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.