Category Archives: Land Use

Items related to agriculture, preservation, development, forestry, and other land-based activities that affect water resources.

Potential Natural Gas Drilling and Transport in Virginia under Close Scrutiny in 2014; Update as of 10-31-14

As of late-October 2014, here’s an overview of recent developments regarding the extraction or transport of natural gas in Virginia.

DRILLING: The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) is continuing its process of reviewing the Commonwealth’s regulations on the hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling methods of extracting gas and oil from shales and other geologic formations.  September 24, 2014, was the date of the fifth and most recent (as of 10/15/14) meeting (the first was in June 2014) of a Regulatory Advisory Board assembled to help DMME review and make recommendations about current regulations; information about that panel is available at this link: http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DGO/RegulatoryAction.shtml.  DMME online information about the proposed regulation is available from Virginia Regulatory Town Hall at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewStage.cfm?stageid=6829; see particularly the “Agency Statement” link, which takes you to the 12/4/13 Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA) describing the proposed action’s purpose, issues, and legal basis.  In that online information, the DMME states that “hydraulic fracturing has been used safely in Virginia since the 1960s, [but that] DMME believes expanding disclosure of ingredients used in well stimulation and completion is an appropriate and necessary safeguard for the citizens of the Commonwealth.  There is also a need to ensure that the regulation appropriately reflects current industry best practices, as the use of technology such as horizontal drilling has expanded considerably in recent years.”

As of mid-2014, natural-gas extraction in Virginia occurs only in the southwestern coalfields region.  But in 2010 to 2012, a gas-drilling operation was proposed in an area of Rockingham County that overlies the large Marcellus shale formation, the source of greatly expanded gas-drilling operations in recent years in the mid-Atlantic region, particularly in Pennsylvania and West Virginia; that proposal did not receive necessary local permits.   (For a compilation of news stories and information resources since 2011 on natural gas activities in the Marcellus shale region, please see the Water Central News Grouper items at this link: http://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/category/marcellus/.)

Then, in 2013-14, Shore Oil and Exploration Corporation acquired gas-drilling leases in five counties on Virginia’s Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula that overlie the Taylorsville basin formation.

And the U.S. Forest Service has been considering how to address natural-gas drilling in the current revision of the strategic plan for the George Washington National Forest, which covers a large area of western Virginia (information on the planning process for the GW National Forest is available online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/land/gwj/landmanagement).

PIPELINES FOR GAS TRANSPORT: Also in 2014, transport of natural gas through the Commonwealth became a high-profile and controversial issue with the proposal of several new pipelines.

1) EQT Corporation of Pennsylvania and NextEra Energy of Florida–collaborating to form Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC–have proposed the approximately 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline from West Virginia to a connection at Chatham, in Pittsylvania County, Va., with the existing Transcontinental, or Transco, pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York.  As of October 2014, the exact route was still to be determined and proposed, but it was expected to include five Virginia counties: Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke, Franklin, and Pittsylvania. On October 27, Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC submitted a request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the agency to begin review of that proposed pipeline project.  The FERC docket number is PF15-3; access to project documents and a place for public comments on the proposal are available online at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ferconline.asp.

2) Dominion Resources and several partners have proposed the approximately 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline from West Virginia through central Virginia to North Carolina.

3) Spectra Energy of Houston had been evaluating a proposal for a pipeline from Pennsylvania through central Virginia to North Carolina, but in August 2014 the company confirmed that it has suspended work on that proposal for the time being.

4) In September 2014 the Williams Company, headquartered in Oklahoma, announced that it is seeking customers for its proposed Western Marcellus Pipeline, which would run from Oak Grove, West Virginia, to Chatham, Va.; at Chatham, the pipeline would connect with the Transco pipeline, which Williams operates. As of late October, the company had not yet provided a detailed map of its proposed route.

The Mountain Valley and Dominion proposals have received support from Va. Gov. Terry McCauliffe, but they are the subject of widespread public reaction, concern, and comment regarding their route and their connection to hydraulic fracturing and fossil-fuel use in general.

Sources for this post: Western Marcellus Pipeline is 3rd seeking passage through Va., Roanoke Times, 10/30/14.  Pipeline company moves to initiate federal review of proposal, Roanoke Times, 10/28/14.  Governor McAuliffe, Dominion CEO Tom Farrell and Virginia Natural Gas Chairman Hank Linginfelter to Announce Economic Impacts of Atlantic Coast Pipeline for Virginia, 9/2/14.  Natural gas pipeline plan riles Floyd County, Roanoke Times, 8/14/14.  Large crowd on hand for Nelson pipeline meeting; Spectra project on hold, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 8/12/14.  Panel to review Virginia oil and gas regulations, Bay Journal, 6/3/14.  With natural gas drilling possibly shifting to eastern Va., state looks anew at regulations, Associated Press, as published by Greenfield [Indiana] Daily Reporter, 5/31/14.

Additional news stories about natural-gas drilling or transport in Virginia, since December 2013 (from most recent to oldest; all hyperlinks were functional as of the date(s) they were added to this post, but they may not be at later times).

Dominion starts making adjustments to pipeline route, Waynesboro News Virginian, 10/24/14. [As of October 24, 2014, Dominion Resources had sent letters to owners of over 3300 properties in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, asking permission to survey land for the potential Atlantic Coast pipeline.]

Pipeline opponents launch monitoring project [plan by Alleghany-Blue Ridge Alliance of groups in Virginia and West Virginia, for monitoring construction of proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, if it ultimately goes forward], Waynesboro News Virginian, 10/22/14.

Franklin County residents grill company officials about pipeline project [at 10/21/14 public meeting in Rocky Mount], Roanoke Times, 10/21/14.

Montgomery County supervisors comment on pipeline after hearing from large crowd, Roanoke Times, 10/15/14.

Petition drive against pipeline to go to McAuliffe, Waynesboro News-Virginian, 10/14/14 [petition drive by Augusta County, Va., Alliance].

Landowners state their case on fracking, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 10/11/14 [interviews with landowners—one each in Caroline, Essex, King George, King and Queen and Westmoreland counties in Virginia—who have agreed to lease property for natural gas wells].

New route for [Mountain Valley] gas pipeline avoids Floyd County, passes through Roanoke County, Roanoke Times, 10/7/14.

Partner in Mountain Valley Pipeline faces criminal charges in Pa., Roanoke Times, 10/6/14.

Opinion: Virginia must carefully consider fracking issues, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/2/14 [Virginia chapter of Sierra Club is advocating that Virginia not issue any new gas-drilling permits “until a Virginia-specific study has been completed and strong regulations addressing risks have been put in place”].

McAuliffe defends pipeline support at climate-change meeting, Washington Post, 9/10/14.

Anti-pipeline groups form coalition, Waynesboro News-Virginian, 9/11/14 [22 groups join to form Alleghany-Blue Ridge Alliance in opposition to Atlantic Coast Pipeline project].

Washington County supervisors vote 6-1 to allow natural gas drilling, Bristol Herald-Courier, 9/10/14.

Fracking takes center stage with panel at Rappahannock Community College in Warsaw, Northern Neck News, 9/4/14 [very detailed version of forum on natural gas].

Pipeline: pro and con, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/2/14 [Responses to Va. Gov. Terry McCauliffe’s announcement about Atlantic Coast Pipeline].

Natural gas pipeline plan riles Floyd County, Roanoke Times, 8/14/14.

Drilling company official says no rush on fracking [King George County, Va.]; Regional fracking discussion set Sep. 3 [at Rappahannock Community College in Warsaw, Va.], Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 8/9/14.

Drilling, fracking controversial for Va., Hampton Roads [Virginia Conservation Network public meeting on hydraulic fracturing in Virginia Beach], Daily Press, 7/30/14.

Webinar will detail fracking in Virginia [held online July 9, 2014, by Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, sponsored by Virginia Master Naturalist program], Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 7/7/14.

Fracking pros, cons debated, [at town-hall meeting, attended by some 160 people, at in King George County, Va., on 6/12/14. Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 6/13/14.

Advisory panel on fracking calls for full disclosure on chemicals, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 6/4/14.

Fracking workshop includes DEQ and DMME [workshop held 5/8/14 by VACO in Hanover County, Va.], Westmoreland News, 5/12/14

Local citizens tackle issue of fracking, Northern Neck News, 5/7/14.

Oil and gas leases in bay region spark debate, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/19/14.

State is revising drilling guidelines, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/21/14.

Potomac Watershed Roundtable Considers Fracking in the Taylorsville Basin, Bay Journal, 4/8/14.

Fracking worries arise at conservation forum in city, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/17/14.

Land trust may change policy on gas drilling, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/13/14.

“A lot of fear” about fracking, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/9/14.

Local officials dig into fracking, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 3/8/14.

Virginia tidewater fracking bill modified to increase oversight of fracking, but stops short of ban; SB 48 has moved from committee to full state senate with significant modifications, Bay Journal, 2/4/14.

Fracking in George Washington National Forest could threaten D.C. area drinking water, Washington Post, 2/1/14.

Proposed fracking in Virginia meets broad opposition, Associated Press, as published in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/27/14.

[King George County] to study up on fracking issue, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 1/20/14.

Fracking prompts water worries, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 1/10/14.

Fracking impact weighed in area, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 12/12/13.

VA Tidewater communities educating themselves on fracking issues; Taylorsville Basin’s shale oil deposits raising interest, concerns, Bay Journal, 12/5/13.

Water in Virginia State Government News Releases for Oct.15—Oct. 23, 2014: Agricultural Export Deal with China, DGIF HQ Move, Shellfish Training Dates in December 2014

Following are titles and short excerpts from water-related or land-use-related Virginia state government news releases between October 15 and October 23, 2014 (as of about 3 p.m. on the 23rd).  To access the full text of any release, click on the release title or (if that link doesn’t work) click on the Web address beside each agency name to go to that agency’s archive of releases.

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE – https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/news-releases/
Governor McAuliffe Announces New Biotech Agricultural Export Deal to China, 10/21/14.  Excerpt: Agrivita Biogroup, Inc., has reached new export deals of animal feed additives to Chinese importers. Agrivita is a Richmond-based company that specializes in bio-science and animal nutrition, health, and performance….”

DEPT. OF CONSERVATION AND RECREATION – http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/pr_relz.shtml#prarch
None related to water during this period.

DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY – http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/NewsReleases.aspx
None related to water during this period.

DEPT. OF FORESTRY – http://www.dof.virginia.gov/news/releases/index.htm
None related to water during this period.

DEPT. OF GAME AND INLAND FISHERIES - http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/news/
DGIF Headquarters to Move Early Next Year, 10/17/14.  Excerpt: The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF)…will relocate its headquarters from Richmond City to Henrico County, near the intersection of I-95 and Parham Road.  The new location is part of an 89,000-square-foot office building located on 9 acres at 7870 Villa Park Drive.”

DEPT. OF HEALTHhttp://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/PressReleases/2014/index.htm
None related to water during this period.

MARINE RESOURCES COMMISSION – http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/whatsnew.shtm
Final in-person shellfish training dates announced, (opens as PDF), 10/15/14.  Excerpt: The final dates in 2014 are December 8 in Warsaw, December 10 in Melfa, and December 12 in Gloucester Point. “The National Shellfish Sanitation Program guidelines now require training and education programs for all shellfish harvesters and certified dealers.  This training program is currently being implemented in Virginia and is now required for all 2015 shellfish permits and licenses with Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Division of Shellfish Sanitation (DSS).  The training is free and will be required every two years in Virginia. Completion of the training is a prerequisite for licensing.  The intent is to increase the awareness of temperature control and food handling practices for shellfish to minimize growth of Vibrio bacteria.

DEPT. OF MINES, MINERALS AND ENERGY – http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMME/Newsroom.shtml
None related to water during this period.

Water in Virginia State Government News Releases for September 19—October 14, 2014: State Energy Plan, Emergency Preparedness Grants, TMDL Implementation Grants, Fall Fire Season Oct. 15-Nov. 30, Earth Science Week Oct. 12-18, and More

Following are titles and short excerpts from water-related or land-use-related Virginia state government news releases between September 19 and October 14, 2014.  Also included are some releases on agricultural or other land activities that use, affect, or depend on water resources. To access the full text of any release, click on the release title or (if that link doesn’t work) click on the Web address beside each agency name to go to that agency’s archive of releases.

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE – https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/news-releases/

Governor McAuliffe Formally Unveils 2014 Virginia Energy Plan, 10/14/14. Excerpt: “Key highlights of the Energy Plan include [the following]: Strategically grow the energy sector by promoting increased development of renewable generation and supporting innovation in nuclear technology.  Reduce energy consumption by aggressively pursuing energy efficiency measures in government, businesses and residences.  Invest in reliable and resilient energy infrastructure to strengthen Virginia’s already strong business climate.  Prepare Virginia’s workforce to drive the future energy economy.”  The full plan is available online at http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DE/2014_VirginiaEnergyPlan2.shtml.

Governor McAuliffe Announces Homeland Security Grant Awards; Dozens of projects across Virginia will receive federal funding, 10/10/14.  Excerpt: …[M]ore than $4.8 million in federal funds will be awarded to multiple local government agencies [for 79 projects] to enhance emergency preparedness throughout Virginia. The funds, administered by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, are from the fiscal year 2014 State Homeland Security Grant program.” Some of the projects address water infrastructure and hazardous materials response.

Governor McAuliffe Announces New Specialty Crop Grants for Virginia, 10/2/14. Excerpt: “Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced funding for sixteen agriculture-related projects aimed at promoting and enhancing the competitiveness of Virginia’s specialty crops and creating more economic opportunities. …Specialty crops including apples, wine grapes, sprouts, chestnuts, strawberries, Christmas trees, and more will benefit from the grants. Other grants focus on food safety, protecting honey bees, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) implementation on small farms, marketing and education programs, food safety education, cover crops, nutrient cycling, and more.  Grants range from $20,000 to $50,000 per applicant.”

Governor McAuliffe, First Lady Join Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Announce Virginia Receives Nearly $1.2 Million in Funding to Strengthen Local Food Economies, 9/29/14.  Excerpt: “…[T]he Commonwealth was awarded nearly $1.2 million in [U.S. Department of Agriculture] funding to support local food economies. Authorized through the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), Virginia received funding from three participating programs aimed at strengthening organic local and regional food systems through projects that recruit and train farmers, expand economic opportunities, and increase access to healthy foods.”

DEPT. OF CONSERVATION AND RECREATION – http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/pr_relz.shtml#prarch

Tour Crow’s Nest Nov. 8, 10/14/14.  Excerpt: A field day at Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve in Stafford County will be held Nov. 8, starting at 9 a.m. [Space limited, registration required: phone 804-786-7951.] … The guided hikes offer views of the freshwater tidal marsh and open water surrounding the preserve….  Crow’s Nest is a peninsula between Accokeek and Potomac creeks.  The 2,872-acre preserve contains mature hardwood forest and some of the best examples of diverse, intact wetlands in the Potomac River drainage basin.”

DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY - http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/NewsReleases.aspx
$1.5 million available for water quality improvement projects for water bodies with implementation plans, 10/8/14.  Excerpt: “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is making approximately $1.5 million in federal grant funding available to support Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) implementation projects that will result in advancement of goals and milestones provided in eligible TMDL implementation plans.  Local governments (including counties, cities, and towns), county health departments, soil and water conservation districts, planning district commissions, regional commissions, Virginia institutes of higher education, and Virginia state agencies are eligible to apply.  Applications are due by November 17, 2014.”

DEPT. OF FORESTRY –
http://www.dof.virginia.gov/press/releases/index.htm

Fall Wildfire Season Begins Oct. 15 in Virginia, 10/1/14.  Excerpt: “’While Virginia’s most active wildfire season is typically in spring, fall can be just as busy,’ said John Miller, VDOF’s director of resource protection.  ‘We didn’t have a lot of rain this summer, and the dead leaves are starting to drop from the trees.  This leaf litter is an abundant source of fuel for wildfires, which can spread rapidly during dry and windy days.’ …Fall wildfire season runs from Oct. 15 through Nov. 30 each year.”

Sunday Hunting Not Permitted on State Forests, 9/30/14.  Excerpt: “Officials at the Virginia Department of Forestry remind all hunters that Sunday hunting on State Forests is prohibited. ‘While a new law allowing hunting in Virginia on Sundays went into effect July 1st, that law applies only to private lands,’ said Gary Heiser, manager of Virginia’s 24 State Forests.   ‘Hunting on Sunday is still prohibited on public lands, including the State Forests.’”

DEPT. OF GAME AND INLAND FISHERIES –
http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/news/

None related to water during this period.

DEPT. OF HEALTHhttp://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/PressReleases/2014/index.htm

Virginia Department of Health Rescinds Emergency Closing of James River to Shellfish Harvesting, 9/23/14.  Excerpt: “The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today that the emergency condemnation of the James River adjacent to Newport News—initially closed on September 9—is reopened effective immediately.  This action returns all James River harvest areas to the harvest status in effect prior to the September 9 emergency closure.”

MARINE RESOURCES COMMISSION – http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/whatsnew.shtm

Closure of the Directed Menhaden Pound Net Fishery (opens as PDF), 10/9/14.  Excerpt: “Effective 6:00 P.M., Eastern Daylight Savings Time, Friday, October 10, 2014, the commercial menhaden pound net fishery will close.”

Virginia Marine Resources Commission Acts on Fisheries Violations; Votes Unanimously to Revoke Licenses [of repeat offenders] (opens as PDF), 9/23/14.

DEPT. OF MINES, MINERALS AND ENERGY – http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMME/Newsroom.shtml

Governor Declares Earth Science Week (opens as PDF), 10/10/14.  The week is October 12—18, 2014.

DMME Reclamation Specialist Recieves National Award (opens as PDF), 10/2/14.  Excerpt: “The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy’s Reclamation Specialist and Field Supervisor, Ken Coomer, has been awarded the Dean Spindler Reclamationist of the Year Award for 2014 from the National Association of State Land Reclamationists.”

Large Industrial Sludge Land-application Permit in Several Virginia Counties is Subject of October 23, 2014, Public Hearing; SWCB Consideration Expected in December 2014

On October 23, 2014, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the State Water Control Board will hold a public hearing on the permit application by Synagro, LLC (headquartered in Baltimore, Md.; online at http://www.synagro.com) to land-apply residual solid materials from industrial wastewater treatment to about 16,042 acres of farmland in Goochland, King & Queen, King William, New Kent, Prince George, and Surry counties.  The material would come from area hog-processing, poultry-processing, and paper-processing plants.

Information on the October 23 public hearing, which will be held at the DEQ’s Piedmont Regional Office, 4949-A Cox Road in Glen Allen, is available from the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall, online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewMeeting.cfm?MeetingID=21970.

The permit application has been controversial in the affected counties and has undergone an extended public-comment process.  The current comment period runs 9/17/14 to 11/7/14 and follows two previous comment periods (12/23/13 to 1/31/14; and 3/5/14 to 4/25/14) and two previous public hearings (4/9/14 and 4/10/14).  The State Water Control Board is tentatively scheduled to consider the application during its December 2014 quarterly meeting.

Below are hyperlinked headlines to several news items on this proposal.

Public hearing on sludge permit to be held Thursday [Oct. 23, 2014, in Glen Allen, Va.], Tidewater Review, 10/22/14.

Farmers in Prince George are pro-Synagro, Petersburg Progress-Index, 10/14/14.

Delegate [Christopher K. Peace, R-97] addresses DEQ regarding sludge application, The Mechanicsville Local, 9/17/14.

Hanover Board of Supervisors sends letter opposing sludge
, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/16/14.

The Virginia DEQ failed to provide notification to local counties about industrial sludge, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/9/14.

Industrial sludge application pulled [in Hanover County], Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/27/14.

Sludge: Risk Or Resource?, Water Online, 8/27/14.

New Kent supervisors vote to send letter opposing DEQ permit for Synagro, New Kent-Charles City Chronicle, 8/12/14.

Green Infrastructure and its Values in Developing and Urban Landscapes are Focus of Nov. 20, 2014, Workshop in Charlottesville, Va.

On Nov. 20, 2014, in Charlottesville, Va., the Green Infrastructure Center will hold “Evaluating and Conserving Natural Assets: Planning for Green Infrastructure in the Developing and Urban Landscape.”  This workshop is organized by the Green Infrastructure Center, a non-profit organization located in Charlottesville (online at http://www.gicinc.org/index.htm).  “Green infrastructure” refers to natural landscape components–such as forests, waterways, wetlands, soils, organisms, etc.–that provide vital services to human communities and other living things.  The Nov. 20 workshop will include presentations and hands-on exercises working with maps.  No GIS knowledge is required to participate.  For more information and to register, visit http://www.gicinc.org/events.htm, e-mail gicworkshop@gmail.com, or phone the Center at (434) 244-0322.

For other water-related conferences and meetings in Virginia, please see this blog’s “Quick Guide to Virginia Water-related Events,” at http://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Quick+Guide.

Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region is Focus of Meeting Jan. 13-14, 2015, in Frederick, Md.

Growth and the Future of the Chesapeake Bay will be held January 13-14, 2015, at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.  Organized by Bay Journal, the Chesapeake Research Consortium, and Hood College, the meeting plans to examine the impacts of population and economic growth on human and natural systems in the Bay region.  For more information, visit http://www.bayjournal.com/growthconference; or phone  the Bay Journal‘s main office at (717) 428-2819.

Invasive Water Chestnut Removal, Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference in November, and More Available in September 24, 2014, Outdoor Report from Va. Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries

The September 24, 2014, “Outdoor Report” from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) in now available at http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/outdoor-report/2014/09/24/.

Each edition of the Outdoor Report is full of information on fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, boating, and other outdoor activities.  The sections of the 9/24/14 report are listed below, with hyperlinks to go to the individual items.  (Please note: the wildlife rehabilitation conference mentioned in the title of this post is described at the “Wild Events You Don’t Want to Miss” link.)