Izaak Walton League. Explore ways volunteer monitors can help protect and improve conditions in the places they use and value. Monitoring results can help affect the ways we and decision makers act, in planning activities on the land and in the streams to prevent problems and addressing problems that already exist. 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.