Category Archives: Laws&Regs

Hydraulic Fracturing can be Prohibited by Virginia Localities, According to May 8, 2015, Formal Opinion by Attorney General

On May 8, 2015, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a formal opinion that the Virginia Code allows localities to use land-use or zoning ordinances to prohibit hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for natural gas.  The process injects large amounts of water, containing various chemicals, into underground gas- or oil-bearing formations in order to break out the gas or oil.

Mr. Herring’s opinion contrasted with an opinion issued in 2013 by then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  Mr. Herring issued his opinion in response to a request from Virginia State Senator Richard Stuart of Stafford County.  The opinion comes amid widespread debate in Virginia over current proposals to build pipelines that would transport gas produced by fracking, and over recent activity in eastern Virginia to purchase leases for fracking operations.  The opinion is available online (as PDF) at

King George officials debate a fracking ban after attorney general’s ruling, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 5/24/15; and Attorney General: Localities can ban fracking, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 5/9/15.

For more on the current scrutiny in Virginia over natural gas, please see this ongoing Grouper post: Potential Natural Gas Drilling and Transport in Virginia under Close Scrutiny in 2014-15.

Much more information on hydraulic fracturing is available in the series of Grouper posts available at this link:

Virginia Water-related Government Meetings for May 20–June 2, 2105

For more information, click on underlined meeting dates. Click here for the Commonwealth Calendar listing of all government meetings open to the public, and here for the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall listing of all government meetings of a regulatory nature.

For other, non-governmental, events, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, Quick Guide to Virginia Water-related Events.


5/20/15, 9:30 a.m.: Soil and Water Conservation Board. At the Virginia Department of Forestry, 900 Natural Resources Drive in Charlottesville.

5/20/15, 10 a.m.: Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority.  At Virginia Commonwealth University East Engineering Hall, 401 West Main Street in Richmond.

5/21/15, 9 a.m.: Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services. At the Virginia State Capitol, Senate Room 3, 1000 Bank Street in Richmond.

5/21/15, 10 a.m.: Department of Health’s Waterworks Advisory Committee. At Sydnor Hydro, 2111 Magnolia Street in Richmond.

5/26/15, 9 a.m.: Gas and Oil Board. At the Russell County Office Building, 139 Highland Drive in Lebanon.

5/26/15, 9:30 a.m.: Marine Resources Commission. At 2600 Washington Avenue in Newport News.

5/28/15, 9 a.m.: Board for Waterworks and Wastewater Works Operators and Onsite Sewage System Professionals. At the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, 9960 Mayland Drive in Richmond.

5/28/15, 10 a.m.: Board of Conservation and Recreation. At Shenandoah River State Park, 350 Daughter of Stars Drive in Bentonville (Warren County).

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For meetings of legislative committees and commissions, see Links to information about General Assembly commissions, councils, and special interim committees coordinated by the Division of Legislative Services are available online at

None during this period.

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For more information about TMDLs in Virginia, click here for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality TMDL Web site; click on “Public Notices” in the menu to the left to access upcoming meetings and public-comment periods. A search tool to find approved TMDL reports is available at

5/20/15, 2 p.m., on the TMDL study of aquatic life (benthic) impairment in North Fork Catoctin Creek, located in the Potomac River basin in Loudoun County. At the Purcellville Library, 220 East Main Street in Purcellville.

5/26/15, 6 p.m., on the TMDL implementation plan for bacteria and sediment impairments in Chestnut Creek, in the New River watershed in Carroll and Grayson counties and in the City of Galax. At the Galax Public Library, 610 West Stuart Drive in Galax.
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(topics listed alphabetically)

Biosolids (Treated Sewage Sludge) Land-application Permit Requests
5/27/15, 7 p.m.: On the permit application by Synagro Central, LLC, of Champlain, Va., to land-apply biosolids on about 1513 acres in Prince George County.  At the county administration building, 6602 Courts Drive in Prince George.

Infrastructure Construction Funding
6/2/15, 9 a.m.: Virginia Resources Authority Board of Directors.  At the VRA Office, 1111 East Main Street, Suite 1920, in Richmond. On June 1, the following committees and subcommittees meet at the same location (click on meeting times for more information): Continuing Disclosure Cooperation Subcommittee, 12:30 p.m.; Personnel Committee, 2:30 p.m.; Budget Committee, 4 p.m.

Scenic Rivers
5/20/15, 1 p.m.: Goose Creek Scenic River Advisory Board. At the Loudoun County Government Center in Leesburg.

5/21/15, 2 p.m.: Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Stormwater Stakeholder Advisory Group/Wordsmithing Workgroup.  At the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Central Office, 629 East Main Street in Richmond.  On 5/22/15, 9 a.m., the Group’s Enforcement Workgroup meets at the same location.  On 5/26/15, 1 p.m., the Group’s Nutrient Trading Workgroup meets at the same location.

Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program Undergoing Federal Performance Review in 2015; Public Meeting on May 12

In spring 2015, Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program is undergoing a federal performance review as called for by Section 312 of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended.  The Program is a collaborative effort by several state agencies and local governments, under the coordination of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), to administer laws and regulations for protecting coastal resources and promoting economic health in coastal communities.

As part of the federal Section 312 review, the DEQ will hold a public meeting on May 12, 2015, 5 p.m., at the DEQ Central Office, 629 East Main Street in Richmond; click here for more information on that meeting.  Written comments are encouraged and participation at the public meeting is not required for submission of comments, which should be sent to Kenneth Walker, NOAA/NOS/OCM, 1305 East-West Highway, N/ORM7, Room 10542, Silver Spring, MD 20910; or via e-mail to  Comments are due May 15, 2015.

More information on Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program is available from the DEQ online at The Program celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011, and the Fall 2011 of Coastal Heritage, the program’s magazine, looks back at that quarter-century of work. Coastal Heritage is available online at

Coal Ash Storage Regulation Published by U.S. EPA in Federal Register on Apr. 17, 2015; Dominion to Close Ash Ponds at Four Virginia Power Stations Within Three Years

On April 17, 2015, the U.S. EPA published in the Federal Register the final version of its regulation (“final rule”) on disposal of coal combustion residuals (also called “coal ash”) from electric utilities, under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  The U.S. EPA administrator had signed the final rule on December 19, 2014.  According to the EPA’s Web site on the rule, the rule aims to address three areas of risk from coal ash disposal: leaking of contaminants into groundwater, blowing of contaminants into the air as dust, and the catastrophic failure of coal ash surface ponds.

Also on April 17, Dominion Virginia Power announced that it will comply with the new regulation by closing—within three years—coal-ash ponds at four Virginia electric-power stations: Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County, Chesapeake Energy Center in the City of Chesapeake, Chesterfield Power Station in Chesterfield County, and Possum Point Power Station in Prince William County. The process Dominion will follow includes—at minimum—draining the ponds, covering them with an impermeable liner, then covering the liner with 24 inches of soil planted with grass seed or sod. Final details of the closure process—including whether or not any of the ash will be removed—are to be determined by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities,” U.S. EPA, online at, accessed 4/22/15.

Dominion Virginia Power to close coal ash ponds in state, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/17/15.

USED Sep07 Dominion Chesterfield Power Station near plant Dutch Gap Conservation Area Jun22 2007

Dominion Virginia Power’s Chesterfield Power Station on the James River in Chesterfield County, Va., shown here in June 2007.

Virginia Toxics Release Inventory Report for 2013 Data Released March 27, 2015, by Va. DEQ

On March 27, 2015, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced publication of the latest annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), covering data reported for 2013.  This year’s report lists types and amounts of chemicals released and reported by 426 industrial operations in the Commonwealth having 10 or more employees and reaching specific minimum amounts of toxic chemicals used.  (See p. 2 in the Introduction to this year’s report for the list of criteria determining which operations must report.)

According to the DEQ’s 3/27/15 news release on the TRI report, “36 million pounds of chemicals were released on-site to the air, water and land (an increase of 10.3 percent from 2012); 67.6 million pounds of chemicals were transferred off-site for treatment, recycling, energy recovery or disposal (a 3.6 percent increase from 2012); [and] 764 million pounds of chemicals were managed on-site by treatment, recycling or energy recovery (a 1.4 percent decrease from 2012).

According to the report’s Executive Summary, the released amounts of “persistent bioaccumulative toxics” (chemicals that remain in the environment for a long time, are not easily destroyed, and can build up in body tissue)—were 219,721 pounds released on-site; 806,906 pounds transferred off-site from reporting Virginia facilities for treatment, recycling, energy recovery, or disposal; and 317,997 pounds managed on-site by treatment, recycling, or energy recovery.

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

This year’s Virginia TRI report and those from previous years are located online at

Source: Virginia issues report on chemical releases for 2013, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 3/27/15.

Lawsuit Filed by Sierra Club in March 2015 Against Dominion Virginia Power Over Coal Ash at Chesapeake Energy Center in Chesapeake, Va.

On March 19, 2015, the Sierra Club, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, filed a federal lawsuit alleging “ongoing contamination of groundwater and surrounding surface waters” from Dominion Virginia Power’s coal-fired Chesapeake Energy Center power plant in Chesapeake, Va.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, located in Norfolk, the suit alleges that the plant’s disposal of coal ash (the solid material remaining after combustion of coal to generate electric power) in storage ponds between the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River and Deep Creek (Dominion’s practice since 1953, according to the suit), have “for at least two decades” resulted in discharges to groundwater of arsenic and other heavy metals and pollutants at levels above Virginia standards, that the groundwater contaminants also reach surface waters, and that the plant’s Virginia Pollutant Elimination Discharge System (VPDES) permit does not permit such levels of discharge.

According to the WAVY-TV/Norfolk report of the lawsuit filing, Dominion stated that it stopped operation of the plant in December 2014 and is decommissioning the plant in compliance with federal and state regulations.

The plant is under a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) groundwater corrective action plan that aims to diminish the level of groundwater contaminants over time. Information on DEQ’s groundwater-monitoring program for solid-waste facilities (including coal-ash storage) is available online at

Sources: Dominion sued over Chesapeake power plant, WAVY-TV Norfolk, 3/19/15 (a PDF link to the lawsuit document filed by the SELC on March 19 was available at this site, as of 3/20/15); and Group sues Dominion over Chesapeake coal ash, Virginian-Pilot, 3/20/15.

Virginia Proposed Nonpoint Source Nutrient Credit Trading Certification Regulations Under Review in 2015; Public Hearings on 2/11/15 in Glen Allen and 2/12/15 in Roanoke

On February 11 and February 12, 2015, the Virginia State Water Control Board/Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will hold public hearings on proposed Nonpoint Source Nutrient Credits Regulations.  The hearing of February 11 will be t the DEQ PRO Training Room, 4949-A Cox Road in Glen Allen; the February 12 public hearing will be held at the DEQ Blue Ridge Regional Office, 3019 Peters Creek Road in Roanoke.

According to the Regulatory Town Hall notice about the Feb. 11 meeting, the proposed regulations would establish new Nutrient Trading Certification Regulations (4 VAC 50-80-10 et seq. in the Virginia Administrative Code) to govern the certification of certain nutrient credits.  The action may also require revisions to the Stormwater Management regulations (4 VAC 50-60) related to nutrient credit use and additional off-site options for construction activities.  The public comment period runs until 3/16/15. More information on the current proposal is available online at

Additional background: The 2012 Virginia General Assembly passed the Nutrient Trading Act (HB 176 and SB 77), which required the Soil and Water Conservation Board to adopt regulations related to certification of nutrient credits from non-point sources, including credits generated from agricultural and urban stormwater best management practices, incineration or management of manures, land use conversion, stream or wetlands restoration, shellfish aquaculture, algal harvesting, and other methods of nutrient control or removal. Since then, the program has been transferred to the State Water Control Board and the DEQ. More information about Virginia’s nutrient credit trading program is available online at