Category Archives: 2017 Virginia General Assembly

Dominion Energy’s Virginia Coal Ash Storage Ponds Options Evaluated in Report Released Dec. 1, 2017; Report was Mandated by SB 1398 in 2017 Virginia General Assembly

On December 1, 2017, Dominion Energy released an 846-page report on options for the company to address its coal combustion by-products, also called coal ash, stored in ponds at four coal-fired power plants in Virginia.  The report was mandated by Senate Bill 1398 in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly (online at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=171&typ=bil&val=sb1398), which stated that “every owner or operator of a coal combustion residuals (CCR) surface impoundment, as that term is defined at 40 C.F.R. § 257.53, that is located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed shall conduct an assessment of each such CCR surface impoundment (CCR unit) regarding the closure of any such unit.”

The report is available online at is available online at https://www.dominionenergy.com/coalash.

According to the report’s Executive Summary, SB 1398 called for the company to do the following:
*evaluate closure by removal with recycling or reuse (beneficial use) of the CCR material;
*evaluate closure by removal with placement of CCR material in a permitted landfill;
*evaluate closure-in-place addressing long-term safety, structural, and extreme weather event resiliency; and
*describe groundwater and surface water quality surrounding each ash pond and evaluate corrective measures if needed.

The report was done for Dominion by the international firm AECOM (headquartered in Los Angeles; online at http://www.aecom.com/).

Following are hyperlinked news media articles on the release of the report:
Report lays out potential Virginia coal ash options, Associated Press, as published by Charlottesville Daily Progress, 12/1/17.
Dominion’s long-awaited coal ash assessment is in, but what the utility will do with it remains unclear, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/1/17.
State-mandated report details new options for Dominion Energy’s toxic coal ash, Prince William Times, 12/2/17.
Dominion’s review of coal ash “alternatives” still favors on-site storage, Bay Journal, 12/6/17.

For more details on coal ash management in Virginia, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.

Virginia Water Central Newsletter/August 2017 Issue Available; Includes Water-bill Inventory from 2017 Va. General Assembly

The August  2017 issue (Issue 67) of Virginia Water Central Newsletter, from the Virginia Water Resources Research Center is available online at http://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/water-central-news/.

The 38-page publication’s main feature is an inventory of water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.

The issue also includes the following sections:

Editor’s Comment – with information on following the General Assembly

Notices – items on a variety of information sources.

At the Water Center – items on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Conference, October 12-13, 2017, in Shepherdstown, W. Va., 2017; Student Competitive Grant Award Winners for 2017-18; and Walker Fellowship Award Winner for 2017-18.

For more information about the newsletter, contact the editor at araflo@vt.edu or (540) 231-5463.

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.

On Virginia Water Radio for 3-13-17: Scenes from a Virginia General Assembly Subcommittee

Virginia Water Radio’s latest episode, for the week of March 13, 2017, is “Subcommittees Are Where Many Proposed Virginia Laws Start to Float or Sink.”   The 4 min./18 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2017/03/episode-359-3-13-17-subcommittees-are.html, examines the role of subcommittees in the Virginia General Assembly, with an sample discussion of a 2017 bill on disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen or two!

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Coal Employment and Production Tax Credit

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 165 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.

HB 2198, Coal tax; extends coal employment and production incentive tax credit and limits aggregate amount of credits that may be allocated or claimed.  This bill, sponsored by Del. Terry Kilgore (R-1st District), of Gate City, passed the House on February 2 and passed the Senate on February 10, but it was vetoed by the governor on February 21.  The veto will be taken up in the reconvened session on April 5, 2017.  According to the Virginia Legislative Information System summary, the bill as it passed the House would “reinstate the Virginia coal employment and production incentive tax credit.  The credit, which expired on July 1, 2016, could be earned on and after January 1, 2017, but before January 1, 2022. The bill limits the aggregate amount of credits that may be allocated or claimed for the coal employment and production incentive tax credit in each fiscal year to $7.3 million.  An electricity generator must file an application with the Department of Taxation each year to determine the amount of credits that it may claim or allocate, including credits earned in prior taxable years.  If the total amount of credits earned in a taxable year exceeds $7.3 million, the Department of Taxation shall apportion the credits on a pro rata basis.  The bill also extends the sunset date of the coalfield employment enhancement tax credit through taxable years beginning before January 1, 2022.”   SB 1470, sponsored by Sen. A. Benton Chafin (R-38th District), of Lebanon, is identical to HB 2198.  That bill passed the Senate on February 3 and the House on February 15, but was vetoed by the governor on March 13.  The veto will be taken up in the reconvened session on April 5, 2017.

Related News Media Item
Governor vetoes coal tax credit bill for third year in row, Roanoke Times, 2/22/17.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly – Stormwater Management Bill (HB 1774)

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 165 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.

HB 1774, Stormwater management; work group to examine ways to improve in rural Tidewater.  This bill, sponsored by Del. M. Keith Hodges (R-98th District), of Urbanna, passed the House on Feb. 6, passed the Senate on Feb. 21, and was approved by the Governor on March 13.  According to the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), the bill aimed to develop new Regional Stormwater Practies banks for localities that do not operate a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) for stormwater runoff.  As passed, the bill has the following provisions (again, according to LIS):
*directs the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency (the Center) to convene a work group to consider alternative methods of stormwater management in rural Tidewater localities;
*provides that the group is to be facilitated by the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at William and Mary Law School and is to include representatives of institutions of higher education, state agencies, local governments, private industry, and other groups;
*provides that the work group is to review and consider the creation of rural development growth areas, the development of a volume credit program, the payment of fees to support regional best management practices, and the allowance of the use of stormwater in highway ditches to generate volume credits;
*requires the Center to report the results of the work group’s examination to the governor and the chairs of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources by January 1, 2018, which is the date the work group provisions of the bill are set to expire; and
*delays from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018, the effective date of new stormwater laws enacted during the 2016 Session of the General Assembly.

Related News Media Items
Bills and Buzzwords: the Story of HB 1774, Bacon’s Rebellion, 2/23/17; The Story of HB 1774 – Rural Growth, Stormwater Credits, Bacon’s Rebellion, 3/1/17; The Saga of HB 1774 – Starting Over, Bacon’s Rebellion, 3/7/17; The Saga of HB 1774 – Recurrent Flooding and Flooded Roads, Bacon’s Rebellion, 3/17/17 [series of four articles examining the case of a bill that changes significantly during passage through the Virginia General Assembly].

Stormwater banks pitched to address pollution, flooding and development on Middle Peninsula, Daily Press, 2/12/17.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Nutrient Credits

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 165 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 bill’s provisions and status is taken from the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), online at http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm.  The bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

HB 2311 – Nutrient Offset Fund; additional stipulations for the purchase and sale of credits.  This bill, sponsored by Del. M. Kirkland Cox (R-66th District), of Colonial Heights, passed the House and Senate and was approved by the governor.  The bill does the following, according to the bill’s text:

*Renames nutrient “offsets” as nutrient “credits…that achieve equivalent point or nonpoint source reductions in the same tributary beyond those reductions already required by or funded under federal or state law or the Watershed Implementation Plan prepared for the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load pursuant to § 2.2-218.”

*Continues to allow the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) director to enter into contracts to acquire such credits using the Nutrient Offset Subfund; removes the priority given to nutrient offsets produced from facilities that generate electricity from animal waste; and adds a new requirement that credits in the Nutrient Offset Subfund be listed in a registry maintained by the DEQ.

*Adds a new provision that the DEQ “shall establish a procedure to govern the distribution of moneys from the Subfund that shall include criteria that address (i) the annualized cost per pound of the reduction, (ii) the reliability of the underlying technology or practice, (iii) the relative durability and permanence of the credits generated, and (iv) other such factors that the Department deems appropriate to ensure that the practices will achieve the necessary reduction in nutrients for the term of credit.”

*Continues to require the DEQ director to make nutrient credits available for sale to owners or operators of new or expanded facilities pursuant to § 62.1-44.19:15, and to permitted facilities pursuant to § 62.1-44.19:18.  Adds a requirement that DEQ director “consider recommendations of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade consistent with the requirements of the State Water Control Law (§ 62.1-44.2 et seq.) in the sale of nutrient credits to new or expanding private facilities.”

*In Section E, adds “nonpoint” to the allowable source of nutrient credits: “For the purposes of this section, a ‘nutrient credit’ means a nutrient reduction certified by the Department of Environmental Quality as a load allocation, point or nonpoint source nitrogen credit, or point or nonpoint source phosphorus credit under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Nutrient Credit Exchange Program.”

Related News Media Item
New plant on James River to require 1st pollution trade of its kind in VA, Bay Journal, 1/22/17.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Combined Sewer Overflow Bills in Potomac River Watershed and Alexandria

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 165 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.

Several bills concerned the problem of combined sewer overflows from the City of Alexandria into the Potomac River watershed.

HB 2383Chesapeake Bay watershed combined sewer overflow outfalls: DEQ to identify owner, etc.  This bill, sponsored by Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31st District) of Woodbridge, passed the House and Senate.  Like HB 1423 above, this bill also directs the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to identify the owner of any combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfall that discharges into the Potomac River Watershed and to determine by July 2018 what actions by the owner are necessary to bring the outfall into compliance with Virginia law, the federal Clean Water Act, and the Presumption Approach described in the CSO Control Policy of the U.S. EPA.  This bill would only apply to any CSO outfall owner or operator not under a state order or decree related to the CSO as of January 1, 2017; in effect, the bill applies to the City of Alexandria.  The bill requires Alexandria by July 2023 to initiate construction activities to bring the outfall into compliance, and by July 2025 to be in compliance.  On March 24, Gov. Terry McAuliffe proposed an amendment to the bill that would extend the deadline for beginning construction to 2024 and for being in compliance to 2027, and would give the DEQ authority to grant six-month extensions of the deadline to no later than 2030 if the City is “in compliance with its permit requirements; unable to meet the deadline due to site conditions or engineering, construction, or federal permitting delays beyond the owner’s control; and is in compliance with the annual reporting requirement….”  The amendment was rejected by the General Assembly in the reconvened session on April 5, 2017.  The governor subsequently signed the final bill, which requires the City by July 2023 to initiate construction activities to bring the outfall into compliance, and by July 2025 to be in compliance.

SB 898Potomac River watershed combined sewer overflow outfalls: DEQ to identify owner, etc.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Stuart (R-28th District), of Montross, passed the Senate and House.  As passed, the bill is identical to HB  2383 (see above).

SB 818Potomac River watershed combined sewer overflow outfalls: DEQ to identify owner, etc.  This bill, sponsored by Del. Scott Surovell (D-36th District), of Mount Vernon, was incorporated into SB 898 (see above).

HB 1423Potomac River watershed combined sewer overflow outfalls: DEQ to identify owner, etc.  This bill, sponsored by Del. David Albo (R-42nd District), of Springfield, failed in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources (ACNR) Committee.  The bill would have directed the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to identify the owner of any combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfall that discharges into the Potomac River Watershed and to determine by July 2018 what actions by the owner are necessary to bring the outfall into compliance by with Virginia law, the federal Clean Water Act, and the Presumption Approach described in the CSO [Combined Sewer Overflow] Control Policy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The CSO owner would have had until July 2027 to bring the CSO outfall into compliance.

SB 819City of Alexandria Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system permit: requirement to assess overflows by 2029.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District), of Alexandria, failed in the Senate ACNR Committee.  The bill would have directed the State Water Control Board to include in the next renewal of the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the CSO system of the City of Alexandria requirement that the City complete by January 1, 2029, an assessment of the discharges from CSO Number 001 into the Potomac River, including identifying any improvements meant to address discharges from any part of the City’s CSO system and determining what control technologies would be required to meet applicable regulations.

Related News Media Items on This Legislation
City Of Alexandria Responds to Governor’s Action On Legislation Regarding Water Quality Projects, Alexandria News, 4/21/17.
McAuliffe signs bill forcing faster replacement of Alexandria sewers, Washington Post, 4/21/17.
Potomac River Cleanup Extension Rejected by Legislature, Del Ray Patch, 4/5/17.
General Assembly Rejects McAuliffe’s Proposed Amendments To Combined Sewer Legislation, Alexandria News, 4/6/17.
Virginia lawmakers act on Alexandria sewage overflows, coal ash, Bay Journal, 4/6/17.
Governor proposes giving Alexandria more time to fix sewage overflows, Bay Journal, 3/29/17.
McAuliffe To Request Amendments To Legislation Regarding Combined Sewer Outfalls, Alexandria News, 3/27/17.
Environmental group says Alexandria can replace sewer by 2024; city disagrees, Washington Post, 3/16/17.
“Mean spirited” Alexandria sewer bill sparks partisan fight, Associated Press, as published by WTOP Radio-Washington, 3/11/17.
Alexandria officials seethe over state sewer bill, Alexandria Times, 3/2/17.
Alexandria officials to seek McAuliffe intervention over deadline on fixing sewers, Washington Post, 2/28/17.
Senate Proposes Alexandria Sewer Overflow Deadline, Comment by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District), as published by Alexandria Connection, 2/1/17.
Senators to Alexandria: Clean Up Your Act by 2020 or Lose State Funding, Alexandria Connection, 1/20/17.
Alexandria mayor balks at state Senate deadline for stopping sewage overflows, Washington Post, 1/19/17.
Alexandria speeds up plans to address sewage overflow into the Potomac, Washington Post, 11/10/16.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Coastal Protection and Flooding Adaptation Cabinet Position

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about 165 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.

HB 1964 – Coastal Protection and Flooding Adaptation cabinet position created.  This bill, sponsored by Del. Christopher P. Stolle (R-83rd District), of Virginia Beach, was reported from the House General Laws Committee but failed in the House Appropriations Committee.  The will would have created the position of Secretary for Coastal Protection and Flooding Adaptation, who would be responsible for consolidating into a single office the resources for coastal flooding threats and adaptation; lead in providing direction, ensuring accountability, and developing a statewide coastal flooding adaptation strategy; and, in cooperation with the Secretary of Natural Resources, identify sources of funding for needed implementation of strategies for coastal protection and flooding adaptation.

SB 1349 is the companion bill to HB 1964 (introduced with the same provisions).  Sponsored by Sen. Lynwood W. Lewis Jr. (D-6th District), of Accomack, this bill passed the Senate Finance Committee with an amendment stating that the provisions of the bill would not become effective unless the 2017 General Assembly passes an appropriation supporting the purposes of the bill.  The amended bill failed on the Senate floor on January 31.

Related News Media Item on Legislation
Legislation to create Virginia coastal office gaining ground, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/23/17.

Related News Media Items on Coastal Flooding in Virginia
A flood of data on tide cycles in Hampton Roads worries meteorologists, Virginian-Pilot, 12/3/16.
The 2,000-foot hole in the ground that’s important in the battle against sea level rise, Virginian-Pilot, 12/3/16.
Researchers estimate cost to Hampton Roads of doing nothing about sea level rise, Virginian-Pilot, 11/17/16.
Report says sea-level rise has major economic consequences for Hampton Roads, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/17/16.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Renewable Energy Bills

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.

Please note that the Virginia Electric Utility Regulation Act (Chapter 23, Sec. 56-576 of the Virginia Code), defines “renewable energy” as “energy derived from sunlight, wind, falling water, biomass, sustainable or otherwise, (the definitions of which shall be liberally construed), energy from waste, landfill gas, municipal solid waste, wave motion, tides, and geothermal power, and does not include energy derived from coal, oil, natural gas, or nuclear power.  Renewable energy shall also include the proportion of the thermal or electric energy from a facility that results from the co-firing of biomass.”

HB 1891 – Geothermal heat pump property expenditure; tax credit for taxable years 2017-2021.  This bill, sponsored by Del. Timothy Hugo (R-40th District), of Centreville, failed in the House Finance Committee.  The bill would have established a tax credit, for taxable years 2017 through 2021, for geothermal heat pump property expenditures at a residence in Virginia, equal to 25 percent of purchase or installation expenditures, up to a statewide maximum of $10 million in credits per year.  The bill defined “geothermal heat pump property expenditure” as any expenditure for equipment that uses the ground or groundwater as a thermal energy source to heat a residence or as a thermal energy sink to cool a residence.  The Senate companion bill, SB 1392, sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner (R-7th District), of Virginia Beach, failed in the Senate Finance Committee.

HB 2112, Community renewable projects: SCC to adopt rules authorizing.  This bill, sponsored by Del. Mark Keam (D-35th District), of Vienna, failed in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.  The bill would have required the State Corporation Commission to adopt rules under which community renewable projects are authorized to operate.  A community renewable project would be defined as solar or wind-powered electric generation facility with a capacity of not more than 20 megawatts that is operated subject to requirements that the electricity generated by the facility belongs to the project’s subscribers.

HB 2303 – Small agricultural generators; establishes parameters of a program for selling electricity to a utility.  This bill, sponsored by Del. J. Randall Minchew (R-10th District), of Leesburg, passed the House and Senate and was approved by the governor.  The bill establishes the parameters of a program under which small agricultural generators may sell the electricity generated from a small agricultural generating facility to its utility.  Effective July 1, 2019, enrollment by eligible agricultural customer-generators in an existing net-energy-metering program conducted by an electric cooperative will cease, although a cooperative’s customers who were participating as eligible agricultural customer-generators before that date would be allowed to remain in the ne-metering program for not more than 25 years.  A small agricultural generator is defined in this measure as a customer who operates an electrical generating facility as part of an agricultural business, which generating facility, among other conditions, has a capacity of not more than 1.5 megawatts, uses renewable energy as its total source of fuel, has a capacity that does not exceed 150 percent of the customer’s expected annual energy consumption based on the previous 12 months of billing history, uses not more than 25 percent of contiguous land owned or controlled by the agricultural business for purposes of the renewable energy generating facility, and is a qualifying small power production facility under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA).  The program requires the generator to enter into a power purchase agreement with its supplier to sell all of the electricity generated at a rate not less than the supplier’s State Corporation Commission-approved avoided cost tariff for energy and capacity.  The program also allows utilities to recover distribution service costs and costs incurred to purchase electricity, capacity, and renewable energy certificates from the small agricultural generator through its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) rate adjustment clause (if the utility has a Commission-approved RPS plan and rate adjustment clause) or through the supplier’s fuel adjustment clause or through the utility’s cost of purchased power (if the utility does not have a Commission-approved RPS rate adjustment clause).  The Senate companion bill, SB 1394, sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner (R-7th District), of Virginia Beach, passed the Senate and House and was approved by the governor.

HB 2390, Renewable energy power purchase agreements; expands pilot program to Appalachian Power.  This bill, sponsored by Del. Terry Kilgore (R-1st District), of Gate City, passed the House and Senate.  The bill would expand the pilot program for renewable energy power purchase agreements authorized under legislation enacted in 2013 by directing that a pilot program be conducted by Appalachian Power; currently a pilot program is authorized only within Dominion Virginia Power’s service territory.  On March 24, the governor proposed an amendment terminating the pilot programs in 2022.  The amendment will be taken up in the reconvened session on April 5.

SB 813, Solar generation facilities: cost-recovery provisions.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. David Marsden (D-37th District), of Burke, failed in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.  The bill would have exempted investor-owned electric utilities from the requirement that in a proceeding for approval to construct a generating facility they demonstrate that they have considered and weighed alternative options, including third-party market alternatives, in their selection process, if the proposed generating facility is located in the Commonwealth, uses energy derived from sunlight, and has been declared by statute to be in the public interest.

SB 918, Renewable energy: third-party power purchase agreements to be authorized for each electric utility.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. John Edwards (D-21st District), of Roanoke, failed in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.  The bill would have replaced the pilot program enacted in 2013 that authorized certain third-party power purchase agreements providing financing of certain renewable generation facilities, would have required the State Corporation Commission to establish third-party power purchase agreement programs for each electric utility.  The existing pilot program applies only to Dominion Virginia Power and sets the maximum size of a renewable generation facility at one megawatt; the programs authorized by this measure would have applied to all electric utilities and without a limit on the size of facilities.

SB 1197, Small renewable energy projects; State Corporation Commission jurisdiction.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Creigh Deeds (D- 25th District), of Charlottesville, failed in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.  The bill would have restored the requirement for State Corporation Commission (SCC) to review construction and operation of small renewable energy projects that either disturb an area of 100 acres or more, or are located within five miles of a political subdivision boundary.  In 2009 the General Assembly removed the requirement that the owner or operator of a small renewable energy project obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity approval for the project from the SCC.  Small renewable energy projects are defined an electrical generation facility with a rated capacity not exceeding 100 megawatts that generates electricity only from sunlight, wind, falling water, wave motion, tides, or geothermal power; or an electrical generation facility with a rated capacity not exceeding 20 megawatts that generates electricity only from biomass or certain waste.

SB 1226, Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); proprietary records and trade secrets related to solar energy.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. John Edwards (D-21st District), of Roanoke, passed the Senate and House and was approved by the governor.  The bill excludes from the mandatory disclosure provisions of FOIA proprietary information, voluntarily provided by a private business under a promise of confidentiality from a public body, used by the public body for a solar photovoltaic services agreement, a solar power purchase agreement, or a solar self-generation agreement.

SB 1258, Virginia Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority; name change, increase in membership, and expansion of purposes.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District), of Alexandria, passed the Senate and the House.  The bill continues the Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority and renames it the Virginia Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority.  The measure expands the authority’s purposes to include positioning the Commonwealth as a leader in research, development, commercialization, manufacturing, and deployment of energy storage technology; and would expand the Authority’s powers to include 1) promoting collaborative efforts among Virginia’s public and private institutions of higher education in research, development, and commercialization efforts related to energy storage; 2) monitoring relevant developments nationally and globally; and 3) identifying and working with the Commonwealth’s industries and nonprofit partners.  On March 3, the governor proposed technical amendments that will be taken up in the reconvened session on April 5.

SB 1388, Electric utilities’ margin on solar energy power purchase agreements.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner (R-7th District), of Virginia Beach, failed (was stricken at the sponsors request) in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.  The bill would have authorized any investor-owned incumbent electric utility to enter into, recover the costs of, and earn a margin on power purchase agreements executed between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018, and for power generated by solar energy systems located in the Commonwealth with a capacity equal to or greater than two megawatts which systems in the aggregate have a capacity not more than one percent of the utility’s adjusted Virginia peak-load forecast for the previous year.  The bill would have provided that the costs and margin are recoverable, that such agreements are in the public interest, and that in reviewing the costs and the level of costs to be recovered the State Corporation Commission shall liberally construe the provisions of this measure and shall presume that the costs associated with such agreements are reasonably and prudently incurred.

SB 1393, Electric utilities; community solar pilot programs.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner (R-7th District), of Virginia Beach, passed both houses and was approved by the governor.  The bill r equires Dominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Power to conduct a community solar pilot program for retail customers. A pilot program will authorize the participating utility to sell electric power to subscribing customers under a voluntary companion rate schedule, and the utility will generate or purchase the electric power from eligible generation facilities selected for inclusion in the pilot program.  An eligible generation facility is an electrical generation facility that (i) exclusively uses energy derived from sunlight; (ii) is placed in service on or after July 1, 2017; (iii) is not constructed by an investor-owned utility but is acquired by an investor-owned utility through an asset purchase agreement or is subject to a power purchase agreement under which the utility purchases the facility’s output from a third party; and (iv) has a generating capacity not exceeding two megawatts, subject to an exception.  Pilot programs will have a three-year duration unless renewed or made permanent by appropriate legislation.

SB 1395, Small renewable energy projects; eligibility for permits by rule.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner (R-7th District), of Virginia Beach, passed the Senate and House and was approved by the governor.  The bill provides that certain small renewable energy projects proposed, developed, constructed, or purchased by either by a public utility (if the project’s costs are not recovered from Virginia jurisdictional customers under base rates, a fuel factor charge, or a rate adjustment clause) or by a utility aggregation cooperative are eligible for a permit by rule and are exempt from environmental review and permitting by the State Corporation Commission.  The measure specifies that a small renewable energy project shall be eligible for permit by rule if it is proposed, developed, constructed, or purchased by a person that is not a regulated utility.  The measure exempts any small renewable energy project for which the Department of Environmental Quality has issued a permit by rule from the requirement that it obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity.  Finally, the measure increases from 100 megawatts to 150 megawatts the maximum rated capacity of solar and wind facilities that qualify as small renewable energy projects.

News Media Items Related to One or More of These Bills
“We broke a logjam”: New laws are expected to boost solar development in Virginia, Virginia Business, 3/31/17 [regarding HB 2303, HB 2390, and SB 1395].
New utility solar program called a small step forward for Virginia renewable energy, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/26/17 [regarding SB 1395].
More solar options could emerge from General Assembly session, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/7/17.
Bill could brighten prospects for Berglund Center’s solar energy project, Roanoke Times, 2/22/17 [regarding SB 1226].