Category Archives: Energy

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  https://www.rggi.org/), a carbon-trading market between states.  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 (in the PDF of the Board’s November 16 meeting agenda), at http://www.townhall.virginia.gov/L/GetFile.cfm?File=C:\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 https://www.theclimategroup.org/project/under2-coalition.

News Media Articles on the Draft Regulation (listed most recent first)
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.

The Challenges of Wave Energy – An Overview on the Nov. 12, 2017, PBS NewsHour

On November 12, 2017, the PBS NewsHour broadcast “Scientists work to harness power from Hawaii’s waves,” available online at https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/scientists-work-to-harness-power-from-hawaiis-waves#audio.  Focusing on work being done in Hawaii, the 8 min./6 sec. segment examines efforts by scientists and entrepreneurs to develop technology that can generate electricity from ocean waves at an economically viable, commercial scale.  The report includes comments on the challenges of capturing wave energy from George Hagerman, a senior research associate with Virginia Tech’s Center for Energy and the Global Environment.

James River Transmission Line Proposal by Dominion Energy – Latest Update November 6, 2017: Construction to Begin

Information in this post starts in November 2015.  Later updates follow from top to bottom.  The latest update was November 6, 2017.

November 2015: November 13, 2015, was the last day for public comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Dominion Virginia Power’s application to build a $155-million, 17-tower, 500-kilovolt transmission line from its Surry Nuclear Power Station in Surry County across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  Dominion asserts that the transmission line is necessary for electricity reliability on Virginia’s Peninsula (the location of the Hampton Roads area with about 500,000 residents, several military installations, and many other power users).  The project faces opposition from groups and citizens who object to the impact they believe the line would have on views from Jamestown Island and other historic or scenic locations.  The transmission line was approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) in November 2013, but that approval was challenged by James City County, Save the James Alliance Trust, and the James River Association, who asserted that local zoning approval was necessary for the project; and by BASF Corporation, who objected to the line’s crossing an environmental-remediation area on James River property owned by the corporation.  In April 2015, the Virginia Supreme Court said the SCC did not err in approving the transmission line route, but the court also said local government approval is, in fact, necessary for the switching station in James City County.  As of November 11, 2015, Dominion still needed a permit from the Corps of Engineers, and the James City County Board of Supervisors had yet to rule on Dominion’s application for a special use permit to build the Skiffes Creek switching station.  A PDF of the April 2015 Virginia Supreme Court ruling on the transmission line is available online at http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1140462.pdfSources: Power line across the James River: An intrusive eyesore or electrical necessity?Virginian-Pilot, 9/27/15.  Charles City County residents oppose Dominion’s Chickahominy alternative route, Virginia Gazette, 11/4/15.  Near Jamestown, Dominion power line battles history, “Marketplace” (American Public Media), 8/18/15.  Transmission line project over James River voted down [by James City County Planning Commission on 8/5/15], WVEC-TV Norfolk, 8/6/15.  New Battle of Jamestown pits power lines against preservationists, Washington Post, 7/14/15.  Groups fight to save James River views from overhead power lines, Bay Journal, 7/8/15.  Opponents cheer Va. ruling on James River transmission line, Associated Press, as published by WAVY-TV Portsmouth, Va., 4/16/15.  Va. approves controversial Dominion power line over historic James River, Washington Post, 11/27/13.

Update 6/15/16: On June 13, 2016, Dominion Virginia Power released its latest plan—submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—for mitigating environmental impacts of its proposed 500-kilovolt transmission line from its Surry Nuclear Power Station in Surry County across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  The plan released on June 13 provides more details on proposed mitigation activities than had been provided in a December 2015 version; in March 2016, the Corps notified Dominion areas needing more information.  The newly released proposal is Dominion’s response.  As in the previous version, the proposed mitigation activities would cost around $85 million.
Source: Mitigation plan largely unchanged, number remains at $85 million, Virginia Gazette, 6/14/16.

Update 6/14/17
On June 12, 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a provisional proffered permit for Dominion Energy’s (formerly Dominion Resources/Dominion Virignia Power) proposal to build a 500-kilovolt transmission line from across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  The proposed project still requires permits from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and James City County.   Sources: Dominion gets provisional permit for contentious James River transmission line near historic sites, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/13/17; Power line across James River one step closer to approval, Bay Journal, July-August 2017.  For information about the application for the Corps of Engineers permit, see http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/SkiffesCreekPowerLine.aspx.

Update 8/7/17
On August 3, 2017, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Virginia filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., seeking to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to perform an environmental impact statement of Dominion  Energy’s proposed 500-kilovolt power line across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  The National Parks Conservation Association filed a similar lawsuit in July 2017.  Currently the Corps intends to perform an “environmental assessment,” a less comprehensive review.  Both kinds of study fall under the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; for more information on that act, see U.S. EPA, online at https://www.epa.gov/nepa/national-environmental-policy-act-review-process).   Source: Dominion Energy : New lawsuit contests James River power line, 4-Traders.com, 8/4/17.

Update 11/6/17
On November 2, 2017, Dominion announced that it had received received needed approvals to begin construction of the power line.  Dominion announced that it had completed mitigation activities required in an agreement among the company, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and a historic preservation advisory council.  SourceDominion set to begin construction on new transmission line, Associated Press, as published by WAVY TV-Portsmouth, Va., 11/3/17.

Other news articles:
DomPower: Skiffes Creek necessary to avoid rolling blackouts or worse, Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, 1/17/17.
Army Corps to host sit-down between Dominion and opposition groups on Surry-Skiffes Creek project, Virginia Gazette, 1/19/16.
Clash of Competing Values, Bacon’s Rebellion, 1/20/16 [Detailed article on the process of, and concerns about, the routes of Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line and of the company’s proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline.]

skiffes map

Project location map for proposed power-transmission line from Surry Nuclear Power Station in Surry County, Va., to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County, Va., accessed at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Web site, http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/SkiffesCreekPowerLine.aspx, 11/11/5.

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.

Development of Abandoned Mine Lands is Focus of Federal Pilot Program Funding Granted to Virginia in May 2017

In May 2017, Virginia was chosen to receive federal funds for economic development of abandoned mine lands under the Power Plus Pilot Program, part of the federal Ominbus Bill passed in May 2017.  More information on this program  is available online at https://dmme.virginia.gov/dmlr/Pilot2017.shtml.  According to that Web site, Virginia “was one of the states chosen to receive $10 million to develop Abandoned Mine Land (AML) sites.  The grant comes from the Power Plus Pilot Program which was part of the federal Omnibus Funding Bill passed in May 2017.  Projects completed with the funds will not only be designed to boost the economy of southwest Virginia’s coalfields but will also improve the environment.”

The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy formed an Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Funding Advisory Group to assist the DMME by reviewing grant proposals and making recommendations to DMME on which pilot projects to propose to the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining.  The Advisory Group is next scheduled to meet on 11/8/17, 9:00 a.m., at the DMME office, 3405 Mountain Empire Road in Big Stone Gap, in Wise County (click on the meeting date to access meeting information from the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall).

 

FERC Approves Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipeline Projects on October 13, 2017

On October 13, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved certificates of public convenience and necessity to the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline projects.

The FERC “Notational Orders” granting the certificates are available online (as PDFs) at https://www.ferc.gov/CalendarFiles/20171013192035-CP15-554-000.pdf (Atlantic Coast pipeline) and https://www.ferc.gov/CalendarFiles/20171013192058-CP16-10-000.pdf (Mountain Valley pipeline) (links functional as of October 19, 2017).

Following are news media items on FERC’s October 13 action (most recent listed first):

FERC Approves Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley Pipelines in Rare Split Decision, Natural Gas Intelligence, 10/16/17.

FERC approves Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, rejecting broader pipeline review, Utility Dive, 10/16/17.

Politicians react to FERC pipeline certifications, Roanoke Times, 10/16/17 [regarding reactions by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates in 2017, Virginia General Assembly members, and others].

FERC Approves Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley Pipelines, Bacon’s Rebellion, 10/15/17.

Nelson [County, Va.] residents react to federal approval of Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Lynchburg News & Advance, 10/14/17.

FERC’s approval of Mountain Valley Pipeline stirs defiance, determination, Roanoke Times, 10/14/17.

U.S. regulators OK Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley pipelines, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/14/17.

Federal energy panel grants certificates for Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines, Roanoke Times, 10/13/17.

Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines gain federal approval, WV Metro News [Charleston, W. Va.], 10/13/17.

For more details on the proposed pipelines and other natural gas developments in Virginia since 2014, please see this Water Central News Grouper post: Natural Gas Drilling and Transport in Virginia under Close Scrutiny in 2014-17 – Summary of Developments and Cumulative List of News Items.

2017 Surry-Skiffes Creek Restricted Funds Grant Availability Announced October 5, 2017; Deadline to Apply is November 6

On October 5, 2017, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Ooffice announced an upcoming grant round for 2017 Surry-Skiffes Creek Restricted Funds, administered by the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.  According to the news release from the governor’s office, the grants are designed to support “projects that will conserve, protect, and benefit historically and culturally significant resources.  Eligible projects include landscape preservation along the James River watershed to benefit the Jamestown Island-Hog Island-Captain John Smith Trail Historic District (District), as well as landscape scale conservation that will preclude future river crossings in the area.  Projects may also include enhancement and preservation of sites associated with the Battle of Yorktown and Fort Crafford, as well as exhibits focused on the Peninsula Campaign. …The grant funds are made available pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by Dominion Energy, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in order to mitigate impacts from construction of Dominion Energy’s Surry-Skiffes Creek-Whealton 500-kV Transmission Line Project.  This grant round is one of five categories of projects that will be funded under the terms of the MOA.  Should all $12.5 million in grant funds not be obligated in 2017, a future grant round will be held in 2018.”

The deadline to apply for 2017 funds is November 6, 2017, at 4 p.m. Eastern.  Information about the Virginia Conservation Land Foundation, including the grant manual for the 2017 Surry-Skiffes Creek Restricted Funds, is available online at http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/virginia-land-conservation-foundation/.

Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces $12.5 Million Grant Round for Historic Preservation and Landscape Conservation; Funds will support projects within the Jamestown Island-Hog Island- Captain John Smith Trail Historic District and related areas, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 10/5/17.

[For more information on the Surry-Skiffes Creek project, please see this Water Central News Grouper post: James River Transmission Line Proposal by Dominion Energy.]