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 had an initial 120-day public-comment period, until October 16, 2014, but in an October 23, 2014, “Notice of Date Availability” (see links below under “Documents from EPA”), the agency extended the public-comment deadline until December 1, 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.

A July 2014 report assessing what large electric-utility companies are already doing in the areas of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources (two of the four main ways the EPA proposes that state reduce carbon emissions) is available online at http://www.ceres.org/resources/reports/benchmarking-utility-clean-energy-deployment-2014.

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 (extended from the original deadline of January 8, 2014).  The September proposal replaced a March 27, 2012, proposal that received some 2.5 million comments from the public.  The regulatory actions on new and existing plants both come under Section 111 of the federal Clean Air Act.  Information from the EPA on the agency’s overall program on carbon emissions is available online at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/what-epa-doing#overview.  The EPA actions are part of the federal government’s response to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, announced on June 25, 2013.  White House information on that plan is available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan.

Documents from EPA:
Clean Power Proposed Rule, online at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/clean-power-plan-proposed-rule.

EPA Proposes First Guidelines to Cut Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants, U.S. EPA News Release, 6/2/14.

Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule Notice of Data Availability, online at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/clean-power-plan-proposed-rule-notice-data-availability, 10/28/14.

EPA Provides Additional Information on Clean Power Plan/Agency requests public comment on additional information and proposes carbon goals for areas in Indian Country and U.S. Territories, News Release, 10/28/14.

Commonwealth of Virginia documents:
Virginia comments submitted 11/14/14 to EPA on the draft regulation: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Air/Planning/vacommentstoepa.pdf (16 pages).

News accounts on the proposal and related matters, since 6/3/14:

Dominion Virginia Power customers could see bills rise 30 percent by 2025 to meet EPA plan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/19/14; and Lawmakers express concerns over proposed EPA rules Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/19/14. [Both articles report on the 11/19/14 meeting of joint meeting of the Commerce and Labor committees in Virginia House of Delegates and Virginia Senate, to hear from agency and others on details of proposed regulations.]

Groups rallying in Va. to support Clean Power Plan, [rally by environmental groups at State Capitol on November 19, 2014], Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/19/14.

Virginia DEQ says proposed carbon emission rules unfair to the state, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/15/14.

McAuliffe applauds EPA’s carbon intent, questions details, Daily Press, 11/14/14.

Va. groups to present clean power comments, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/12/14.

Scientists offer help on Va. carbon reduction goal, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/11/14 [Fifteen Va. scientists’ letter to Gov. McCauliffe offering help on meeting federal carbon-reduction goals].

SCC [State Corporation Commission] staff says Virginia electricity will cost ‘significantly more’ under proposed EPA carbon rules, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/16/14.

Virginia power plants not among the 100 ‘dirtiest’ polluters, Daily Press, 9/19/14 [Environment Virginia report on carbon emissions by Virginia power plants and those in other states].

Carbon capturing about ready for prime time, experts say, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/8/14 [part of a series on carbon capture and sequestration].

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 November 17, 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 25 to 30 million gallons of water from the ash-storage basin into the Dan River.  The delivered an estimated 35,000-to-40,000 tons of coal ash.  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 contained large amounts of calcium, silica, and other elements that did not pose a human health risk, but it also contained 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.  But ecological impacts are another, longer-term concern.  On February 18, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials stated that material from the spill had 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 estimated 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 intended 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)

Concerns flow at forum on spill, Danville Register & Bee, 11/17/14 [at 11/17/14 panel forum in Danville held by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation and Virginia Cooperative Extension].

Impact of coal ash disaster discussed, Danville Register & Bee, 11/14/14 [at 11/14/14 panel discussion in Danville held by several local organizations].

After The Spill: Coal Ash & The Dan River/Economic & Environmental Concerns Linger [3:21 audio, with transcript available online], WVTF-FM (Virginia Tech public radio station), 11/17/14.

Duke makes plans to move coal ash/Material in Eden basin would be sent via train to lined landfill in Virginia, Danville Register & Bee, 11/13/14.

Coal ash impact discussions scheduled, Danville Register & Bee, 11/9/14.

Feds override NC on draining coal ash dumps, Associated Press, as published by Yahoo Finance, 10/3/14.

Duke’s coal ash warning late, downplayed for N.C., Greenville, N.C., News & Record, as published online by Danville Register & Bee, 8/25/14.

Could a coal-ash spill happen in Virginia? Regulators, utilities brace for new federal regulations in December [2014], Virginia Business, 7/30/14.

Weathering a crisis: Coal ash spill overshadowed major changes in [Danville, Va.] city’s River District, Virginia Business, 7/30/14.

What spill? Along the Dan River, people just go with the flow, [Greensboro, N.C.] News & Record, as published by godanriver.com, 7/28/14.  [Describes recreation along the Dan Rive in Eden, North Carolina, on July 27, 2014, about a week after North Carolina officials removed a recreation advisory.]

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.]

Law group says 94 percent of deposit still in river, Danville Register & Bee, 7/21/14 [Southern Environmental Law Center raised concerns about some 37,000 tons of coal ash not removed during Duke Energy’s removal project behind the Schoolfield Dam in Danville, which removed about 2500 tons].

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.