Category Archives: Energy

Atlantic Coast Natural Gas Pipeline Construction under Virginia Bottomlands is Subject of Va. Marine Resources Commission Public Hearing on March 16, 2018

On March 16, 2018, 9:30 a.m., Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) will hold a public hearing to consider the application by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, to install a natural gas pipeline beneath state-owned bottomlands.  At Newport News City Council Chambers, 2400 Washington Avenue in Newport News.  (Click on the meeting date above to access the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice of the public hearing.)

The bottomlands include the bed of 48 non-tidal streams and/or rivers with drainage areas greater than 5 square miles, 3 tidal streams, and approximately 1.6 acres of tidal wetlands.  The waters are along the designated pipeline corridor in the counties (from west to east) of Highland, Bath, Augusta, Nelson, Buckingham, Prince Edward, Cumberland, Nottoway, Dinwiddie, Brunswick, Greensville, and Southampton and in the cities of Chesapeake and Suffolk.

Copies of the application may be examined at the VMRC Office, Habitat Management Division, 2600 Washington Avenue, Newport News, VA 23607.  Send comments or inquiries to that office.

For more information: Matt Hull, VMRC Secretary, (757) 247-2214, Matt.Hull@mrc.virginia.gov.

For more information on natural gas developments more generally in Virginia since 2015, please see this News Grouper post.

 

On Virginia Water Radio for 3-5-18: Connecting Water to Electric Utility Regulation Legislation in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of March 5, 2018, is “Virginia Electricity Regulation and Water.”  The 4 min./42 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2018/03/episode-410-3-5-18-virginia-electricity.html, focuses on the water-and-energy connections to 2018 Virginia General Assembly legislation on regulation of electric utilities in the Commonwealth.

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

Offshore Oil/Gas Drilling in Focus at March 5, 2018, Forum at Old Dominion University in Norfolk

Offshore Drilling: Perspectives to Consider” was the topic of the March 5, 2018, Blue Planet Forum, sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Old Dominion University.  The two-hour forum was held at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.  One of the featured speakers was Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

For more information, visit http://www.cbf.org/events/virginia/blue-planet-forum/; or contact the Bay Foundation by phone (888) 728-3229 or e-mail to blueplanet@cbf.org.

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.

 

Water in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly – Bills Related to Natural Gas Pipelines

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 (LIS description of provisions edited in some cases for space or clarity).  Each bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

Several bills introduced into the 2018 Virginia General Assembly dealt with water-related impacts or landowner rights related to natural gas pipelines.  (For much more detail on natural gas issues in Virginia, please see this News Grouper post.)

The following two bills were still alive as of the morning of February 23, 2018.

SB 698 and SB 699 – Natural gas pipelines: inspections of land-disturbing activities and stop work instructions.  Both bills passed the General Assembly and were signed by the governor.   The bills, sponsored by Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-25th), authorize the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to conduct inspections of land-disturbing activities related to construction of any natural gas transmission pipeline greater than 36 inches in diameter to determine (i) compliance with annual standards and specifications, (ii) compliance with any site-specific plans, and (iii) if there have been or are likely to be adverse impacts to water quality as a result of such land-disturbing activities; and would authorize the DEQ to issue a stop-work instruction on the relevant part of the site when the department that there has been a substantial adverse impact to water quality or that a substantial and imminent adverse impact to water quality is likely to occur as a result of such land-disturbing activities.

The following five bills failed (bills below are listed in order by bill number, with House bills listed before Senate bills).

HB 1141 – Interstate natural gas pipeline; Virginia Water Protection Permit; regulations. This bill failed in the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.  The bill, sponsored by Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11th), would have directed the State Water Control Board (SWCB), to do the following in the case of interstate natural gas pipeline projects: require both a Virginia Water Protection Permit and an Individual Water Quality Certification under Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act; review water body crossings, construction through karst terrain, and plans for control of erosion, sediment, and stormwater; prohibit any land-disturbing activity, including tree felling, prior to the issuance of a Water Quality Certification; and require horizontal directional drilling for certain crossings of large water bodies.

HB 1187Natural gas companies; right of entry upon property.  This bill failed in the House Committee on Commerce and Labor.  The bill, sponsored by Del. Chris Hurst (D-12th), would have put additional conditions on the permission for natural gas companies to enter upon real property for the purpose of conducting surveys and other tests for its proposed line or the location of facilities.  The companion bill in the Senate was SB 324, sponsored by Sen. John Edwards (D-21st); that bill failed in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.

HB 1188 – Natural gas pipelines; contingency plan; operation; discharge; penalty.  This bill failed in the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.  The bill, sponsored by Del. Chris Hurst (D-12th), would have required the operator of any natural gas pipeline of a certain size, prior to operation, to commission an independent test of the quality of groundwater for each property in the right-of-way and to file a gas discharge contingency plan that is approved by the State Water Control Board; authorizes the Board to adopt regulations requiring testing and inspection of the pipeline and annual retesting of ground water at properties in the right-of-way and a demonstration of financial responsibility by the operator; prohibited the discharge of gas, establishing penalties for those discharging or causing or permitting a discharge or a substantial threat of such discharge, establishing legal liability and defenses, and requiring any person discharging gas immediately to report it to the Board and to local authorities.

HB 1294 – Interstate natural gas pipeline construction; water quality impact bond; statewide halt.  This bill failed in the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.  The bill, sponsored by Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11th), would have required any company that plans to construct an interstate natural gas pipeline in Virginia to post a performance bond with the State Water Control Board (SWCB) in an amount sufficient to ensure that the Board could address and remediate any adverse water quality impact that arises out of the construction; and provided that, if the SWCB determines that construction activity has caused or threatens to cause an adverse water quality impact, the SWCB shall undertake conservation action to address and remediate the identified water quality impact and issue an order to halt any construction on each interstate natural gas pipeline under construction in Virginia.

News Media Items Related to This Legislation
Northam adds powers to protect Virginia’s clean water ahead of pipeline construction, WTKR TV-Norfolk, 3/18/18.

Pipeline bills pass Senate, Bath Recorder, 2/7/18.

General Assembly panel kills pipeline bills by Dels. Chris Hurst and Sam Rasoul, Roanoke Times, 2/6/18.

‘Democratic Caucus of SWVA’ introduce bills to support landowners during pipeline disputes, WDBJ TV-Roanoke, 1/11/18.

Southwest Va. lawmakers push legislative package aimed at reforming pipeline regulation, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/11/18.

Water in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly: Coal Ash Management 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 are edited in some cases for space or clarity.  Each bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

Several bills were introduced in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly on management of ponds that contain coal-combustion residuals, also called coal ash, by power plants in the Commonwealth.  One bill—SB 807—passed.

SB 807 – Electric utilities; coal combustion residuals units; beneficial use projects.  This bill passed the Senate 37-3 on 2/13/18.  A substitute version passed the House 97-0 on 3/6/18, and the Senate then passed the House substitute 37-4 on 3/7/18.  As of 3/27/18, the governor had not acted to sign, amend, or veto the bill.  Sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), the bill would direct the director of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to suspend, delay, or defer the issuance of any permit to provide for the closure of any coal combustion residuals (CCR, or coal ash) unit until July 1, 2019, other than for a permit required for impoundments where coal ash has already been removed and placed in another impoundment on site, is being removed from an impoundment, or is being processed in connection with a recycling or beneficial use project.  The measure also requires the owner or operator of any CCR surface impoundment that is located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to determine (i) the quantity of coal ash that may be suitable for recycling in each CCR surface impoundment located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, (ii) the cost of recycling such coal ash, and (iii) the potential market demand for material recycled from such coal ash; and that, no later than November 15, 2018, the owner or operator of each CCR surface impoundment or other CCR unit to which this act applies shall transmit a business plan—compiling the information related to clauses i., ii., and iii., above—to the governor, certain General Assembly committee chairs, and the directors of the departments of Environmental Quality and Conservation and Recreation.

Following are descriptions and the status of five other coal ash-related bills that were introduced into the 2018 session.

HB 467 – Coal ash: recycling or reuse as preferred disposal method.  The bill failed in the House Commerce and Labor Committee on 2/13/18.  The bill, sponsored by Del. Lee Carter (D-50th), would have prohibited of coal ash except by recycling or beneficial reuse (with certain exceptions).

SB 765 – Coal ash ponds: mandatory testing of drinking water wells in Chesapeake Bay watershed.  This bill was carried over to 2019 in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.  The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), would require the owner or operator of any coal ash pond in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that is closed by capping in place to complete a survey of all drinking water wells within one mile of the pond; require the utility to commission an independent well water test on behalf of the owner of each such well and conduct such a test once per year during each of the five years following the approval of the closure of the coal ash pond, and once every five years thereafter; require the utility to proved alternative water supplies to the owner of any well where tests exceed groundwater quality standards for constituents associated with coal ash; and require the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to consider the results of the tests in its permitting, monitoring, or enforcement proceedings.

SB 767 – Coal ash ponds: delay of closure permit issuance for certain flaws in closure plans.  This bill was carried over to 2019 in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.   The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), would authorize the director of the DEQ to delay the issuance of a permit for the closure of a coal ash pond in the Chesapeake Bay watershed if the DEQ determines that the closure plan shows any insufficiency or flaw, including a failure to account for the possibility of leakage.

SB 768 – Electric utilities: limits on recovery of costs associated with closure in place of coal ash facilities.  This bill was carried over to 2019 in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.   The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), would direct that in State Corporation Commission (SCC) reviews of investor-owned electric utilities, any costs incurred by the utility that are associated with closure in place of a coal ash landfill or surface impoundment are to be considered “unreasonable and not prudent”; and would direct that, for purposes of any rate adjustment clause for recovery of environmental costs, costs associated with closure in place of such a landfill or impoundment are not necessary to comply with any environmental law or regulation.

SB 808 – Electric utilities; Transitional Rate Period, coal combustion residuals landfills.  This bill was carried over to 2019 in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.   The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36th), would change the duration of the Commonwealth’s current Transitional Rate Period (Period) for any Phase II Electric Utility, and provide that during the first biennial review after the Period, the State Corporation Commission shall determine whether the utility would have owed customers a refund during any test period in the Transitional Rate Period, and, if so, the utility may elect to expense up to 80 percent of costs associated with closure by removal of coal combustion residuals landfill or surface impoundments against its overearnings.  The measure would require the owner or operator of any coal combustion residuals unit to submit reports on the costs associated with removal of coal combustion residuals landfill or surface impounds.

News Media Items Related to This Legislation

House panel next to consider Senate coal ash legislation, Virginia Business, 2/20/18.

Bill delays closing coal ash ponds, Chesterfield Observer, 2/14/18.

Coal ash dispute headed for more study under bill that clears Senate committee, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/7/18.  Finding a coal ash fix: Legislators propose different options for Dominion waste, Inside NoVa, 1/20/18.

State lawmakers face continuing Bay debates in 2018, Bay Journal, 1/3/18.

Water in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly: Electric Utility Rate Review 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.  Each bill number is hyperlinked to the LIS entry for that bill.

Two complicated companion bills generating much discussion in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly change the rate-review structure set up in 2015 General Assembly legislation for Virginia’s two large electric utilities, Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power Company (a subsidiary of American Electric Power).  The bills have water connections because energy use in general is connected in various ways to water use and impacts, and because these bills have requirements for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and grid modernization (including burying of transmission lines to reduce vulnerability to storms).

HB 1558Electric utility regulation; grid modernization, energy efficiency programs.  This bill passed the House 63-35 on 2/13/18; a substitute version passed the Senate 27-13 on 3/1/18; the Senate sustitute was rejected by the House and a conferenc committee failed to move the bill forward.  The bill was sponsored by Del. Terry Kilgore (R-1st) of Gate City.

SB 966, sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner (R-7th) of Virginia Beach, passed the Senate 26-13 on 2/9/18; a substitute version passed the House 65-30 on 2/26/18.  The House substitute passed the Senate 26-14 on 2/28/18 and was approved by the governor.

The bill involves regulation of the Commonwealth’s two regulated electric utility monopolies, Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power.  The bill changes the review periods that were set in legislation passed in 2015 in response to the federal Clean Power Plan regulation, which the Trump Administration moved to rescind, starting in March 2017 (see the March 28, 2017, Executive Order at this link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-executive-order-promoting-energy-independence-economic-growth/).  The bill also makes public interest determinations on three issues specifically relevant to water: investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency (including weatherization), and grid modernization, including putting transmission lines underground to protect against storm damage.  Please see the LIS entry (click on the bill number above) for a much more detailed summary of this complicated bill’s many provisions.

 

Click here for an excerpt from the February 8, 2018, discussion of this HB 1558 (the version at that time) in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.  The excerpt audio is 26 min./13 sec.  This excerpt was taken from video of that committee’s February 8, 2018, meeting, available online at http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00304/Harmony/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2?fk=1179&viewMode=2.  In the video of the complete committee meeting, HB 1558 is taken up at about 3:27 p.m. (time is shown under the video) and the discussion of this bill continues for about 1 hour and 27 minutes.

News Media Items Related to This Legislation

With few remaining detractors, bill overhauling utility regulation advances, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/26/18.

Utility overhaul passes House, but with a big amendment to address “double dip,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, as published by Roanoke Times, 2/13/18.

Electric utility regulation bill advances in both chambers, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/8/18.

State regulators say proposed utility overhaul still limits ability to issue refunds, lower rates, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/7/18.

Bill to undo controversial utility rate freeze faces unfriendly panel Monday as Dominion-favored plan is developed, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/13/18.