Category Archives: Coal and Water

Items on the various connections between water resources and the mining and use of coal.

Water-and-Energy Items in Virginia-area Water News Headlines Sampler for June 3—June 21, 2014

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of news items published between June 3 and June 21, 2014, on water-and-energy developments that took place in Virginia or that are otherwise relevant to Virginia.  The headlines are grouped from newest to oldest.  As of 6/27/14, all headlines listed below had working hyperlinks to take you to the full article, but those links may or may not be working at later dates.

Power Company Clashes With US History in Virginia, Associated Press, as published by ABC News, 6/21/14.  As of mid-June 2014, Dominion Virginia Power was in the process of seeking U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permits for an eight-mile, 500-kilovolt transmission line from its power station in Surry County across the James River to a switching station (proposed) in James City County.  The line, known as the Surry-Skiffes Creek line, would require 17 towers of up to about 300 feet high.  Various groups, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have raised objections about the proposed line’s potential impact on Jamestown and other historic sites in the area.  Details from Dominion about the proposal area available online at https://www.dom.com/about/electric-transmission/skiffes/.

Energy company wants to build natural gas power plant in Salem Township [Pennsylvania], Scranton Times-Tribune, 6/20/14.  As of mid-June, 2014, Moxie Energy, LLC, headquartered in Vienna, Va., (Fairfax County), was proposing to build a 900-megawatt, natural-gas-fired power plant in Salem Township, in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, according to a spokesperson with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  The company is also building natural-gas-fired plants in the Pennsylvania counties of Bradford and Lycoming.  These areas of Pennsylvania are underlain by the Marcellus shale formation that has been the basis of a large increase in natural gas production in recent years.  A Pennsylvania DEP map showing that state’s counties in the Marcellus shale formation is available online at http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/minres/oilgas/2011PermitDrilledmaps.htm.

Environmentalist group[s] sues Red River Coal Co., Bristol Herald Courier, 6/5/14.  On June 5, 2014, in the Big Stone Gap office of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, the Sierra Club, and Appalachian Voices filed a lawsuit over alleged Clean Water Act violations by Red River Coal Company in its coal-mining operations in Wise County, Virginia (in the Pound River/Big Sandy River basin).

Governor McAuliffe Signs Executive Order to Establish the Virginia Energy Council, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 6/4/14.  On June 4, 2014, Virginia Gov. Terry McCauliffe announced formation of the Virginia Energy Council and the beginning of a process to develop the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan.   This comprehensive strategy for Virginia’s energy industries will be an update to the 2010 plan (available online at http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DE/VEP_TitlePage.html).  The 2014 plan is to be submitted to the Virginia General Assembly by October 1, 2014.

Warner pushes to make oil transportation safer, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/5/14.  At a June 2, 2014, forum at the Virginia Department of Transportation in Richmond, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called for increased federal regulatory scrutiny of shipments by rail of crude oil, for investments by oil and rail companies into safer fuel tanker cars, and for such companies to provide financial aid for state and local responders to rail accidents.  Sen. Warner’s comments and the forum were in response to the April 30, 2014, derailment in Lynchburg and other recent incidents with fuels being transported by rail.  (For more on the Lynchburg derailment, including many related news articles published since then, please the Grouper item Oil-train Derailment on April 30, 2014, along James River in Lynchburg, Va.; News Updates Through June 18, 2014.)

Carbon Emissions from Existing Power Plants to be Reduced by 30% Nationwide under Proposed Regulation Released by U.S. EPA on June 2, 2014; States Would Have Individually Set Reduction Targets

On June 2, 2014, the U.S. EPA announced its proposed regulation to require existing power plants to reduce their emission of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds (often referred to as “greenhouse gases”) that contribute to global warming and climate change.  The proposed rule was published in the June 18, 2014, Federal Register, starting  on page 34829; the Web site for searching the Federal Register is https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/search.  From that publication date, the proposed regulation will undergo a 120-day public-comment period (deadline for comments is October 16, 2014).   The EPA intends to publish a final version, with responses to the public comments it receives, by June 2015.

According to the proposal, the regulation aims by 2030 to cut annual carbon emissions from the power sector by 26 to 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels; EPA also predicts that it would result in a “co-benefit” of a 25-percent or more cut in emissions of particles, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, substances that have impacts on human health (such as asthma) and on water resources when they are deposited into water bodies.  The EPA’s news release on the proposal states that the regulation would be implemented “through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program.”  Under the proposed rule, states would have individual emission-reduction levels (the approximately 30-percent level is for the nation as a whole; the individual state goals are given in Section VII of the proposed rule, starting on page 332.)  States would have until 2016 (with possible 1-2 year extensions) to submit to EPA their plans for implementing the regulation.  States would be allowed to “choose a mix of generation using diverse fuels, energy efficiency, and demand-side management to meet the goals and their own needs.”  States would be allowed to develop individual plans or to combine their plans with other states.

An interactive map of power-generating plants in the mid-Atlantic region (including Virginia)—allowing users to click on a location to see emissions of carbon dioxide and gases—is available from the EPA at http://www.epa.gov/reg3artd/globclimate/r3pplants.html.

The proposed regulation on existing power plants follows EPA’s release in September 2013 (January 2014 publication in the Federal Register) of a proposed rule on carbon emissions from new power-generating sources; the public-comment period for that proposal ended May 9, 2014.

Sources: U.S. EPA, “Clean Power Proposed Rule,” online at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/clean-power-plan-proposed-rule, accessed 6/3/14; and EPA Proposes First Guidelines to Cut Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants, U.S. EPA News Release, 6/2/14.

Here are some news accounts on the proposal and its possible economic, environmental, health, and political impacts:
New EPA rule seeks to cut carbon emissions 30% by 2030, Los Angeles Times, 6/1/14.
Obama Orders Pollution Cuts—But Timing Uncertain, Associated Press, as published by ABC News, 6/2/14.
EPA proposes cutting carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants 30% by 2030, Washington Post, 6/2/14.
Everything you need to know about the EPA’s proposed rule on coal plants, Washington Post, 6/2/14.
Taking Page from Health Care Act, Obama Climate Plan Relies on States, New York Times, 6/2/14.
Dominion analyzes Obama power plant rules, Kingsport [Tenn.] Times News, 6/2/14.
[West Va. Gov.] Tomblin: ‘Our worst fears’; power companies studying it, Charleston Gazette, 6/2/14.
Latest EPA rules signal a bleaker future for coal, Arizona Republic [Phoenix], 6/2/14.
Carbon-cutting plan seen as historic, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/3/14.
Regulations’ impact on electric rates is unclear, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/3/14.
Obama climate rule promises early health benefits, Chicago Tribune, 6/3/14.

Coal Ash Spill into Dan River after Feb. 2, 2014, Pipe Break at Duke Energy Ash-storage Basin in Eden, N.C.: Information Sources, Danville Public-access TV Videos of Informational Meetings, and News Articles Through July 21, 2014

On Sunday, February 2, 2014, a stormwater pipe broke under a coal-ash storage basin at the Duke Energy’s Dan River Station in Eden, North Carolina (a coal-fired power plant that operated between 1949 and 2012), spilling an estimated 24—27 million gallons of water from the ash-storage basin into the Dan River (2/28/14 note: later estimates from Duke have put the amount of water released over 30 million gallons).  Duke Energy estimated that the water carried with it 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash (2/28/14 note: this was the early estimate; later estimates from Duke have put the released amount in the range of 40,000 tons).  By Tuesday, February 4, a grayish river plume had reached the city of Danville, Va.  According to Duke Energy and news accounts, the coal ash contains large amounts of calcium, silica, and other elements that do not pose a human health risk, but that it also contains smaller amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium.  Through the first week after the spill, Danville officials reported that tests showed that water provided by the city’s water-supply plan was meeting all public-health standards and so far had not needed any special treatment processes.  Also during that week, the City of Virginia Beach as of February 5 took the precaution of stopping temporarily pumping Dan River water into supply reservoirs.  Ecological impacts are another, longer-term concern.  On February 18, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials stated that material from the spill has been found on the bottom of the Dan River in depths from one inch to five inches as far downstream as 70 miles.  One official stated that while the deposits and impacts vary with river characteristics, areas of concern include impacts on mussels, immature insects, other stream-bottom invertebrates (animals without backbones), and the fish that feed on stream-bottom invertebrates.

On March 6, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled that state law required Duke Energy to take immediate action to stop groundwater pollution resulting from coal-ash storage ponds at the company’s 14 coal-fired power plants (some operating, some closed).  Judge Ridgeway ruled in favor of environmental groups who in 2012 appealed a decision by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) that did not require immediate clean-up action, but rather allowed the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to give Duke “a reasonable time” to take corrective actions.

On March 10, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a news release on the agency’s ongoing evaluation of effects on the Dan River; the DEQ reported that treated drinking water have “consistently met or exceeded all applicable federal and state standards,” and that “there are no public health concerns with drinking water” in Virginia.  The DEQ stated that their focus is on “the health of the Dan River over the long term” (water quality, aquatic life, and aquatic habitat).  In the March 10 release, DEQ Director David Paylor said the several years of monitoring will likely be needed.

On March 13, the Associated Press reported that Duke estimates that it would need two years to clean up the coal-ash storage facility that led to the February 2 spill, along with two other storage facilities located beside rivers near Asheville and Charlotte.  The company has some three dozen storage facilities statewide.

On March 18, the Va. DEQ held a public meeting in Danville to provide an update on the Commonwealth’s response to the Dan River coal ash spill (several accounts of March 18 events are posted below).  At an earlier meeting on March 18, according to WDBJ-TV/Roanoke’s report on 3/18/14 (please see link below), Virginia natural-resource agency officials stated that the Commonwealth intends to take legal action over the spill against Duke Energy.

AGENCY INFORMATION SOURCES ON THIS TOPIC:
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ): http://www.deq.state.va.us/ConnectWithDEQ/EnvironmentalInformation/NorthCarolinaCoalAshSpill.aspx.  (Includes links to other sources of information, too.)

Virginia Department of Health: Coal Ash Release Fact Sheet (opens PDF), 2/20/14

U.S. EPA: http://epa.gov/region4/duke-energy/index.html.

VIDEOS OF INFORMATIONAL MEETINGS
City of Danville
: http://www.danville-va.gov
and click on the “Duke Energy Ash Spill Information” tab.  The city’s public-access TV station, River City TV (information online at http://danville-va.gov/index.aspx?nid=333), is providing video of some of the informational meetings about the spill.  As of 3/19/14, these videos were posted:
Feb. 7 news conference by Duke Energy (1 hr./34 min.)
Feb. 11 informational meeting by the U.S. EPA (2 hr./8 min.)
Mar. 18 informational meeting by the Va. Dept. of Environmental Quality (1 hr.).

NEWS ARTICLES SINCE 2/3/14 (newest listed first; all links were working at time of posting, but some may not be at a later date)

Virginia Tech researchers search for ways to better trace effects of coal ash spills, Roanoke Times, 7/21/14 [$25,000 National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant for Virginia Tech scientists Madeline Schreiber, Marc Michel, and Ben Gill to map the movement of contaminants that were in the spilled ash].

NC, Va. groups to monitor coal ash in Dan River, Associated Press, as published in Roanoke Times, 7/21/14. [The groups are the Dan River Basin Association and the Roanoke River Basin Association (the Dan River is a Roanoke River tributary.  The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality plans to monitor fish and river sediments for two years.]

EPA: Duke done dredging coal ash from NC river
, The Garden Island [Lihue, Hawaii], 7/17/14 (this article included here to show how widely this incident has been reported).

EPA says Dan River back to pre-coal ash spill quality, godanriver.com, 7/15/14.

N.C. orders Duke Energy to act after finding more faulty pipes, [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, as published online by Danville Register & Bee, 6/27/14.

Duke to begin cleanup near Eden, [Greensboro, N.C.] News and Record, as published by godanriver.com, 6/19/14.

Records show Duke Energy was warned of spill pipe [in a 1986 engineering report], Associated Press, as published by Roanoke Times, 6/19/14.

Duke concerned by coal ash pit closure deadlines, [in legislation proposed in North Carolina to require closure by 2029], Associated Press, as published by GoDanRiver.com, 6/16/14.

Coal ash deal viewed as step in the right direction, Henderson [N.C.] Daily Dispatch, 6/12/14.
NC, Va. sign deal with Duke for Dan River cleanup, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/10/14.
There’s more than one way to wipe up a spill [companies offering alternative methods of cleaning up Dan River coal-ash spill], [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, as published by Lynchburg News & Advance, 5/27/14.
Duke Energy signs deal with EPA to cleanup coal ash spill in Dan River, Energy Business Review, 5/26/14.
Virginia Beach to resume using [Lake Gaston] water after spill, Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 5/20/14.
Concerns grow in Giles County as DEQ waits on EPA to make coal ash regulations, WDBJ-TV (Roanoke), 5/15/14.
Top leaders [in North Carolina Senate] introduce coal ash bill [regarding Duke Energy clean-up of storage and disposal sites and procedures], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 5/14/14.
North Carolina county objects to coal ash dumping [members of the Person County, N.C., Board of Commissioners are to consider a resolution opposing use of their county solid-waste landfill for disposal of coal ash removed from the Dan River in Danville], Danville Register & Bee, as published by Roanoke Times, 5/13/14.
Coal ash clean-up begins, Danville Register & Bee, 5/12/14 [clean-up of about 2500 cubic yards of ash from Dan River behind Schoolfield Dam in Danville; expected to be completed in late June 2014.]
Dan River Coal Ash Problems Not Over, Experts Say, TriplePundit, 5/7/14.
Experts say coal ash in Dan River a moving target, [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, 5/4/14.
Shareholders, protesters, speak out to Duke board [meeting in Charlotte, N.C., on 5/1/14], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 5/1/14.
City [Danville, Va.] hiring specialist to handle ash claims, Danville Register & Bee, 4/29/14.
Outside of coal ash spill area, merchants [in N.C.] say Dan River open for business, Greensboro, N.C., News & Record, as posted by Danville Register & Bee, 4/27/14.
Duke Energy: Moving coal ash in NC would cost up to $10 billion, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/23/14.  [The company also told a North Carolina legislative committee that the ash transfer would take decades.]
Farmers told Dan River acceptable for use, Danville Register & Bee, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/22/14.
Coal ash spill effects not yet known; It’s too early to say if the Dan River will suffer biologically, experts on the environment said, Danville Register & Bee, as published by Roanoke Times, 4/21/14.
[North Carolina Gov.] McCrory’s coal ash plan is roiling debate in his own party, [Greensboro N.C.] News & Record, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/21/14.
[North Carolina Gov.] McCrory proposes new plan [for legislation] after spill, Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/16/14.
Coal ash deposits headed to N.C. dry landfill, Danville Register & Bee, 4/14/14 [deposits removed from Dan River near Schoolfield Dam in Danville, Va.].
Dan River water safe for farm use, N.C. State study claims Associated Press, as published by Roanoke Times, 4/18/14.
Coal ash storage a New River worry, Roanoke Times, 4/12/14 [regarding two coal-ash storage sites and one site where coal ash was used to created level land for industrial or commercial development, all in Giles County, Va.].
State And Federal Agencies Talk To Citizens About Coal Ash, WSET-TV [Lynchburg-Danville-Roanoke], 4/14/14; and EPA to discuss river clean up , Danville Register & Bee, 4/9/14 [open-house meeting by federal and state agencies, held in Danville on April 14].
NC sides with Duke in appeal of ruling [North Carolina Environmental Management Commission joining Duke Energy in appealing March 6, 2014, ruling by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway on the state’s authority to require faster clean-up of Duke’s coal-ash storage facilities], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/8/14.
City wants study of water alternatives  [City of Danville’s Request for Proposals to study coal ash and any other upstream contaminants of concern to the city’s drinking water treatment plant], Danville Register & Bee, 4/7/14.
NC judge denies Duke motion to seal coal ash docs  [ruling on April 4 in North Carolina’s civil case filed in 2013 over alleged groundwater pollution for 33 coal-ash storage facilities in the state], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/4/14.
Duke Energy says it needs time to clean coal ash [comments by Duke President and CEO at Charlotte, N.C., business-group lunch on April 2], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/2/14.
EPA was concerned about North Carolina deal on Duke ash dumps  [Sept. 2013 EPA comments about proposed settlement including $99,000 state fine over two Duke storage facilities; that settlement proposal was withdrawn in late March 2014 in the wake of the Feb. 2 spill], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/2/14.
Duke Energy wants citizens group out of ash action [motion filed March 31, 2014, in North Carolina enforcement-action case], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 4/1/14.
Concerns Linger for N.C. Residents After Coal Ash Spill, National Public Radio (NPR) “Morning Edition,” 4/2/14 (3 min./43 sec. audio report; includes comments on agricultural concerns in North Carolina and in Virginia).
River cleaning equipment arrives in Danville
, Danville Register & Bee, 3/31/14; and Park to close for ash cleanup , Danville Register & Bee, 3/28/14 [Danville's Abreu-Grogan Park to be closed from April 2 through June for removal of about 2300 cubic yards of ash that collected near a dam on the Dan River].
Environmental group against putting coal ash in landfills , Danville Register & Bee, 3/30/14 [Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, headquartered in Glendale Springs, N.C., released a report on March 24 that called for placing coal ash in concrete tanks rather than lined landfills].
Duke Energy seeks to keep records from regulators , Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 3/28/14.
Duke shareholders want probe of coal ash spill , Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 3/28/14.
Ponds in the game? [an overview of the use of ponds, or lagoons, for storage of coal-combustion ash], Chesterfield Observer, 3/26/14.
Ash spill costs top $12,722 locally–so far [costs incurred by Halifax County, Va., Service Authority, as of 3/20/14], South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 3/24/14.
Lawyer hired by NC in spill probe represented Duke, Associated Press, as published by GoDanRiver.com, 3/24/14.
Farmers along Dan River worry about livelihood, [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, as published by GoDanRiver.com, 3/24/14.
Danville feeling toxic economic effects of spill
, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/22/14.  [This is a fairly detailed overview of the current and potential impacts of the spill on Danville, Va.]
Dan River coal-ash pollution angers and worries Virginians
, Raleigh News & Observer, 3/22/14.
Environmental groups push Duke to clean up ash ponds at rally, Danville Register & Bee, 3/22/14.
Regulators say Duke pumped coal ash into NC river [61 million gallons of water from coal-ash-storage site into Cape Fear River], Associated Press, as published by Washington Post, 3/20/14.
Group wants to intervene in Dan River coal ash case [Southern Environmental Law Center], Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/20/14.
Risks to coal ash pipe apparently cast aside [information in consultant report to U.S. EPA in September 2009 recommending that stormwater pipes be checked apparently not passed on to N.C. officials],  [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, as published by Roanoke Times, 3/20/14.
[Va. Gov.] McAuliffe expects Duke Energy to pay for coal ash spill, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/19/14.
Coal ash spill takes center stage in Danville, WDBJ-TV Roanoke, 3/18/14.
Gov. McAuliffe tours Danville water treatment plant, WSET-TV Lynchburg, 3/18/14.
Vacuums to pull coal ash from Schoolfield dam, Danville Register & Bee, 3/18/14.
Dominion: Yorktown coal ash landfill lacks Dan River potential, [Newport News] Daily Press, 3/18/14.
Tweak to N.C. law protected Duke Energys coal ash pits, Associated Press, as published by Roanoke Times, 3/18/14.
N.C. probes wastewater dumping at Duke plant [near Cape Fear River in Moncure, N.C.], Associated Press, as published by Washington Post, 3/18/14.

Duke pledges to remove ash landfill by Dan River, South Boston New & Record, 3/17/14; N.C. wants faster coal ash removal, Danville Register & Bee, 3/17/14; and Duke: Cleanup at Dan River plant will take 2 years, Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 3/13/14 [regarding Duke Energy’s statewide coal-ash clean-up plan, as described in the company's March 12, 2014, letter to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla].
Virginia regulators take long view on N.C. coal ash spill [reporting on Va. DEQ news release on 3/10/14], Associated Press, as published by Roanoke Times, 3/10/14.
Virginia’s response to coal ash spill focuses on long-term health of Dan River, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 3/10/14.
Judge rules Duke must halt groundwater pollution at coal ash sites, Raleigh News & Observer, 3/6/14.

Duke must act on ash contamination, judge rules, Charlotte Observer, 3/6/14.
N.C. officials want pipes at Duke plants probed [via video cameras inside pipes at 14 facilities], Associated Press, as published by Danville Register & Bee, 3/5/14.
Duke Energy plants cited over Dan River spill; the North Carolina company lacked permits to discharge rainwater into public waterways, Associated Press, as published in Roanoke Times, 3/4/14.
[Dan River] Basin association calls for cleanup on the Dan River, South Boston News & Record, 3/3/14.
Frustration rises as long-term impact of spill goes unanswered, South Boston News & Record, 3/3/14.
Bottle water sales spike after spill, Danville Register & Bee, 3/1/14.
Coal ash spill costs [Halifax County, Va., Service Authority] authority $10,000 so far [for extra staff time and treatment chemicals], South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/28/14.
N.C. governor to Duke: Move ash ponds, Danville Register & Bee, 2/27/14.
Coal ash site called ticking time bomb” [Danville City and other public officials tour of spill site in N.C. on Feb 25], Danville Register & Bee, 2/25/14.
NC could force Duke to move dump away from river, Associated Press, as published by Lynchburg News & Advance, 2/25/14.

Damage toll from spill estimated at $70 million; could rise by 10 times, [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, as published in Lynchburg News & Advance, 2/25/14.
EPA to South Boston: Our emergency response continues, South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/21/14.
[Va.] Del. [Danny] Marshall reports on Dan River coal ash spill, Chatham Star-Tribune, 2/21/14.
Whats in the fish?—Virginia DEQ begins testing fish in Dan River, Danville Register & Bee, 2/20/14.
Investigation into N.C. coal ash spill widens [with subpoenas to additional 20 N.C. state employees], Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/19/14.
Duke Energy: Customers will not pay for river cleanup, Danville Register & Bee, 2/19/14.
Duke Energy says leak at second pipe halted, Danville Register & Bee, 2/19/14.
Toxins [arsenic] leaking from 2nd pipe at coal ash dump, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/19/14.
North Carolina coal ash spill raises questions about enforcement of environmental regulations, PBS NewsHour video report (6 min./57 sec). 
Official: Coal ash will not affect wastewater treatment, Danville Register & Bee, 2/17/14.
Scenic River designation likely not in danger, Danville Register & Bee, 2/17/14.
EPA officials visit South Boston Thursday to meet with public, South Boston News & Record, 2/17/14.
Danville mayor: City not taking spill lightly, Danville Register & Bee, 2/16/14.
U.S. [Attorney’s Office in Raleigh] investigates N.C. coal ash spill, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/14/14.
What happens when the river floods?, Danville Register & Bee, 2/13/14.
Resident reports dead turtles, missing wildlife, Danville Register & Bee, 2/13/14.
[Halifax County Service Authority Executive] Director: Drinking water safe, South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/12/14.
State, EPA say public water OK after spill on Dan River; [plus, the Va. DEQ plans to review storage compliance at 12 Virginia coal-ash ponds], Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/12/14.
Testing shows city water still within federal standards, Danville Register & Bee, 2/11/14.
Drinking water safe, but Va. Beach shuts off pipeline, South Boston News & Record, 2/12/14.
Duke [Energy] plans to dredge river as coal ash deal [is] dumped, Associated Press, as published in Washington Post, 2/11/14.
EPA checking water, sediment, Danville Register & Bee, 2/10/14.
Survivors of Americas largest coal ash spill talk about experiences, Danville Register & Bee, 2/10/14 (interviews with people affected by the December 2008 coal-ash spill in Roane County, Tenn.).
A disaster that Duke, regulators didnt see, South Boston News & Record, 2/10/14 (a very detailed account of recent developments and background of the situation).
NC admits mistake, says arsenic topped safe level, Associated Press, as published in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/10/14.
Danville Riverwalk Trail users want Dan River cleanup to begin, Danville Register & Bee, 2/9/14.
EPA to hold community briefing, Danville Register & Bee, 2/9/14.
NC regulators shielded Duke’s coal ash pollution, Associated Press, as published in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/9/14.
[Virginia] Beach official: Past study shows spill won’t foul water, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 2/814.
Virginia water supplies so far unaffected by Dan River coal ash spill, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/8/14.
Drinking water safe; potential threat posed to aquatic life, South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/7/14.
Water remains safe as work continues to stop leak at Eden site, Danville Register & Bee, 2/6/14.
For one fisherman, water woes a concern long before spill, Danville Register & Bee, 2/6/14.
Coal ash continues to settle in Dan River, Lynchburg News & Advance, 2/6/14.
Tests show different arsenic levels in NC spill, Associated Press, as published in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/6/14.
More than a touch of gray, South Boston News & Record, 2/6/14.
Its like a lava flow moving slowly toward Danville, Danville Register & Bee, 2/5/14.
Coal ash: Its still leaking, Danville Register & Bee, 2/5/14.
Coal waste deposits turn up 70 miles from spill, South Boston Gazette-Virginian, 2/20/14.
Coal ash lines river 70 miles from N.C. spill site, Associated Press, as published in Virginian-Pilot, 2/18/14.
More than a touch of gray, South Boston News & Record, 2/6/14.
Va. Beach halts water pumping after coal ash spill, Virginian-Pilot, 2/5/14.
Its like a lava flow moving slowly toward Danville, Danville Register & Bee, 2/5/14.
Coal ash: Its still leaking, Danville Register & Bee, 2/5/14.
And the river ran gray, Danville Register & Bee, 2/4/14.
City: Danvilles drinking water safe, Danville Register & Bee, 2/4/14.
Broken pipe spills coal ash in Dan River, Danville Register & Bee, 2/3/14.

Related items:

Editorial: Tighten Chesapeake coal waste regulations, Virginian-Pilot, 7/22/14.
Chesapeake [City of Chesapeake, Va.] acts to manage Dominion site’s fly ash [related to coal-ash management, but not connected directly to Dan River spill], Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 7/14/14.
Hazardous or harmless? EPA to rule on coal ash, Chesterfield [Va.] Observer, 2/5/14.

Water Discharge-permit Violation Fine of $27 Million and $200 Million in Corrective Actions are part of Proposed Settlement Agreement Announced March 5, 2014, by Federal Government for Violations at Alpha Natural Resources Coal Mines and Coal-processing Operations in Five Appalachian States between 2006 and 2013

On March 5, 2014, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Justice Department announced and filed a proposed settlement agreement (also called a consent decree) for violations by Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., of water-pollutant discharge permits at 79 coal mines and 25 coal-processing facilities in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia.  The proposed settlement, which also included the state environmental agencies in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia; it must undergo a public-comment period and be approved by the federal court before it takes effect.  If the proposed settlement is approved, Alpha—headquartered in Bristol, Va.—will pay a $27-million civil penalty and will be required to spend about $200 million to improve treatment and monitoring of discharges into streams from coal-related operations.  The EPA claims that, between 2006 and 2013, some 6000 instances occurred where water discharges by Alpha and over 60 subsidiary companies exceeded the levels of several pollutants allowed under state-issued discharge permits.  According to Alpha’s March 5 news release on the settlement agreement, the pollutants at issue are mostly aluminum, iron, manganese, and selenium, and the state-permit limits at issue in the settlement are primarily focused on protection of aquatic life, rather than on protection of public drinking-water supplies.  Over half of the violations at issue are alleged to have occurred from operations by the Massey Energy company, which was fined $20 million by the federal government in 2008 for similar problems and was acquired in 2011 by Alpha.

Additional Sources:
Record water pollution fines sought for coal mine operators in states including Va., Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/6/14; and Leading coal producer agrees to pay record fine to clean polluted waters across Appalachia, PBS NewsHour video segment (5 min/47 sec; interview with writer of Associated Press article listed above), 3/5/14.

Va.’s Abandoned Mine Land Grant Funds Application for FY 2014 is Subject of Mar. 4, 2014, Public Meeting in Big Stone Gap

On March 4, 2014, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME)/Division of Mined Lands Reclamation will hold a public meeting to receive comment on the Fiscal Year 2014 Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Grant ApplicationEach year, DMME applies to the federal Office of Surface Mining for grants to reclaim high-priority abandoned mine lands.  The meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. at the DMME office, 3405 Mountain Empire Road in Big Stone Gap (Wise Count).  Information about Virginia’s AML program is available online at http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMLR/DmlrAmlLandingPage.shtml.  For more information about the March 4 meeting, visit http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewMeeting.cfm?MeetingID=21186; or contact Richard Davis, DMME, (276) 523-8216, or richard.davis@dmme.virginia.gov.

West Virginia Chemical Spill on Jan. 9, 2014 – Information Sources

Following are some online sources of information on the January 9, 2014, spill of several thousand gallons of a coal-processing chemical (crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM) into the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia, which led to a water-supply state of emergency in that city and nine West Virginia counties.

Senate Bill 373, passed by the 2014 West Virginia Legislature, which creates the “Above-ground Storage Tank Water Resources Protection Act” authorizing various actions related to chemical-storage tanks and protection of water resources (popularly known as the “spill bill”).

Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette newspaper ongoing coverage: http://www.wvgazette.com/section/search?text=Elk+River+spill&x=0&y=0.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting ongoing coverage: http://wvpublic.org/term/elk-river-chemical-spill.

West Virginia Water Research Institute compilation of information and news links through January 2014: http://wvwri.org/in-the-news-wvwri-director-answers-questions-regarding-chemical-spill-in-elk-river/.

West Virginia Governor’s State of Emergency News Releases and Resources: http://www.governor.wv.gov/Pages/State-of-Emergency.aspx.

PBS NewsHour  reports: click here.

Federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “2014 West Virginia Chemical Release”: http://emergency.cdc.gov/chemical/MCHM/westvirginia2014/index.asp.

“NSF awards rapid response grants to study West Virginia chemical spill,” National Science Foundation News Release, 1/30/14: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=130304.  This study of different aspects of the spill–including extent of the contamination by the main chemical involved and its interaction with water-supply pipes–is being conducted by Andrew Whelton of the University of South Alabama, Jennifer Weidhaas of West Virginia University, and Andrea Dietrich of Virginia Tech.

New Yorker magazine article (long and detailed) on the role of the chemical and coal industries in West Virginia’s economy and politics: “Chemical Valley: The coal industry, the politicians, and the big spill,” 4/7/14.


News Items on Possible Virginia Implications:
The following items discuss the regulatory structure for chemical plants in Virginia and the potential impacts of a spill on water supplies.
Region’s water-supply safety becomes concern after spill in West Virginia, Roanoke Times, 1/14/13;
Officials: Bad spill could happen in Virginia waters, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/14/13;
(Opinion) A W.Va. spill reveals outdated chemical safety laws, Washington Post, 1/14/13.

Virginia Water News Headlines Sampler for October 9–17, 2013: Bay Grasses, Coal Ash Uses, Supreme Court Review of EPA Carbon Emissions Regulations, Blue Crabs, LID in Lexington, and Wastewater Snapshot from Dinwiddie County

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of water-news stories in Virginia, in nearby areas, or otherwise elated to Virginia, from the period October 9-17, 2013.  The headlines are grouped by topics and—within those groups—from newest to oldest.  Explanatory notes have been added in brackets after the publication and date.  Unless otherwise noted, all places mentioned are in Virginia.  As of 10/18/13, all headlines listed below have working hyperlinks to take you to the full article.

Aquatic Life and Habitats
Bay gets big boost from tiny seed pods, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 10/10/13.  An approximately two-week period in late September and early October is the time of year for harvest of Wild Celery seed pods by volunteers participating in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) “Grasses for the Masses” program.  Wild Celery is one of several plants–collectively called submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) or “Bay grasses”—that are important for water quality and aquatic-life habitat in the Bay.  In the CBF program, volunteers plant and tend grass seeds for 10 to 12 weeks, then gather the seed pods for eventual transplant to the James and Potomac rivers.

Coal and Water
Report: Chesapeake fly-ash site safe for some housing, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 10/9/13; and Knee-deep in coal ash: Is it really hazardous?, Chesterfield Observer, 10/9/13.  The City of Chesapeake and Chesterfield County are among Virginia localities currently participating in a long-running debate of the costs vs. benefits of different uses for coal-combustion by-products, commonly referred to as coal ash or coal fly-ash.  In Chesapeake, ash was buried in the 1990s on a site now being considered for the proposed Campostella Square low-income housing development; on October 8, a consultant told the Chesapeake City Council that remediation of the site to allow residential housing would cost millions of dollars, although remediation for non-residential use would be less costly.   Meanwhile, in Chesterfield County, citizens have raised concerns since February 2013 about placement and use of coal ash in solid-waste facilities.  Coal ash contains various toxic metals, but under Virginia law, various uses of the material are allowed without the material being subject to regular Virginia solid-waste management regulations; Virginia Administrative Code section 9 VAC 20-81-95 describes allowable exemptions for fossil fuel combustion by-products (paragraph C.7.h, lists the allowable beneficial uses).  Virginia law follows federal law, which does not classify coal ash as a hazardous substance; the U.S. EPA has been considering for several years, however, whether coal ash should be classified as hazardous waste.

Energy and Climate
Supreme Court will review EPAs authority to regulate power-plant and factory emissions, Washington Post, 10/15/13.  On October 15, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear several challenges to the U.S. EPA’s regulation of emissions of carbon dioxide (and other so-called “greenhouse gases”) from power-generating plants and other stationary sources.  The petitions accepted by the Court allege that the EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act recognized by the Court in its 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision.  That decision applied to automobile emissions, and the petitions accepted for hearing by the court challenge the EPA’s extension of regulation to stationary sources.

Fisheries
Virginia Considers Resuming Dredging for Female Crabs, Bay Daily, 10/16/13.  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) is scheduled to vote at its October 22, 2013, meeting on whether to re-open a winter dredging season on Blue Crabs in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay waters.  Winter dredging has been banned by Virginia since 2008 as part of efforts to improve Blue Crab populations (dredging for crabs is illegal in Maryland).  The proposed action would not increase the overall allowable harvest of Blue Crabs, because quotas for harvesting by other methods (crab pots) would be reduced, according to the VMRC’s spokesman.

Stormwater Management
Housing project marries low-income and low-impact development, Bay Journal, 10/17/13. A four-acre, 24-lot development of housing for low-income residents in Lexington is being designed with “low-impact development” (LID) features to reduce water-consumption and stormwater runoff.

Wastewater
State renews permit, Petersburg Progress-Index, 10/14/13.  In early October 2013, the Virginia State Water Control Board (SWCB) approved the renewal of a permit for the Dinwiddie County Water Authority to discharge up to four million gallons per day of wastewater into Hatcher Creek (a Chowan River/Albemarle Sound tributary), if the county eventually builds a wastewater-treatment facility on the stream.  The authority would have to secure several other permits to begin construction on a facility.  The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality received about 100 comments from citizens expressing concerns about the permit renewal.

On Virginia Water Radio for the Week of 9-2-13: A Big Sandy River Tune to Recognize Labor Day

This week, Virginia Water Radio features music associated with the Big Sandy River valley, a center of Appalachian history, labor, and natural-resource use.   Click here to have a listen! (2 min/44 sec)

vwr_header

Virginia Water Radio, online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org, is the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s weekly podcast using sounds and music to focus on issues, events, people, and creatures connected to Virginia’s waters.

Virginia and Chesapeake Bay Area Water News Headlines Sampler for July 29-August 9, 2013: Dying Dolphins, Chesapeake Waters Access, Lawsuit over Coal Exports, Brunswick Power Plant and James River Transmission Line, Stafford Waste-to-Energy, Snakehead World Record, and More

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of Virginia’s and nearby states’ water-news stories from the period July 29-August 9, 2013.  The headlines are grouped by topics and—within those groups—from newest to oldest.  Explanatory notes have been added in brackets after the publication and date.  Unless otherwise noted, all places mentioned are in Virginia.  As of 8/11/13, all headlines listed below have working hyperlinks to take you to the full article.

Aquatic Life and Habitats
Virus a suspect in dolphin strandings along bay, Virginian-Pilot, 8/2/13; and Dolphin deaths up in Washington region, Washington Post, 8/6/13.  The Virginia Museum and Aquarium’s Stranding Response Team, which operates out of Virginia Beach, has been seeing a significant increase in deaths of dolphins, including 44 found in July alone.  The yearly average is 64, but 87 have been found so far in 2013.  Increased dolphin deaths have also been seen in 2013 in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, although as of early August it was unclear if these occurrences were related.

Boats and Ships
Public to get more access to bay watershed, Daily Press, 8/6/13.  In early August, a new public-access point opened along the Cowpasture River in Clifton Forge, Virginia.  The Cowpasture is a tributary of the James River, one of Virginia’s major Chesapeake Bay tributaries.  In 2013, 18 new public-access facilities have opened on waters in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including six in Virginia.  For more on public-access on Bay waters, please see the April, 3, 2013 Water Central News Grouper post, Public Access to Chesapeake Bay Waters is Focus of January 2013 Report from National Park Service.

US bank sued over pollution from coal exports, Associated Press, as published by yahoo.com, 8/1/13; and Lawsuit seeks to stop federal loan guarantee for coal planned for export from Hampton Roads, Daily Press, 8/1/13.  On July 31, 2013, six environmental groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco alleging that in the U.S. Export-Import Bank should have conducted an environmental-impact analysis—including of the potential health effects of coal dust—before it guaranteed loans in 2012 to help finance overseas exports of coal from Norfolk and Baltimore, Md.  The plaintiffs are the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Center for International Environmental Law, Friends of the Earth, Pacific Environment, the Sierra Club, and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Energy
Brunswick power plant wins nod, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/5/13.  On August 2, 2013, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved the application by Dominion Virginia Power to build a $1.27-billion, 1358-megawatt-capacity, natural-gas fired power plant in Brunswick County.  At the same meeting, an SCC hearing examiner recommended that the SCC approved Dominion Virginia’s application for an eight-mile, $155-million, 500-kilovolt transmission line from its power station in Surry County across the James River to a switching station (proposed) in James City County.

State seeks research lease for wind energy test project off Virginia Beach, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/30/13.  On July 29, 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has applied for a research lease to investigate wind energy off the Virginia coast, near Virginia Beach.  [From the Grouper’s July 19, 2013, headlines post: On July 22, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior had announced that about 113,000 acres some 23 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach would be offered on September 4, 2013, in a lease sale for commercial, offshore wind-energy projects.  This will be the nation’s second wind-energy lease sale, following one scheduled for July 31, 2013, for areas off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  Interior Announces Nation’s Second Offshore Wind Energy Lease Sale, U.S. Department of Interior News Release, 7/22/13; 112,800 acres off Virginia coast to be auctioned for wind energy, Daily Press, 7/23/13; Auction set for proposed wind farm off Va. Beach, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/23/13; and Auction date set for right to develop wind energy, Virginian-Pilot, 7/23/13.]

Energy and Waste Management
Plan gets more scrutiny, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/8/13; Waste plan finds few fans, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/5/13; Fredericksburg City Council approves landfill lease, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 7/9/13; and Stafford approves lease, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 6/6/13.  [Here’s a re-cap and update on the issue of a proposed waste-to-energy facility in Stafford County, previously included in headlines posts on 6/7/13 and 7/12/13.]  On July 9, 2013, the Fredericksburg City Council tentatively approved a lease for a $73-million facility to capture and use natural gas from landfill waste at the Rappahannock Regional Landfill.  The Council was scheduled to take a final vote on the lease on August 13.  Meanwhile, on June 4, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors granted the county attorney authority to draw up a lease.  In July 2013, elected officials in the two jurisdictions began receiving comments from citizens opposing the proposed project, and in early August, Fredericksburg’s City Council removed the project from its August 13 meeting agenda (postponing the item until August 27), after learning that Stafford County is reconsidering the project.

Fisheries
Confirmed: monster northern snakehead snagged in Virginia a world record, Associated Press, 8/7/13.  On August 7, 2013, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reported that a 17-pound, 6-ounce Northern Snakehead fish—a non-native species that was found in Maryland in 2002 and has since been found in various Virginia waters—was a world record catch.

Wastewater
Virginia Beach sewage treatment plant to shut down, Virginian-Pilot, 8/2/13.  The Hampton Roads Sanitation District, headquartered in Virginia Beach and serving over 1.6 million customers in the southeastern Virginia, plans to close one of its five wastewater-treatment plants and re-route the wastewater to other plants, in a move intended to save money and limit rate increases.

Wetlands
VDOT, Corps at odds over new road’s toll on wetlands, Virginian-Pilot, 8/9/13.  Virginia is planning a $1.4-billion, 55-mile-long, four-lane, tolled highway roughly paralleling U.S 460 from Petersburg to Suffolk.  The project has been under consideration for years and currently is being designed, with some parts possibly to be under construction by 2014.  But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified certain sections that would have substantial impacts on wetlands and other water resources, and as of July 2013, the federal agency and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) about VDOT’s analysis of alternatives—including expansion of the existing U.S. 460—that would have less wetlands/waters impact.   11/5/13 update: In late October 2013, the Virginian-Pilot reported that a report submitted by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to the Army Corps of Engineers estimated that the project could destroy up to 480 acres of wetlands, compared to an earlier estimate of 129 acres potentially destroyed. Threat to wetlands could be threat to new U.S. 460, Virginian-Pilot, 10/30/13.

Outside of Virginia But in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
17th Century Sunken Ship Discovered in the Chesapeake Bay, Your4State.com, 8/1/13.  In late July 2013, Maryland archeologists confirmed that a sunken vessel discovered earlier in 2013 in the Saint Mary’s River in St. Mary’s County (on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay) is a 17th-Century tobacco-hauling ship, apparently the first ever discovered in Chesapeake Bay waters.

Hundreds of St. Mary’s homes threatened by sea level rise, Southern Maryland Newspapers Online, 7/31/13.  St. Mary’s County, Maryland, located on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay and across the Potomac River from Westmoreland County, Virginia, has several hundred homes that are potentially threatened by a predicted two-foot sea-level rise by 2050.  Such a rise, along with a rise of from two-to-six feet by 2100, is predicted in a report released by the Maryland Commission on Climate Change in late June 2013.  (That report is available (as a PDF) online at http://www.umces.edu/sites/default/files/pdfs/SeaLevelRiseProjections.pdf.)

Virginia and Chesapeake Bay Area Water News Headlines Sampler for July 21-26, 2013

Following are headlines and notes for a selection of Virginia water-news stories from the period July 21-26, 2013.  The headlines are grouped by topics and—within those groups—from newest to oldest.  Explanatory notes have been added in brackets after the publication and date.  Unless otherwise noted, all places mentioned are in Virginia.  As of 7/26/13, all headlines listed below have working hyperlinks to take you to the full article.

Aquatic Life and Habitats

Conservation group buys 443 acres of forest, swamp, Virginian-Pilot, 7/26/13.  In late July 2013, the Nature Conservancy announced that on July 11 it closed a deal to pay $400,000 to purchase 443 acres of forest and wetlands along the Blackwater and Nottoway Rivers (Chowan River tributaries) in Southampton County, Va.  The area, known as Byrd’s Point, is to become part of the Commonwealth’s South Quay Sandhills Natural Preserve, which was created in 2013.

Fairly clean summer at Fairview Beach, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 7/24/13.  As of late July 2013, Fairview Beach on the Potomac River in King George County, Va., was seeing fewer bacteria-related beach closures than in previous summer swim seasons.

Wakefield Run Stream Restoration Project off With a Splash, The (Alexandria Va.) Connection, 7/24/13.  An approximately $350,000 stream-restoration project began July 24, 2013, on Fairfax County’s Wakefield Run, a tributary of Accotink Creek (in the Potomac River watershed).

Energy

A&G Coal Corp. found guilty of polluting at Wise County mine, Roanoke Times, 7/24/13; and Judge orders mining company to make changes following toxic discharge, Bristol Herald Courier, 7/24/13.  On July 22, 2013, a federal district court judge in Big Stone Gap, Va., ruled that A&G Coal Company has been violating the federal Clean Water Act by discharging selenium, a regulated pollutant under the CWA, without a permit.  The company is to apply to the Commonwealth for such a permit and to being daily monitoring for selenium, with the testing results to be assessed by District Court Judge James Jones to determine whether the company may face civil penalties.

Interior Announces Nation’s Second Offshore Wind Energy Lease Sale, U.S. Department of Interior News Release, 7/22/13; 112,800 acres off Virginia coast to be auctioned for wind energy, Daily Press, 7/23/13; Auction set for proposed wind farm off Va. Beach, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/23/13; and Auction date set for right to develop wind energy, Virginian-Pilot, 7/23/13.  On July 22, 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that about 113,000 acres some 23 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach would be offered on September 4, 2013, in a lease sale for commercial, offshore wind-energy projects.  This will be the nation’s second wind-energy lease sale, following one scheduled for July 31, 2013, for areas off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Groundwater

In July 2013, the U.S. EPA was conducting field tests—expected to continue into August 2013, as part of investigation expected to take 18 months—to determine location and levels of five toxic chemicals that have been found in soil and groundwater at the former Avionics Specialties, Inc., site, near the Charlottesville, Va., airport.  Update 8/11/13: The Daily Progress continued to report on this story; here are some later articles: Cleanup of toxic site in Earlysville long overdue, regulators say, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 7/27/13; Remediation of chemicals at shuttered Albemarle aviation plant could take decades, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 8/5/13.

Waste Management

Recycle, reuse, tax? Norfolk targets plastic bags, Virginian-Pilot, 7/26/13.  The City of Norfolk, Va., is pursuing various methods to get citizens to reduce use of disposal plastic-bags, including supporting related measures in the Virginia General Assembly and creating a task force that, in September 2013, will begin giving out re-usable bags and to provide presentations to civic groups and schools.  The task force has estimated that up to 10 percent of disposable plastic bags become litter on roadways or in waterways.

Outside of Virginia But in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Maryland to increase RPS further reduce power usage cut emissions by 40%, Electric Power, Platts News, 7/25/13.  On July 25, 2013, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced that Maryland will increase its renewal-energy portfolio standard (RPS), increase efforts to reduce energy use, and required increased emission reductions from power plants, all as part of the state’s effort to reach its greenhouse-gas emissions target for 2020.

1st step for private water well testing OK’ed, The (Williamsport Pa.) Sun Gazette, 7/26/13.  In late July 2013, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, commissioners gave approval for a $250,000 grant application to the state to fund a county-wide program to monitor groundwater quality in private wells.

Groups push sediment eel fishing issues at Conowingo Dam, Lancaster (Pa.) Online, 7/22/13; and 18 Riverkeepers Intervene In Conowingo Relicensing, The Chestertown (Md.) Spy, 7/23/13.  In July 2013, a coalition of several riverkeeper groups in the lower Susquehanna River basin and the Chesapeake Bay watershed filed a motion to be allowed to intervene in the relicensing process by Excelon Corporation for the Conowingo Hydroelectric Dam on the Susquehanna River in Maryland; the groups are seeking action by Excelon on sediment behind the dam, public-fishing access, and American Eel restoration.  Previously (late June 2013), the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, representing the Maryland counties of Allegany, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, and Kent, filed a motion to intervene based also on concerns over sediment at the dam.  For more on this issue, please see the 2/27/13 Grouper post, “Relicensing Application Process for Conowingo Dam on Susquehanna River in Maryland Expected to Proceed to Environmental Assessment Phase in 2013.”

D.C. issues stormwater rule to comply with federal requirements, Washington DC Green Business, Examiner.com, 7/21/13; and Pr. George’s council approves storm-water runoff plan; Confirms two department heads, Washington Post, 7/24/13.  In mid-July 2013, the District of Columbia issued a new stormwater-management regulation and technical guidebook, including a stormwater credit-trading program and new requirements for retaining certain storm-depth water amounts on one’s property (up to a 1.2-inch rainfall for large projects).  Meanwhile, on July 23, 2013, Prince Georges County, Maryland, passed a 10-year, $1.2 billion stormwater-management plan.

Vulnerable Maryland weighs threat of sea-level rise, The Washington Post, 7/21/13.  On June 26, 2013, the Maryland Commission on Climate change released “Updating Maryland’s Projected Sea-level Rise,” a 22-page report that water levels along Maryland’s coastline are currently predicted to rise by up to two feet by the middle of this century and from two to six feet by the end of the century.  The report is available (as PDF) online at http://www.umces.edu/sites/default/files/pdfs/SeaLevelRiseProjections.pdf.