Clean Water Wins this Year in
Virginia’s General Assembly
Early one February morning, Kit Johnston
drove nearly two hours from her home in
the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to
downtown Richmond. She made the long
trip at a key point in Virginia’s annual legislative session when support for clean-water
programs would be crucial.
In Richmond, Kit joined nearly a dozen other
CBF volunteers to roam the busy halls of the
General Assembly and meet with legislators.
She sat down with her new delegate, Nick
Freitas, and they discussed how farm practices can help restore local waterways.
Lobbying during the legislative session is
“intense…and empowering,” Kit says. She
discovered that regular people can truly
make a difference by meeting with lawmakers. “Sometimes they find that folks like you
and me have a personal take on the issue at
hand that they hadn’t considered before,”
Volunteers like Kit are one part of a larger
effort that helped score real wins for
Virginia’s waterways this year. Throughout
the 60-day session, staff from CBF’s Virginia
office conveyed the importance of clean-water programs to legislators, while countless
CBF members reached out to officials about
crucial funding and policy decisions.
Subsequently, the General Assembly session that ended in March resulted in one
of the strongest packages ever for Virginia
clean-water programs. That includes
investments in farm conservation practices, projects to reduce polluted runoff
from cities and towns, pollution-cutting
upgrades to Virginia’s sewage plants, and
funding to boost the oyster harvest for
Legislators also took several important
clean-water policy steps. They streamlined
polluted runoff- and erosion-control laws
to better protect waterways and expanded
nutrient-trading opportunities to help local-ities, farmers, and others meet Chesapeake
Virginia’s recent General
Assembly session resulted in
one of the strongest packages
ever for clean-water programs.
In February, volunteers traveled to Richmond to lobby state elected officials about issues
important to them. Left to right they are: Joel Becker, Erica Banks, Ginger Loth, Michele Sorenson,
Robert Jennings (CBF staff), Cindy Kubat (standing), Ann Jurczyk (CBF staff, kneeling), Carter McCree,
Kit Johnston, Melissa Johnson, Tanner Council (CBF staff), Meredeth Dash, and Faye Bailey.
Clean Water Blueprint goals. Lawmakers
also wisely protected the Bay harvest cap on
menhaden, though regrettably did not pass a
bill that would have further safeguarded the
All in all, clean water came out on top. This
would not have come about without the concern and care that everyday Virginians show
for the Chesapeake and their local waters.
U For more details on the outcome of the 2016
General Assembly, visit cbf.org/VAsession.
The Coal Ash Controversy
In recent months, controversy has grown
around plans for coal-ash wastewater disposal that could threaten Virginia’s most
beloved rivers. The leftover ash from coal-fired power plants is often stored in ponds
and can contain a noxious brew of heavy
metals and other chemicals. Under new
regulations, Dominion Virginia Power must
clean up these ponds.
Early this year, Virginia approved new permits allowing Dominion to release coal ash
wastewater from storage ponds located by
the James River and Quantico Creek near
the Potomac. The decisions sparked large
demonstrations in Richmond after stakeholders raised a wide range of concerns
about potential harm to the environment
and public health under those proposals.
Numerous groups filed suit to challenge
the decisions, including the James River
Association, the Southern Environmental
Law Center, the Potomac Riverkeeper, Prince
William County, and the state of Maryland.
In response to this outcry, Dominion recently
agreed to tighter treatment standards at
two of its plants in settlements with the
James River Association and Prince William
County. While Virginia has not yet released
its proposal for disposing of coal-ash wastewater from the state’s largest coal-fired power
plant, Chesterfield Power Station, the earlier
settlements set the stage for more protective
measures when that discharge rule comes
up later this year. Meanwhile, CBF has been
engaged in the public comment processes
related to a proposed new landfill for coal
ash from the Chesterfield plant. For this proposal, as well as the anticipated discharge
permit, CBF will work to ensure an outcome
that protects water quality.