Category Archives: Air-Water

Items related to the impacts on water resources of materials originating in air emissions, such as acid precipitation, mercury, etc.

Reducing Carbon Emissions from Power Plants in Virginia – Public Hearings in March 2018 on Proposed Carbon-trading Regulation; Proposal Follows Gov. Executive Directive Issued May 16, 2017

Following is information on Virginia’s process in 2017-18 to develop regulations to reduce carbon emissions from electric power plants.  The latest update to this post is February 21, 2018.

As of February 2018, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) were planning a series of public hearings on proposed carbon dioxide (CO2)-trading regulation.  The planned public hearings are as follows (dates are hyperlinked to Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notices):
3/7/18, 5 p.m., at the DEQ Southwest Regional Office, 355 Deadmore Street in Abingdon.  Other public hearings will be as follows:
3/12/18, 5 p.m., at the DEQ Tidewater Regional Office, 5636 Southern Boulevard in Virginia Beach;
3/14/18, 5 p.m., at the DEQ Valley Regional Office, 4411 Early Road in Harrisonburg;
3/15/18, 5 p.m., at the DEQ Northern Regional Office, 13901 Crown Court in Woodbridge (Prince William County);
3/19/18, 1:30 p.m., at the DEQ Central Office, 1111 East Main Street in Richmond.

The pertinent section of the Virginia Administrative Code is 9 VAC 5-140.   More information on this regulatory action is available online at  According to the “Action Summary” at that Web site, “[t]he purpose of the proposed action is to develop a regulation, in accordance with Executive Directive 11 (2017), ‘Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Electric Power Facilities and Growing Virginia’s Clean Energy Economy,’ that (i) ensures that Virginia is trading-ready to allow for the use of market-based mechanisms and the trading of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances through a multi-state trading program, and (ii) establishes abatement mechanisms that provide for a corresponding level of stringency to CO2 limits imposed in other states with such limits.”

On May 16, 2017, then-Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed and announced Executive Directive 11, which instructed the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to begin a process of developing regulations to reduce carbon emissions from electric power plants.  The directive is available online (as a PDF) at  Following is an excerpt from the directive: “I hereby direct the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, in coordination with the Secretary of Natural Resources, to take the following actions…
1. Develop a proposed regulation for the State Air Pollution Control Board’s consideration to abate, control, or limit carbon dioxide emissions from electric power facilities that: a. Includes provisions to ensure that Virginia’s regulation is “trading-ready” to allow for the use of market-based mechanisms and the trading of carbon dioxide allowances through a multi-state trading program; and b. Establishes abatement mechanisms providing for a corresponding level of stringency to limits on carbon dioxide emissions imposed in other states with such limits.
2. By no later than December 31, 2017, present the proposed regulation to the State Air Pollution Control Board for consideration for approval for public comment….”

The May 16, 2017, directive followed the report on May 12, 2017, of the Executive Order 57 Work Group, which Mr. McAuliffe established in June 2016 to study and make recommendations about reducing carbon emissions from the Commonwealth’s power plants.  The group’s final report, along with more information about Executive Order 57, is available online at  Please see this link for a previous Water Central News Grouper post on the Work Group.

On June 26, 2017, a Notice of Intended Regulatory Action was published in the Virginia Register of Regulations.  In August 2017, a Regulatory Advisory Committee was formed to provide advice to the DEQ on development of the CO2 regulations.  The committee held its first meeting on August 3, 2017; information on that meeting is available online at

Additional Source: Governor McAuliffe Takes Executive Action to Reduce Carbon Emissions Across Virginia; “Clean Energy Virginia” initiative will cap greenhouse gases and grow Virginia’s clean energy economy, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 5/16/17.

Following are some news media accounts on Executive Directive 11, listed from newest to oldest.
Virginia Begins Development of Cap-and-Trade Program for Electric Power Sector, National Law Review, 5/19/17.
Wagner takes aim at McAuliffe carbon order; critics say he’s seeking attention, Daily Press, 5/19/17.
Amid longshot run for governor, Wagner says he’ll call emergency hearing to fight McAuliffe’s climate change plan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/19/17.
Virginia Governor Orders Power Plant Carbon Regulations, POWER Magazine, 5/18/17.
Bucking D.C. and Republican legislature, Virginia governor moves to limit carbon emissions, ThinkProgress (Center for American Progress Action Fund), 5/17/17.
McAuliffe Moves to Cap Utility Carbon Emissions, Bacon’s Rebellion, 5/17/17.
McAuliffe moves to curb carbon emissions blamed for sea level rise, [Newport News] Daily Press, 5/16/17.
McAuliffe: Virginia will regulate carbon emissions; ‘the threat of climate change is real’, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/16/17.
McAuliffe proposes statewide carbon cap, Washington Post, 5/16/17.
Virginia AG: State board can regulate carbon pollution, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/12/17.
Will Virginia forge its own path on carbon regulation?, Richmond Times-Dispatch,

Draft Regulation on Reducing Carbon Emissions by Electricity-generating Plants in Virginia Approved Nov. 16, 2017, by Air Pollution Control Board

On November 16, 2017, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board approved a draft regulation that would place a cap in 2020 on carbon emissions by the Commonwealth’s electricity generators; require by 2030 a 30-percent reduction in  that sector’s carbon emissions; and have Virginia join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Inititative (RGGI; online at, a carbon-trading market between states.  After publication in the Virginia Register, the draft regulation will undergo a 60-day public-comment period before the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) writes a final version of the regulation, which would also require approval by the Air Pollution Control Board.

More information on this regulatory process is available online at;  and in the PDF of the Board’s November 16, 2017, meeting agenda, at\TownHall\docroot\Meeting\1\26694\Agenda_DEQ_26694_v1.pdf.

This regulation follows from Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Executive Directive 11, issued in May 2017, which instructed the DEQ to begin a process of regulating carbon emissions from electricity-generating plants.  For more on that directive, please see this Water Central News Grouper item.

Meanwhile, on November 11, 2017, at the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Convention in Bonn, Germany, Virginia became a member of the Under2 Coalition of sub-national governmental entitities that have committed to reducing carbon emissions.  Source: Virginia Becomes Latest US State To Commit To Action On Climate Change, Water Online, 11/17/17.  More information about the Under2 Coalition is available online at

News Media Articles on the Draft Regulation (listed most recent first)
Virginia’s move to join regional carbon market faces several challenges, Southeast Energy News, 11/28/17.
Virginia regulators approve carbon cap-and-trade plan, Associated Press, as published by Lynchburg News & Advance, 11/16/17.
Virginia Launches Plan to Join East Coast Carbon Market, Cut Emissions 30%, Inside Climate News, 11/16/17.
Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board approves draft rule that would regulate power plant carbon emissions, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/16/17.
Virginia Moves to Join RGGI Carbon-trading Market, POWER, 11/15/17.
Virginia DEQ unveils proposal to link with RGGI, ICIS/Reed Business Information, 11/13/17.
Virginia regulators set to unveil new climate plan after Northam victory, Utility Dive, 11/10/17.
After Northam win, Virginia set to unveil cap-and-trade plan, Washington Times, 11/10/17.

Ozone in Northern Virginia is Subject of Va. DEQ Proposals Undergoing Public Comment in October-November 2017

In October and November 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is seeking comments on a proposed plan for the Northern Virginia Ozone Nonattainment Area, including a request to re-designate that area as attaining ozone standards, and implementing reasonably available control technology (RACT) in support of the 2008 ozone standard in the Northern Virginia Emissions Control Area.  A public hearing on the redesignation request and the overall plan will be held 11/6/17, 11 a.m., at the DEQ Northern Regional Office, 13901 Crown Court in Woodbridge, in Prince William County; a public hearing on the RACT implementation will be held 11/13/17, 11 a.m., at the same location (click on the dates to access meeting information from the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall).

The proposal would be a revision to Virginia’s State Implementation Plan under Section 110(a) of the federal Clean Air Act.  The public comment period runs 10/16/17 to 11/15/17.  More information on consideration of the overall plan and re-desingation request is available online at; more information on the RACT aspect is available online   According to the first of those two Web sites, the proposal consists of an “air quality maintenance plan in support of a concurrent request to redesignate the Northern Virginia ozone nonattainment area (Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William; Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park) to attainment.  The purpose of the plan is to ensure that emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOX), volatile organic compounds (VOC), and carbon monoxide (CO) do not exceed the 2014 attainment year levels through 2030, enabling the area to continue meeting the 2008 ozone NAAQS.  The plan contains control measures that are currently in place and will be continued in order to maintain emissions at or below the 2014 levels.  These measures include federal control programs for on-road and non-road engines as well as limitations on local power plants.  The plan also contains a program of contingency measures to be implemented if the air quality monitoring stations in the area record a violation of the 2008 ozone NAAQS or if emissions in the area increase above the 2014 levels, as well as information concerning emissions estimates, growth assumptions, emission factors, and reduction assumptions.”

For more information contact, Doris A. McLeod, Virginia DEQ, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond VA 23218; phone (804) 698-4197; e-mail:


Detailed Investigative Report on Munitions Disposal at Radford Army Ammunition Plant on New River in Montgomery County, Va., Published by ProPublica in July 2017

“Open burns, ill winds,” published by ProPublica on July 20, 2017, is a long, detailed, investigative article examines the U.S. military’s practices for disposing of munitions waste.  It focuses specifically on the use of open-air burning at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) along the New River in Montgomery County, Virginia, and concerns over potential health impacts of air emissions from that kind of disposal.  It examines permitting and permit monitoring issues for federal and state regulators regarding potential water, air, and health contaminants; the history of disposal practices at other various locations in the United States and in other countries; and concerns and questions raised by local residents.  The article is available online at

On its Web site,, ProPublica states that it is “an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.”

For more on developments at the RAAP since 2015, please see this Water Central News Grouper post: Hazardous Waste Open-air Incineration at Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP).

Va. Governor’s June 28, 2016, Executive Order 57 on Reducing Carbon Emissions from Power Plants; Work Group Report of Recommendations on May 12, 2017

On June 28, 2016, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an Executive Order 57, creating a work group to recommend actions available under existing state authority to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.  The work group was under Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward.  The work group’s first meeting was August 31, 2016; more information on that meeting is available from the Virginia Commonwealth Calendar, online at  The group submitted its report to the governor on May 12, 2017; the report, along with more information about Executive Order 57, is available online at

The full text of Gov. McAuliffe’s order, Executive Order 57, is available in the following source: Governor McAuliffe Signs Executive Order to Reduce Carbon Emissions in Virginia; Order creates workgroup to recommend executive actions to reduce carbon emissions from the electric sector, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 6/28/16.

Following are some news accounts on the executive order and the work group:
Will Virginia forge its own path on carbon regulation?, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/3/17.
Virginia Gov. McAuliffe issues executive order to cut GHG emissions, UtilityDive, 6/30/16.
McAuliffe promises action on carbon, climate change, sets task force in motion, Daily Press, 6/28/16.
McAuliffe plans to sidestep legislature on climate change, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/28/16 [full text of executive order also available in this article].
McAuliffe pushes for action on decreasing carbon emissions, Virginian-Pilot, 6/28/16.

Virginia Toxics Release Inventory Report for 2014 Data Released March 29, 2016, by Va. DEQ

On March 29, 2016, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced publication of the latest annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), covering data reported for 2014.

According to the report’s Executive Summary, this year’s report lists types and amounts of chemicals released and reported by 436 industrial operations in the Commonwealth having 10 or more employees and reaching specific minimum amounts of toxic chemicals used.  (See p. 2 in the report Introduction to this year’s report for the list of criteria determining which operations must report.)   Virginia industries reported on 153 chemical and chemical categories, out of over 650 chemicals can chemical categories subject to TRI report.

Virginia industries reported 916.6 million pounds of chemicals managed released to the environment, transferred off-site, or managed on-site in 2014, a 5.6-percent increase from the previous year.  This included 35.2 million pounds of chemicals released on-site to the air, water and land (2.4-percent decrease from 2013 data); 66.9 million pounds transferred off-site for treatment, recycling, energy recovery or disposal (1.0-percent decrease from 2013); and 814.4 million pounds managed on-site by treatment, recycling, or energy recovery (6.6-percent increase from 2013).

Released amounts of persistent bioaccumulative toxics (chemicals that remain in the environment for a long time, are not easily destroyed, and can build up in body tissue)—were 640,801 pounds released on-site; 819,099 pounds transferred off-site from reporting Virginia facilities for treatment, recycling, energy recovery, or disposal; and 200,232 pounds managed on-site by treatment, recycling, or energy recovery.

The report’s Executive Summary states the following about how to interpret the release information: “The Virginia TRI Report provides the public with information concerning specified toxic chemicals and chemical compounds which are manufactured, processed, or otherwise used at Virginia facilities.  Responsible use of the information can help the public and industry identify potential concerns and develop effective strategies for reducing toxic chemical usage and release.  The TRI data do not, however, represent a measure of the public’s exposure to chemicals, nor do they assess risk.  Most of the releases are regulated and permitted under other state and federal programs that are designed to protect human health and the environment.  Because of differences in report-generation schedules and receipt of reports, the information in the Virginia TRI Report will not precisely match the information in the national Toxics Release Inventory—Public Data Release, located at, as published by [the U.S.] EPA.”

The 2014 Virginia TRI report is available online at  Reports from previous years are located online at

Additional source: Virginia issues report on chemical releases for 2014, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 3/29/16.

Mercury Emissions from Human Sources Declined 30 Percent from 1990-2010, according to Research Released in January 2016

Worldwide human-caused mercury emissions decreased 30 percent from 1990 to 2010, according to research published in January 2016 by Harvard University, Peking University (Beijing, China), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (Mainz, Germany), and the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada).

Mercury is transported globally when released into the atmosphere through coal combustion, mining, manufacturing, commercial products, and volcanic activity. Once deposited into ecosystems, including aquatic systems, it can be converted to methylmercury and pose health risks to wildlife and humans.

According to the a January 13, 2016, USGS news release on the research, the large decreasing trends in human-generated mercury observed in North America and Europe reflect the phase-out of mercury from commercial products, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emission controls on coal-fired utilities, and the increasing transition to natural gas in power plants. The study’s authors noted that the observed decreases offset increasing emission trends in Asia. “This is important for policy and decision-makers, as well as natural resource managers, because, as our results show, their actions can have tangible effects on mercury emissions, even at the local level,” said study co-author Vincent St. Louis of the University of Alberta in the USGS news release.

The study is entitled “Observed decrease in atmospheric mercury explained by global decline in anthropogenic emissions,” published in January 2016 in the online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For more information about the study, follow the link below.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey, “Science Feature: North American and European Atmospheric Mercury Declines Explained by Local and Regional Emission Reductions,” online at, accessed 1/25/16.

For more information on mercury in the environment:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mercury in Your Environment, online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “Mercury in Aquatic Ecosystems,” online at

This post was written by Taylor Richmond, a Virginia Tech student doing an internship in Spring 2016 with the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.