Category Archives: Climate Change

Water in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly – Carbon Market Bills

This is one of a series of posts on particular water-related bills in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly.  For an inventory of about water-related bills in the 2018 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; the LIS summaries have been edited in some cases for space or clarity.  Each bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

Companion House and Senate bills that failed in respective committees proposed participation by Virginia in a regional market for carbon emissions.

HB 1344 – Alternative Energy and Coastal Protection Act: establishing auction of carbon dioxide allowances with funds to go to a new Commonwealth Resilience Fund.  This bill was left (failed) in the House Committee on Rules on 2/23/18.  The bill, sponsored by Del. Cheryl Turpin (D-85th) would have authorized the State Air Pollution Control Board to conduct an auction of allowances of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as part of the existing Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI; online at https://www.rggi.org/; RGGI is a carbon-market among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont), or authorize the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to operate such auction; and it would have established the Commonwealth Resilience Fund to receive funds from the auction and direct the funds to certain conservation, economic development, and renewable energy programs.  The companion bill was SB 696 – Alternative Energy and Coastal Protection Act: regulations to establish carbon dioxide cap and develop market-based trading program.  That bill, sponsored by Sen. Lynwood Lewis, Jr. (D-6th), was passed by indefinitely (failed) in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources on 1/25/18.

News Media Item Related to This Legislation
New Jersey, Virginia Take Steps Toward Joining East Coast Carbon Market, Inside Climate News, 1/29/18.

For information on proposed power plant carbon-emission trading regulation in Virginia, please see this News Grouper post.

 

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 March 20, 2018.

In March 2018, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held a series of public hearings on proposed carbon dioxide (CO2)-trading regulation.  The public hearings were 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 http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/viewaction.cfm?actionid=4818.  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 http://governor.virginia.gov/media/9155/ed-11-reducing-carbon-dioxide-emissions-from-electric-power-facilities-and-growing-virginias-clean-energy-economy.pdf.  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 https://naturalresources.virginia.gov/initiatives/eo-57/.  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 http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewMeeting.cfm?MeetingID=26367.

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 https://www.theclimategroup.org/project/under2-coalition.

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.
More than 370 Virginians attend DEQ hearings on carbon reduction, Augusta Free Press, 3/19/18.
Virginia DEQ to Hold Final Input Session on Carbon Plan, Associated Press, as pubished by U.S. News & World Report, 3/19/18.
Virginia Accepting Public Comment on Cap and Trade Plan, WVTF Richmond, 3/16/18.
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.
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, 5/3/17.

Land Loss on Tangier Island and a Local Teen’s Documentation Through Photography are Featured in December 2017 Bay Journal Article

Issues of loss of land on Tangier Island, Va., through current coastal erosion and the threat of rising sea level are the topic of “‘I’ll never leave this place, and I hope this place will never leave me’,” by Rona Kobell in the December 2017 issue of Bay Journal.

The article focuses specifically on Cameron Evans, a 17-year-old (at the time of the article) native of the island who uses photography to document land areas being lost.

The article is available online at https://www.bayjournal.com/article/ill_never_leave_this_place_and_i_hope_this_place_will_never_leave_me, or contact Bay Journal at P.O. Box 222, Jacobus, PA 17407-022; phone (717) 428-2819.

Environmental Justice Advisory Council Created by Va. Gov. Executive Order in October 2017; Establishment was a Recommendation of Work Group on Carbon-reduction Strategies

On October 31, 2017, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued Executive Order 73, establishing the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice (EJAC).  The text of Executive Order 73 is available online (as a PDF) at http://governor.virginia.gov/media/9657/eo-73-establishment-of-an-advisory-council-on-environmental-justice.pdf.  (More information about environmental justice is available from the U.S. EPA online at https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice.)

Following is an excerpt from the Governor’s Office news release on the action:
“The EJAC…will provide advice and recommendations to the Executive Branch on ways in which environmental justice should be incorporated in decision-making.  Environmental Justice is the principle that no community or individual should bear disproportionate impacts from pollution.

“…The EJAC was one of the five recommendations from Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order 57 work group, which was tasked with developing recommendations to reduce carbon pollution from Virginia’s power plants.  [Information on Executive Order 57, issued in June 2016, is available online at https://naturalresources.virginia.gov/initiatives/eo-57/.]

“The University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation will help to facilitate the work of the EJAC.  …Governor McAuliffe will appoint members to the EJAC who represent a variety of backgrounds and geographic regions of the Commonwealth.  The EJAC will annually draft a report containing specific recommendations in furtherance of environmental justice issues, including recommendations on proposed legislation, regulations, policies, and commencement of research initiatives.”

Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces Environmental Justice Advisory Council; Council will serve as the first coordinated forum to discuss environmental justice issues across the Commonwealth, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 10/31/17.

Climate Change Economic Costs Evaluated in GAO Report Published in September 2017

In September 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published “Climate Change: Information on Potential Economic Effects Could Help Guide Federal Efforts to Reduce Fiscal Exposure.”  The full report (45 pages), along with “Fact Facts” and “Highlights” documents, is available online at https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-720.

Following is an excerpt from the Highlights document:
“Over the last decade, extreme weather and fire events have cost the federal government over $350 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget. These costs will likely rise as the climate changes, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.  …This report examines (1) methods used to estimate the potential economic effects of climate change in the United States, (2) what is known about these effects, and (3) the extent to which information about these effects could inform efforts to manage climate risks across the federal government.  GAO reviewed 2 national-scale studies available and 28 other studies; interviewed 26 experts knowledgeable about the strengths and limitations of the studies; compared federal efforts to manage climate risks with leading practices for risk management and economic analysis; and obtained expert views. …The two available national-scale studies that examine the economic effects of climate change across U.S. sectors suggested that potential economic effects could be significant and unevenly distributed across sectors and regions.  For example, for 2020 through 2039, one study estimated between $4 billion and $6 billion in annual coastal property damages from sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms.  Also, under this study, the Southeast likely faces greater effects than other regions because of coastal property damages.”

Below is Figure 2 from the study, showing the kinds of economic impacts that may occur as a result of climate change.

GAO Climate change impacts map

CO2 Trading Webinar Held October 20, 2017, by Georgetown Climate Center for Va. Regulatory Advisory Committee on Carbon Dioxide Trading Regulation

A public Webinar on “Modeling Results for Virginia Business-as-Usual and Cap Scenarios” will conducted October 20, 2017, 10 a.m., by the Georgetown Climate Center for the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board/Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Regulatory Advisory Committee on Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Trading Regulation.

Register with the Georgetown [University] Climate Center online at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4584701090528236289, no later than October 19, 2017.

More information about the meeting is available from the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall, online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewMeeting.cfm?MeetingID=26734.

The Regulatory Advisory Committee was formed to advise the DEQ on the development of proposed regulatory amendments concerning CO2 trading.  Its formation followed Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Executive Directive 11 (May 2017) that instructed the DEQ to begin a process of developing regulations to reduce carbon emissions from electric power plants.  Executive Directive 11 is available online (as a PDF) at http://governor.virginia.gov/media/9155/ed-11-reducing-carbon-dioxide-emissions-from-electric-power-facilities-and-growing-virginias-clean-energy-economy.pdf.  A Notice of Intended Regulatory Action was published in the Virginia Register of Regulations on June 26, 2017.  The pertinent section of the Virginia Administrative Code is 9 VAC 5-140.   More information on this regulatory action is available online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/viewaction.cfm?actionid=4818.

Vibrio Bacteria and Potential Increases in Chesapeake Bay Temperatures Examined in Research Published in September 2017

In research published in September 2017, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists found that, depending on future levels of emissions, changing climate conditions might lead to an increase in Chesapeake Bay populations of three common species of Vibrio bacteria by the end of the 21st Century, with potentially significant economic and healthcare costs.

The research paper is “Projections of the future occurrence, distribution, and seasonality of three Vibrio species in the Chesapeake Bay under a high-emission climate change scenario,” by Barbara A. Muhling, et al.  It was published online on September 26, 2017, by GeoHealth (a journal of the American Geophyical Union) and is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017GH000089/full.

Following is an excerpt from NOAA’s news release on the research (Warming Climate Could Increase Bacterial Impacts on Chesapeake Bay Shellfish, Recreation, 9/26/17).

“Researchers have found that three common species of Vibrio bacteria in Chesapeake Bay could increase with changing climate conditions by the end of this century, resulting in significant economic and healthcare costs from illnesses caused by exposure to contaminated water and consumption of contaminated shellfish. …

“Vibrio bacteria occur naturally in the Chesapeake Bay and in coastal and estuarine waters around the world.  About a dozen Vibrio species can cause human illness, known as vibriosis.  Two of the most common species causing human illness in the United States, Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus, occur in the Chesapeake Bay.  Their abundance varies with water temperature, salinity and other environmental factors.  A third species, Vibrio cholerae, also occurs in Chesapeake Bay but is not associated with cholera epidemics, although like other Vibrio species it can sometimes cause illness in people who eat contaminated shellfish, such as oysters.

“Researchers used four different global climate models and data from eight locations in and around the bay and its tributaries to project how warming temperatures and changing freshwater inputs might impact the three Vibrio bacteria in the bay and its oyster populations by the end of this century.  The findings showed substantial future increases in the occurrence, distribution, and length of the season for V. vulnificus and V. parahaemolyticus, and an increase in favorable habitat for V. cholerae, although this was confined to low salinity regions of the bay. …

“Laboratory experiments suggest that optimum temperatures for Vibrio species are between 37 and 39 degrees C, or 98.6 to 102.2 degrees F, much warmer than current conditions in the Chesapeake Bay.  All three Vibrio strains now occur more frequently and in higher abundances in warmer months of the year, when water temperatures are also warmer.  Each strain or species appears to have a distinct salinity range, meaning the Vibrios could potentially increase only when other environmental factors are or become favorable in a specific area in the bay. …

“Disease risk from Vibrios already exists in the Chesapeake Bay.  Environmental and resource managers are aware of it, as are many local residents and shellfish consumers.  Some measures designed to reduce the risk of Vibrio-related illness from harvested oysters are already in place.  For example, in warmer months, oysters must be refrigerated by a certain time of day after being harvested.  As temperatures continue to warm, these set times of day may need to be adjusted to ensure that oysters remain safe to eat.  The months of the year where these regulations are applied may also need to be extended.”

Related media article: Climate change brings heightened risks in Bay of contaminated water, shellfish, Bay Journal, 9/28/17.