Category Archives: Energy

Stream Protection Rule Regarding Coal Mining Impacts on Waterways Rescinded in February 2017 After Finalization in December 2016

In early February 2017, Congress used the Congressional Review Act to rescind the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (OSMRE) “Stream Protection Rule,” on impacts of coal mining on waterways.  The rule had been finalized with Federal Register publication on December 20, 2016.  OSMRE’s Web site on the proposed rule is at http://www.osmre.gov/programs/rcm/streamprotectionrule.shtm; a link to the text of the proposed rule is available there.  OSMRE first proposed the rule on July 16, 2015 (the draft rule was published in the Federal Register on July 27, 2015).

According to the OSMRE Web site on 2/14/17, the rule was intended to have done the following:

“…[Define] ‘material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area’ for the first time…clarifying that the statutory prohibition on the approval of proposed operations that would result in material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area applies to both surface and underground mining operations.  Under SMCRA [the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, passed in 1977], the regulatory authority may not approve a permit application unless the application demonstrates, and the regulatory authority finds, that the proposed operation would not result in material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area.

“…[Require] that the regulatory authority specify the point at which adverse mining-related impacts on groundwater and surface water would constitute material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area reach that level of damage.  It further provides that the regulatory authority must specify threshold values for surface water and groundwater parameters that will trigger an evaluation of whether the permit must be revised to prevent the occurrence of material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area.

“…[Expand] the baseline data requirements for permit applications for proposed coal mining operations to ensure that the permittee and the regulatory authority have a complete picture of pre-mining conditions to which the impacts of mining can be compared.  Monitoring during mining and reclamation will include a comprehensive suite of parameters for both surface water and groundwater to ensure that the impacts of mining are identified in a manner that will enable timely initiation of corrective measures.

“…[Require] the restoration of the physical form, hydrologic function, and ecological function of the segment of a perennial or intermittent stream that a permittee mines through.  Additionally, it requires that the post-mining surface configuration of the reclaimed mine site include a drainage pattern, including ephemeral streams, similar to the pre-mining drainage pattern, with exceptions for stability, topographical changes, fish and wildlife habitat, etc.

“…[Require] the establishment of a 100-foot-wide streamside vegetative corridor of native species (including riparian species, when appropriate) along each bank of any restored or permanently-diverted perennial, intermittent, or ephemeral stream.”

The proposed rule’s announcement in July 2015 raised immediate objections from the National Mining Association, some elected officials from mining states like West Virginia, and others about its potential economic impacts.  On the other hand, some environmental organizations criticized the proposal for allowing some variance, under certain conditions, from the 100-foot buffer requirement established in 1983; those conditions are described in the proposed rule on p.364 (part of the section entitled, “What additional requirements apply to proposed activities in, through, or adjacent to streams?”).

The Stream Protection Rule was the latest in a series of regulatory and litigation developments since the 1977 passage of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.  Some of those developments that led to the Stream Protection Rule were the following:
*1983 OSMRE rule requiring a 100-foot buffer zone along streams;
*2008 OSMRE Stream Buffer Zone Rule allowing deposition of mining materials within the 100-foot zone, with certain requirements for reducing impacts;
*2009 Memorandum of Understanding among the Interior Department, U.S. EPA, and Army Corps of Engineers on reducing stream impacts of coal mining, simultaneously starting OSMRE’s process to develop the current proposed regulation; and
*February 2014 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacating OSMRE’s 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule and reinstating the 1983 buffer zone.

Sources:

House Republicans Vote to End Rule Stopping Coal Mining Debris From Being Dumped in Streams, Associated Press, as published by Time, 2/1/17.

Republicans Move to Block Rule on Coal Mining Near Streams, New York Times, 2/2/17.

Congress passes first rollback of Obama environmental rule, USA Today, 2/2/17.

Federal Register, “Stream Protection Rule,” 81 FR 93066, 12/20/16, online at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/20/2016-29958/stream-protection-rule.

Interior Department Finalizes Stream Protection Rule to Safeguard Communities from Coal Mining Impacts, U.S. Department of the Interior News Release, 12/19/16.

Interior Department Unveils Proposed Stream Protection Rule to Safeguard Communities from Coal Mining Operations, U.S. Department of Interior News Release, 7/16/15.

National Mining Association Calls on Congress to Block OSM’s Costly, Unnecessary Stream Rule
, National Mining Association News Release, 7/16/15.

Interior unveils rule aimed at protecting streams from mining
, and Industry vows to fight ‘needless and conflicting’ stream rule, both from Greenwire, E&E Publishing, 7/16/15 (subscription required for access).

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 was in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee as of Feb. 9.  The bill would establish 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 would 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 would require 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 would also allow 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 was in the House Commerce and Labor Committee as of Feb. 9.

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 was in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee as of Feb. 9.  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.

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 was in the House General Laws Committee as of Feb. 9.  The bill would exclude 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 and increase in membership.  This bill, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District), of Alexandria, passed the Senate and was in the House Commerce and Labor Committee as of Feb. 9.  The bill would continue the Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority and rename it the Virginia Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority.  The measure would expand 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.

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 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 was in the House Commerce and Labor Committee as of Feb. 9.  The bill would provide 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 would exempt 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 would increase from 100 megawatts to 150 megawatts the maximum rated capacity of solar and wind facilities that qualify as small renewable energy projects.

Related News Media Item

More solar options could emerge from General Assembly session, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/7/17.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Coal Ash Management 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.

SB1383, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th District) of Mt. Vernon, would have required electric utilities to recycle as much of their stored coal combustion by-products (o (also called coal combustion residuals, or coal ash) as is imported into the Commonwealth each year, on a pro rata basis.  The bill was stricken from the docket of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources (ACNR) Committee at the request of Sen. Surovell.

SB 1398, also sponsored by Sen. Surovell, passed the Senate on Feb. 7 and was reported from the House ACNR Committee on February 15.  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.  The version reported from the House ACNR Committee 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.

SB 1399, also sponsored by Sen. Surovell, 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.  The bill was stricken from the docket of the Senate ACNR Committee at the request of Sen. Surovell.

Some News Media Items on these Bills

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.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Clean Power Plan Implementation Bill

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.

FEDERAL CLEAN POWER PLAN BILL 

HB 1974, sponsored by Del. Israel O’Quinn (R-5th District), of Bristol, would require the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to receive approval from the General Assembly for a state plan to implement the federal Clean Power Plan–which regulates carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants–prior to submitting the state plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.  As of January 27, 2017, the bill had been reported from the House Commerce and Labor Committee and referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

The U.S. EPA published the final Clean Power Plan regulation in August 2015; implementation of the plan, however, has been stayed by a federal court pending litigation against the regulation by several states.  For more on the Clean Power Plan regulation, including the lawsuit challenging the regulation, please see the following News Grouper items:
Final Version of “Clean Power Plan” Announced by President Obama and the U.S. EPA on August 3, 2015;
and Clean Power Plan Lawsuit Against U.S. EPA Overview and Information Sources.

News media items
Virginia Committee Passes Bill Setting Foundation to Reject EPA Clean Power Plan, Tenth Amendment Center, 1/25/17.
Virginia Bill Would Set the Foundation to Reject EPA Clean Power Plan, 10th Amendment Center, 1/17/17.

 

Water in the 2017 VA General Assembly: Fracking Chemical Disclosure Bills – Updated February 16, 2017

Research and most of the writing for this post was done by Eryn Turney, the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s spring 2017 intern.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s article “The Process of Hydraulic Fracturing” (https://www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing/process-hydraulic-fracturing), hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”) is the process by which gas and oil are extracted from deep beneath the earth’s surface via fractures in underground rock formations. Special fluids containing water, chemical additives, and sediments are pumped into the ground at extremely high pressures in order to widen fractures in the rocks to allow for increased access to the resources. After the expansion, the fluid returns to the earth’s surface due to internal pressure, which is known as “flowback” or “produced water.” Flowback can contain the chemicals, sediments, and other materials picked up during the process. Though this wastewater is often stored on site before disposal or recycling, it can also be injected underground for disposal. According to another article by the US EPA, “Class II Oil and Gas Related Injection Wells” (https://www.epa.gov/uic/class-ii-oil-and-gas-related-injection-wells), this wastewater has extremely high salinity, as well as traces of radioactive substances and metals. According to the EPA, if discharged to water or land, this wastewater poses a risk to environmental and public health. The deep underground injection of flowback can prevent soil and water contamination given it is isolated from underground sources of drinking water.

During the 2017 Session of the Virginia General Assembly, four bills related to fracking were introduced. This post will be updated throughout Session in order to document the progression and revision of House Bill (HB) 1678, HB 1679, and companion Senate Bills (SB) 1291 and SB 1292. Following are the descriptions for each of these bills. Information was retrieved from the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS), online at http://lis.virginia.gov/. Please visit this site to explore further the progress of various legislation at the 2017 session of General Assembly.  Please note each of the bills below are hyperlinked to their respective LIS sites.  Below the bills are a list of related news media article.

HB 1678: Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); trade secrets submitted to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME).

Sponsor: Delegate Roxann Robinson, R-District 27, of Midlothian

As introduced, this bill provides an additional exclusion from FOIA requests for disclosure of information considered trade secrets provided to DMME involving chemicals used in the fracking process. This bill states that in order for the information to be protected, the company must identify the specific materials that they want protected, and state a reason why protection is necessary. From here, the DMME can determine whether or not the information should actually be entitled to protection.

Status and changes:
1/24/17 Reported from General Laws Committee with an amendment defining the trade secret to be disclosed as the “recipe” of the chemical concentrations rather than just a list of chemicals used in the process (focused on “disclosure of amount of concentration of chemicals or ingredients…”).

1/30/17 Passed by House (59 Yes – 37 No).

1/31/17 Referred to Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.

2/13/17 Failed to report from Senate General Laws and Technology Committee; bill defeated.

Current Language of Bill (including amendment) as of 2/16/17, describing the additional exclusion to Virginia’s FOIA:
Trade secrets, as defined in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (§ 59.1-336 et seq.), submitted to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy pursuant to requirements for disclosure of the amount or concentration of chemicals or ingredients used to stimulate a well pursuant to § 45.1-361.29 or regulations promulgated under § 45.1-361.27. In order for such trade secrets to be excluded from the provisions of this chapter, the submitting party shall (i) invoke this exclusion upon submission of the data or materials for which protection from disclosure is sought, (ii) identify the data or materials for which protection is sought, and (iii) state the reasons why protection is necessary. The Department shall determine whether the information claimed to be a trade secret is entitled to such protection.

HB 1679: Well permit applications; disclosure of trade secrets.

Sponsor: Delegate Roxann Robinson, R-District 27, of Midlothian

As introduced, this bill authorizes the DMME to have access to certain information about the chemicals used during the fracking process. This bill also authorizes the director of the DMME to provide others with this information (including emergency personnel, state or local officials, and others on staff) should a mishap occur with the chemicals and present an emergency situation. If the Director shares this information with others, he/she must notify the company who disclosed the trade secret about this as soon as possible, and others are prohibited from furthering sharing the information.

During the House ACNR subcommittee meeting on Wednesday January 18, 2017, issues discussed regarding this bill were the public’s right to know what is/could be reaching soil and water resources, what degree of access emergency personnel should have to this information prior to a mishap in order to be prepared to respond (including chemical safety sheets, training, etc.), what constitutes a “trade secret” (whether this is the specific names of the chemicals used or the “recipe” of the combination and concentrations of the chemicals used), how the DMME will be granted access to these trade secrets, and how the DMME will further be able to distribute these trade secrets.

Status and changes:
1/25/17 ANCR subcommittee recommends reporting with an amendment (amendment not yet posted as of 1/31/17).

2/1/17 ACNR Committee reports with an amendment requiring that a well permit applicant provide to the relevant local government Safety Data Sheets for the chemical materials and products proposed for use in the well completion process.

2/6/17 House agrees to Committee amendment.

2/7/17 Passed by House (63 Yes – 34 No).

2/8/17 Referred to Senate ACNR Committee.

Current Language of Bill as of 2/16/17:
J. The Department may require an application for a well, a supplement thereto, and a well completion report to include chemical ingredient names, the chemical abstracts numbers for chemical ingredients, or the amount or concentration of chemicals or ingredients, used to stimulate a well provided there is an exclusion from mandatory disclosure under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.) applicable to the extent that such information meets the definition of a trade secret set forth in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (§ 59.1-336 et seq.). The applicant or permittee, as applicable, shall provide, or cause the trade secret claimant to provide, the required trade secret information to the Department. The Director may disclose information regarding the specific identity of a chemical, the concentration of a chemical, or both the specific identity and concentration of a chemical, claimed to be a trade secret to additional Department staff or any relevant state or local government official to the extent that such disclosure is necessary to assist the Department in responding to an emergency resulting in an order pursuant to subsection D of § 45.1-361.27. No such Department staff or state or local official shall disseminate the information further. Any information so disclosed to Department staff or state or local officials shall at all times be considered confidential and shall not be construed as publicly available. If the Director discloses such information to any state or local government official, then the Director shall notify the party that submitted the trade secret information of that disclosure as soon as practicable. No order issued pursuant to § 45.1-361.27 shall include trade secret information.

K. The applicant for a drilling permit shall provide to the governing body of the locality in which a well is proposed to be located information necessary for the local government to access the safety data sheet, as defined in 29 C.F.R.1910.1200, for each of the chemical materials and products proposed for use in the well completion process. Such information shall be provided to the local government within seven days of the date the permit application is submitted to the Department.

SB 1291: Well permit applications; disclosure of trade secrets.

Sponsor: Senator A. Benton Chafin, R-District 38, of Lebanon

As introduced, companion bill to HB 1679 (see that bill above for provisions as introduced).

Status and changes:
1/30/17 Reported from General Laws and Technology with amendment requiring that a well permit applicant provide to the relevant local government Safety Data Sheets for the chemical materials and products proposed for use in the well completion process. Referred to Finance Committee.

2/2/17 Failed to report from Senate Finance Committee (8 Yes – 8 No); bill defeated.

Current Language of Bill as of 2/16/17:
J. The Department may require an application for a well, a supplement thereto, and a well completion report to include chemical ingredient names, the chemical abstracts numbers for chemical ingredients, or the amount or concentration of chemicals or ingredients, used to stimulate a well provided there is an exclusion from mandatory disclosure under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700et seq.) applicable to the extent that such information meets the definition of a trade secret set forth in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (§ 59.1-336et seq.). The applicant or permittee, as applicable, shall provide, or cause the trade secret claimant to provide, the required trade secret information to the Department. The Director may disclose information regarding the specific identity of a chemical, the concentration of a chemical, or both the specific identity and concentration of a chemical, claimed to be a trade secret to additional Department staff or any relevant state or local government official to the extent that such disclosure is necessary to assist the Department in responding to an emergency resulting in an order pursuant to subsection D of § 45.1-361.27. No such Department staff or state or local official shall disseminate the information further. Any information so disclosed to Department staff or state or local officials shall at all times be considered confidential and shall not be construed as publicly available. If the Director discloses such information to any state or local government official, then the Director shall notify the party that submitted the trade secret information of that disclosure as soon as practicable. No order issued pursuant to § 45.1-361.27 shall include trade secret information.

K.  The applicant for a drilling permit shall provide to the local government where a well is proposed to be located information necessary for the local government to access the Safety Data Sheets, as defined in 29 CFR1910.1200, for the chemical materials and products proposed for use in the well completion process. This information shall be provided to the local government within seven (7) days of the date the permit application is submitted to the Department.

SB 1292: FOIA; trade secrets submitted to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

Sponsor: Senator A. Benton Chafin, R-District 38, of Lebanon

As introduced, companion bill to HB 1678 (see that bill above for provisions as introduced).

Status and changes:
1/30/17 Reported from General Laws and Technology Committee with amendment defining the trade secret to be disclosed as the “recipe” of the chemical concentrations rather than just a list of chemicals used in the process (focused on “disclosure of amount of concentration of chemicals or ingredients…”).  This is the same amendment passed for companion bill HB 1678.

Referred to Finance Committee.

2/2/17 Failed to report from Senate Finance Committee (8 Yes – 8 No); bill defeated.

Current Language of Bill as of 2/16/17, describing the additional exclusion to Virginia’s FOIA:
Trade secrets, as defined in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (§ 59.1-336 et seq.), submitted to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy pursuant to requirements for disclosure of the amount or concentration of chemicals or ingredients used to stimulate a well pursuant to § 45.1-361.29 or regulations promulgated under § 45.1-361.27. In order for such trade secrets to be excluded from the provisions of this chapter, the submitting party shall (i) invoke this exclusion upon submission of the data or materials for which protection from disclosure is sought, (ii) identify the data or materials for which protection is sought, and (iii) state the reasons why protection is necessary. The Department shall determine whether the information claimed to be a trade secret is entitled to such protection.

Some News Media Items Related to the Bills

Hyperlinks were functional when the headlines were initially added to this post.

Fracking chemical recipes could be kept secret in Virginia under bill passed by HouseRichmond Times-Dispatch, 1/30/17.

Fracking bills draw concern from environmentalists, McAuliffe, [Newport News] Daily Press, 1/25/17.

Open-government advocates upset over fracking shield billFredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 1/17/17.

Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Atlantic Coast Natural Gas Pipeline Issued by FERC on December 30, 2016; Public Comment Accepted through April 6, 2017; Public Hearings to be Held Feb. 13-March 2.

On December 30, 2016, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff issued its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline.  Dominion Resources and several partners have proposed the approximately 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline from West Virginia through central Virginia to North Carolina.  According to The Roanoke Times on November 12, 2016, the partners include Dominion, Duke Energy/Piedmont Natural Gas, and Southern Company Gas.

The draft EIS is available online at https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2016/12-30-16-DEIS.asp. The public comment period on the draft EIS runs until April 6, 2017.    The FERC docket number is CP15-554-000; access to FERC documents and a place for public comments on the proposal are available online at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ferconline.asp.

According to information from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, online at http://ohvec.org/acp-deis-hearings/, FERC plans the following public hearings on the draft EIS (all begin at 5 p.m., except for the hearing on February 16 in Suffolk, Va., which will begin at 5:30 p.m.):

Monday, February 13, 2017 – Doubletree Hotel, 1965 Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville, N.C.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 – Forest Hills Middle School, 1210 Forest Hills Road, Wilson, N.C.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 – Hilton Garden Inn Roanoke Rapids, 111 Carolina Crossroads Parkway, Roanoke Rapids, N.C.

Thursday, February 16, 2017 – Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center, 100 East Constance Road, Suffolk, Va.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 – Moton Museum, 900 Griffin Boulevard, Farmville, Va.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 – Nelson County High School, 6919 Thomas Nelson Highway, Route 29, Lovingston, Va.

Thursday, February 23, 2017 – Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference, 152 Fairway Lane, Staunton, Va.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 – Highland Center, 61 Highland Center Drive, Monterey, Va.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 – Gandy Dance Theater, 359 Beverly Pike, Elkins, W.Va.

Thursday, March 2, 2017 – Marlinton Community Wellness Center, 320 9th Street, Marlinton, W.Va.

For an overview of the draft EIS and for some immediate reaction, see Long-awaited draft environmental statement on Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline released, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/30/16.

For more on this and other natural-gas issues and developments in Virginia, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, Natural Gas Drilling and Transport in Virginia under Close Scrutiny in 2014-16.

A Virginia Solar Energy Update, as of January 21, 2017: Projects Since 2015 in or Near Accomack Co., Chesterfield County, Isle of Wight County, City of Chesapake, Southampton County, Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Buckingham County, Northampton County, Rockbridge County, Clarke County, New Kent County, Albemarle County, Essex County, Powhatan County, Sussex County, Gloucester County, and Hanover County

Here are brief descriptions of some recent developments in solar energy in Virginia, from fall 2015 to January 2017 (latest addition on Jan. 21, 2017).  The items are listed in chronological order of when first added to this post.

1) On September 28, 2015, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the Commonwealth had approved the final permit needed for construction by Community Energy, Inc., of an 80-megawatt solar facility in Accomack County.  The power generated will be sold to Amazon Web Services; Amazon, headquartered in Seattle, Wash., operates several Web services facilities worldwide, including one in Fairfax County, Va.  The Accomack County solar-power facility, to be called Amazon Solar Farm US East, will cover about 900 acres and include an estimated 250,000 solar panels, making it the second-largest solar facility on the U.S. East Coast.  The Governor’s Office’s 9/28/16 news release on the project stated that the facility will “more than quadruple the amount of solar energy currently installed in the Commonwealth.”  In November 2015, Dominion Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Dominion Resources Inc. in Richmond, announced that it had acquired the project from Community Energy, Inc. Dominion expects to begin providing power from the facility in fall 2016.
Sources:
Dominion acquires Accomack solar power project, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11/16/15.
Governor McAuliffe Announces Permit for 80 Megawatt Solar Facility in Accomack County; Virginia will be home to the largest solar facility in the Mid-Atlantic and the second largest solar facility on the East Coast, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 9/28/15.
Final permit issued for Oak Hall solar plant, Delmarva Now, 9/28/15.
Amazon moving forward on Accomack solar farm, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/28/15.  Dominion acquires Accomack solar farm, Delmarva Now, 11/17/15.
Amazon seals Accomack solar power deal, Delmarva Now, 6/17/15.
Amazon Web Services to expand in Fairfax County, add 500 IT-focused jobs  , Fairfax County Economic Development Authority News Release, 5/22/13.

2) In March 2016, Dominion Virginia Power opened a 2-megawatt solar facility on 12 acres on land leased from the Philip Morris Company in Chesterfield County.  The facility cost $4.9 million and includes some 8,000 solar panels.  Solar array in Chesterfield is Virginia’s largest, for the moment, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/16/16

3) On April 20, 2016, Onancock, Va., citizen John VanKesteren told the Accomack County board of supervisors that he and his siblings plan to propose a 80-megawatt, $100 million solar energy project on 600 acres that the family owns near the county town of Tasley (the second proposed project in Accomack County, along with the Amazon-related project described above).  Another large solar project proposed in Accomack County, Delmarva Now, 4/25/16.

4) In December 2016, Dominion Virginia Power’s Woodland Solar project in Isle of Wight County began operation.  The 100-acre, 19-megawatt-capacity facility cost $44 million.  The project is owned by Dominion but is being managed by Amec Foster Wheeler (online at http://www.amecfw.com/).
Sources:
200 jobs could be opening for potential solar farm in Isle of Wight, Daily Press, 5/16/16.
Dominion’s 100-acre solar site powers up in Isle of Wight, Daily Press, 1/11/17.

5) As of June 2016, Dominion also was a partner with SunEnergy1 of North Carolina on a proposed 241-acre solar facility near the City of Chesapeake.  For more on SunEnergy1 projects, see http://www.sunenergy1.com/#!solar-project-map/u38rs.
Source:
Petition to relocate solar farm in southern Chesapeake draws more than 100 signatures, Virginian-Pilot, 6/23/16.

6) Southampton County: Community Energy Solar (headquartered in Penn.; online at https://communityenergysolar.com/) proposing a 100 megawatt-capacity, 1200-acre facility.  This would be the largest solar-energy facility in Virginia.  Community Energy Solar is also the developer of the 80 megawatt-capacity Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East in Accomack County (see item #1 above in this post).  Amazon Web Services plans to purchase power from both facilities.  Sources: Governor McAuliffe Announces Construction of Virginia’s Largest Solar Farm; New 100MW solar facility to be built in Southampton County, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 1/25/17.  Solar farm proposed near Boykins, Tidewater News, 6/16/16; and Planning commission holds workshop session on solar farm, Tidewater News, 7/22/16.

7) On August 2, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that the first solar-energy project to be used for Virginia state operations will be built by Dominion Virginia Power at Naval Air Station Oceana in the City of Virginia Beach.  The 18-megawatt capacity project is expected to begin operations in late 2017.  The Commonwealth has pledged to purchase 100 percent of the power that the facility will generate.  In December 2014, Gov. McAuliffe announced a goal for Virginia state government to acquire eight percent of its electricity (about 110 megawatts) from renewable sources by 2017.
Source:
Governor McAuliffe Announces Solar Project to Power Government Operations with Renewable Energy; The Commonwealth is partnering with Dominion and the Department of the Navy to build solar project at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/2/16.

8) On August 11, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had issued a “permit by rule” for a proposed 19.8-megawatt-capacity solar facility on about 200 acres in Buckingham County.  The facility is planned by Firestone Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Virginia Solar.  According to the Governor’s Office news release on the project, construction of the facility is expected cost $30-35 million and begin in early 2017, with completion expected later that year.
Sources:
Governor McAuliffe Announces Utility-Scale Solar Project in Buckingham County, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/11/16.
Buckingham County solar project gets go-ahead, Charlottesville Daily Progress, 8/11/16.
State approves permit for $35 million solar project in Buckingham County, Virginia Business, 8/11/16.  DEQ Approves Utility-Scale Solar Permit in Buckingham, Bacon’s Rebellion, 8/12/16.

9) On August 17, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had issued a “permit by rule” for a proposed 20-megawatt-capacity solar facility on about 185 acres in Cape Charles (Northampton County).  The “Cherrydale Project” is being proposed by Hecate Energy LLC, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. (online at http://www.hecateenergy.com/).  The electricity produced would be distributed by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and A&N Electric Cooperative system.  Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces Utility-Scale Solar Project in Northampton County; 20-megawatt facility to provide enough power to supply over 3,000 households, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/17/16.

10) On August 29, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that he had commissioned the Commonwealth’s first community solar project at the BARC Electric Cooperative facility in Rockbridge County, serving member-owners Alleghany, August, Bath, Highland, and Rockbridge counties.  According to the governor’s office’s news release on the project, “Community solar allows customers in different locations to join together to get electricity from solar power generated at a single facility, rather than each customer having to install solar on their rooftops.  BARC builds and maintains the system, allowing customers to avoid the upfront cost of installations and continued maintenance.  …The project was funded with a $500,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant through the state, and additional funding was provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development.”  Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces Virginia’s First Community Solar Project; Governor commissions BARC Electric’s solar facility for community member-owners in the region, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/29/16.

11) On September 26, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that Hecate Energy LLC (headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.; online at http://www.hecateenergy.com/) had received a state “permit by rule” to build the Clarke Solar Farm, 20-megawatt-capacity solar facility in Clarke CountySource:  Governor McAuliffe Announces Utility-Scale Solar Project in Clarke County, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 9/26/16.

12) On October 19, 2016, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that Correctional Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Virginia Solar, LLC (headquartered in Richmond; online at http://www.vasolarllc.com/), plans to build a 20-megawatt-capacity solar facility in New Kent County.  The facility received a “permit by rule” from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Construction is expected to begin in early 2017.  Source:   Governor McAuliffe Announces New Solar Facility Project in New Kent County; 20-megawatt facility to provide enough electricity to cleanly power roughly 3,400 households, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 10/19/16.

13) On October 20, 2016, solar-energy equipment was installed at six public schools in Albemarle County, totaling 1.1 megawatts of capacity.  According to a news release from the Virginia Governor’s Office, this project is “Virginia’s first public facility power purchase agreement, a partnership between the public schools and Secure Futures, a Staunton-based solar developer. …The project was partially funded by a rural development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The school [system] has entered into a power purchase agreement with Secure Futures that allows the school system to avoid paying upfront capital costs in return for paying a defined price for the energy generated over a set contract period.”  Source:  Governor McAuliffe Unveils Energy Plan Update Highlighting Achievements in Virginia Energy Economy; Announcement coincides with installation of solar panels at six Albemarle County Public Schools, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 10/20/16.

14) On January 4 2017, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that the Department of Environmental Quality had issued a “permit by rule” for two more planned solar facilities: 1) a 20 megawatt (MW)-capacity facility by Coronal Development Services on 275 acres in Dunnsville in Essex County; and 2) a 20 MW-capacity facility by Virginia Solar on 720 acres in Powhatan County.  According to the Governor’s Office news release on these permits, Virginia’s solar-energy capacity increased from 17 MW in 2014 to over 188 MW at the end of 2016.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of 2014 Virginia’s total summer electricity capacity was 26,292 MW.  Sources: Governor McAuliffe Announces 40MW of New Solar Capacity in Virginia; Permits issued for two new solar facilities in Essex County and Powhatan County, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 1/4/17.  U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Virginia Electricity Profile 2014,” online at http://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/Virginia/.

15) On January 12, 2017, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that the Department of Environmental Quality had issued a permit to Sappony Solar for a planned a 20 megawatt (MW)-capacity facility in Sussex County.  Sappony Solar is a subsidiary of Dominion Energy, Inc., which in turn is a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, based in Richmond.  More information about the project is available online at http://www.vasolarllc.com/project/sappony-solar/Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces New Solar Project in Sussex County; 20 MW project capable of powering about 3,500 homes, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 1/12/17.

16) Gloucester County: Strata Solar LLC (headquartered in Chapel Hill, N.C.; online at http://www.stratasolar.com/) proposing a 20-megawatt-capacity, $30-million facility on 202 acres.  As of January 21, 2017, the company was applying to Gloucester County for a conditional-use permit.  Source:  200-acre solar farm proposed in Gloucester County, Daily Press, 1/21/17.

17) Hanover County: SunEnergy1 (headquartered in Mooresville, N.C.; online at https://www.sunenergy1.com/) proposing a 20-megawatt-capacity facility on 222 acres; the power would be sold to Dominion Virginia Power.  As of January 19, 2017, the company’s request for a conditional-use permit had been approved by the Hanover County Planning Commission.  Source:  Hanover Planning Commission approves permit for solar panels on historic Newcastle Farm, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/19/17.