Statewide environmental news roundup – February 2022

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

Once again, Virginia pipelines made headlines:

A local realtor supported the local GiveSolar/Habitat for Humanity project by producing this video about a recent “solar barnraising” in Harrisonburg. Solar panels are being installed on abandoned coal mine lands, including in Dickenson County. The builder of a long-planned on-shore wind project in Botetourt County is now looking for another buyer for the energy its turbines will produce, after its arrangement with Dominion Energy expired at the end of 2021.

The General Assembly (GA) passed a new law to allow ticketing for those who park a non-electric vehicle in a parking space designated for EVs. Virginia will receive “$106.4 million in National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure funding to use towards expanding the electric vehicle charging network.”

The GA is considering bills to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), prompting this opinion piece outlining some of the pros and cons. Not everyone believes that climate changes post serious enough risks for Virginia to remain in RGGI and a Virginia House subcommittee heard from several organizations on this matter. RGGI funds support flood resilience and energy efficiency. A Virginia State Senate panel, on the other hand, rejected a bill to repeal the Virginia Clean Economy Act.

 A Senate committee “rejected a bill that would have allowed local governments to adopt stricter energy efficiency codes than the state, with senators fretting it could prevent badly needed affordable housing from being built.” Perhaps the senators didn’t believe that making homes more energy efficient makes them more affordable over the life of the building.

A Virginia House committee “swiftly shot down a bipartisan proposal to study whether Virginia metal mining regulations are sufficient to protect state air and water quality.” But the Virginia Senate was interested in identifying the locations and extent of abandoned coal waste piles that “could amount to between 50 [and] 100 million tons of toxic mining waste.”

Climate and Environment

Virginia Tech’s Coastal Collaborator Project is tackling “emerging coastal challenges.” A new NOAA report predicts “Sea levels, rainfall and temperatures will keep rising in Virginia.” A Bacon’s Rebellion blogger wasn’t too disturbed by the predictions. “Leadership from 18 Anabaptist organizations in the United States and Canada convened at the Anabaptist Collaboration on Climate Change on Jan. 26- 27 to address what many consider a moral emergency.” The meeting was organized by EMU’s Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (CSCS).

Churchville residents got good news about a sludge pit application a local farm “to be the storage site for millions of gallons of industrial food waste and other sludges ….” Community opposition resulted in “withdrawal of the permit for the building of the 3-million-gallon storage tank ….” The EPA will “investigate North Carolina’s 2019 decision to allow four Smithfield Foods Inc. pig feeding operations to generate biogas from hog waste lagoons.” Smithfield has an arrangement with Dominion Energy to provide that waste for use in the latter’s Virginia plant. Virginia includes hog waste among its renewable energy sources.

Fredericksburg received a “$3.25 million grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality” (DEQ); “the money will aid … in improving the city’s overall stormwater quality and its effects on the Rappahannock River.” Landfills were the subjects of both news and commentary in Charles City County and, again, in Bristol. Virginia received $22+ Million in federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding to reclaim abandoned mine lands. Health advocates are calling for “greater oversight of plants emitting cancer-causing pollutants in Virginia…. Several industrial sites in Virginia have recently been identified as emitting cancer-causing chemicals into the air. Health experts and residents living near these sites say the government’s lax oversight of these plants exposes them and their neighbors to unacceptable risks.” ProPublica’s recent report included Virginia’s Radford Arsenal on its list of air-polluting industrial sites. The “analysis shows for the first time just how much toxic air pollution they emit — and how much the chemicals they unleash could be elevating cancer risk in their communities.”

In about two years, “if all goes according to plan, Woodbridge residents will have a new, scenic trail connecting the historic Town of Occoquan to the Lake Ridge Marina and points further west.” The Occoquan Trail planning has been underway for 10 years. The gift of an “historic Hobby Horse Farm in Bath County … will elevate The Nature Conservancy’s adjoining Warm Springs Mountain Preserve into a flagship preserve for the Appalachians.” “A 280-acre parcel of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship preserve in Loudoun County will form the backbone of a new Virginia state park”—Sweet Run State Park.

Virginia isn’t ready to collect deposits on bottle and cans. It’s likewise not prepared “to impose a fee on manufacturers selling products … based on how much packaging they use.” But it may be studying both issues as part of a recycling focus. The current GA members also decided they want to delay for another five years (until 2028) implementation of “a phased state ban on food containers made from a plastic foam called polystyrene.”

Action Alert

Find steps you can take to address climate change among these 10 suggestions.

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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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