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Environmental Issues at the 2019 General Assembly

Andy Thompson

January 9, 2019 2:27pm

I wanted to pass along this info from our friends at the James River Association, as today marks the kickoff of the 2019 General Assembly. With only 45 days to finalize the 2020 budget and tackle pressing water quality issues impacting our state, here are the JRA’s top priorities for this legislative session.

Keep Coal Ash Out of the James

Right now, Dominion Energy has over 24 million tons of coal ash piled up at three locations within the James River watershed. Coal ash is a waste product of coal-burning power plants that can carry toxics and heavy metals. Much of Dominion’s ash sits in unlined ponds along our riverbank, vulnerable to heavy rain events. According to Dominion’s own testing, groundwater monitoring wells near these ponds show elevated levels of dangerous contaminants like arsenic, lead, and radium, suggesting that these contaminants are leaking from Dominion’s ponds and could be moving off-site.

Dominion has proposed to cap these ponds in place, trapping nearby communities in the status quo: contaminated groundwater. We need clean closure — a permanent solution that safely recycles what we can and locks the rest away in fully-lined landfills that meet all of the new standards. When it comes to clean water, our communities deserve no less.

Clean Water and Conservation Funding

Communities across Virginia are making plans for how our state will meet its Chesapeake Bay Cleanup goals by 2025 and protect water quality. To stay on track, we need to keep investing in the good work that our farmers and localities are doing to reduce pollution and conserve our natural resources. Strong, stable funding helps us plan for the long-term and put in place the best management practices that will provide clean water for future generations.

  • Support $90 million for Virginia’s agricultural best management practices program in FY20. This increase gets us closer to meeting demand for this successful program. 

  • Support $50 million for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund in FY20. These funds help localities reduce pollution entering our streams via stormwater runoff. 

  • Support $20 million for land conservation grant programs.Our green, open spaces help filter water to keep the James River healthy.

About Andy Thompson

I was the Outdoors Columnist at the Times-Dispatch from 2007 to 2013, writing twice a week about mountain biking, fishing, hunting, paddling and much more. I live a 1/4 mile from the James River, close enough to see bald eagles soaring over my house on their way to find a meal. Pretty cool, eh?