Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Coal Ash Management Bills – Updated 4/27/17

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 160 water-related bills in the 2017 General Assembly, please visit the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s “Virginia Water Legislation” page, online at http://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/virginia-water-legislation/.  Each post includes a summary of the bill(s), their legislative status (in committee, passed, failed, etc.), and a list of hyperlinked headlines for news media items on the bill(s).  Information on the bills’ provisions and status is taken from the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), online at http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm.  Each bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

SB 1398, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th District) of Mt. Vernon, passed the Senate on Feb. 7.  As passed by the Senate, the bill would prohibit the DEQ director from issuing a draft permit for the closure of a coal combustion residuals unit (CCR unit) located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (that is, at facilities of Dominion Virginia Power) until the director has reviewed an assessment of closure options prepared by the owner or operator of the CCR unit.  Prior to receiving a permit, the permit-seeker would have to identify water pollution and address corrective measures to resolve it, evaluate the clean closure of the CCR unit by recycling the ash for use in cement or moving it to a landfill, and demonstrate the long-term safety of the CCR unit and its ability to keep ash out of wetlands and other sensitive areas.  A substitute version passed by the House on Feb. 17 removed the requirement that the information be provided and reviewed by the director before the director may issue a draft permit for closure of a CCR unit.  The Senate agreed to the House version on Feb. 21.  On March 22, Gov. Terry McAuliffe proposed an amendment that would place a moratorium on any Dominion coal-ash closures until 2018, when the information required by SB 1398 will have been provided.  In early April, Dominion announced that it would not oppose the delay in closure permitting called for in the governor’s amendment.  The amendment was approved by the General Assembly in its April 5 reconvened session.

SB 1399, also sponsored by Sen. Surovell, was stricken from the docket of the Senate  Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (ACNR) Committee at the request of Sen. Surovell.  The bill would have directed the DEQ to require the closure of surface impoundments of coal combustion by-products, commonly called coal ash ponds, by July 1, 2021.  The bill would have applied to impoundments that managed such by-products from the generation of electricity by an electric utility or independent power producer prior to December 22, 2016, including those impoundments that, prior to December 22, 2016, have been closed by capping in place or have received DEQ approval for closure by capping in place.  The bill would also have required that the coal combustion by-products be removed for disposal in a permitted landfill meeting federal criteria and that the impoundment site be reclaimed in a manner consistent with federal mine reclamation standards for the closure to be deemed complete.  The bill would have allowed the electric utility to recover the costs of closure from customers.

SB1383, also sponsored by Sen. Surovell, was stricken from the docket of the Senate ACNR Committee at the request of Sen. Surovell.  The bill would have required electric utilities to recycle as much of their stored coal ash as is imported into the Commonwealth each year, on a pro rata basis.

Related News Media Items on this Legislation

GOP ushers through coal ash legislation, Chesterfield Observer, 4/12/17.

Delaying closure: Virginia’s controversial coal ash ponds, WTOP Radio-Washington, 4/15/17.

New review of coal ash at Dominion Power’s Chesapeake site may leave out most of the ash, Virginian-Pilot, 4/6/17.

Coal Ash Ponds: Power companies to face new barrier in closing Virginia sites, Inside Nova, 4/6/17.

In special session, Virginia lawmakers put the brakes on Dominion’s coal-ash plans, Prince William Times, 4/6/17.

Dominion to assess coal ash sites regardless of bill’s fate, Associated Press, as published by WJLA TV-Washington, 4/5/17.

Dominion won’t oppose pause in coal-ash permitting, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/4/17.

If amended bill passes, coal ash closure process at Possum Point could slow, Potomac Local, 3/27/17.

Virginia governor proposes moratorium on coal ash permits, Bay Journal, 3/22/17.

McAuliffe seeks coal ash pond alternatives with permit moratorium, Inside NOVA, 3/22/17.

McAuliffe moves to place yearlong moratorium on coal-ash pond closure permits, Prince William Times, 3/22/17.

Governor requests pause in coal-ash permitting, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/22/17.

Sen. Chase asks governor for help with coal ash, Chesterfield Observer, 3/1/17.

Coal ash bill goes to governor without important moratorium provision, Virginian-Pilot, 2/21/17.

Coal Ash Bill Results In General Assembly Compromise: Bill Requires More Information Before Slurry Disposal, The Flat Hat (College of William and Mary), 2/21/17.

Virginia environmentalists disappointed by “watered down” coal ash bill, WTKR TV-Norfolk, 2/22/17.

Environmentalists disappointed by House’s coal ash bill, WTVR TV-Richmond, 2/17/17.

Virginia House of Delegates committee defangs coal ash bill, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/15/17.

Coal ash bill clears House subcommittee, though not unscathed, Richmond Times-Dispatch, as published by Roanoke Times, 2/14/17.

Coal ash bill clears Senate, but faces challenges in the state House, Fauquier Times, 2/13/17.

Surovell bill to delay Dominion’s coal-ash plans moves to the state Senate, Prince William Times, 2/3/17.

Bill that would require more information on coal-ash closure plans clears Va. Senate committee, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/2/17.

Is Recycling a Practical Solution for Coal Ash?, Bacon’s Rebellion, 2/2/17.

Coal ash revaluation, recycling bill that could affect Chesapeake energy site passes Senate panel, Virginian-Pilot, 2/3/17.

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