Category Archives: Water and Economics

Items related to government budgets, grants, user fees, costs, and other aspects of paying for water supplies, water quality, or aquatic habitats.

Water in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly: Land Preservation Tax Credit 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 165 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.

HB 1470, Land preservation tax credit limitations.  Sponsored by Del. R. Lee Ware (R-65th District), of Powhatan, this bill failed in the House Finance Committee.  The bill would have imposed a $2 million limit on the amount of credits that may be claimed for each land conveyance; a $20,000 limit on the annual amount of credits that may be claimed by each taxpayer; a $50,000 cap on the annual amount of credits that may be claimed for a fee simple donation of land to the Commonwealth; and a $50 million cap on the maximum annual amount of credits that may be issued to all taxpayers.

HB 2150, Land preservation tax credit limitations per taxpayer.  Sponsored by Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-63rd District), of Petersburg, this bill failed in the House Finance Committee.  The bill would have extended to taxable year 2017 the $20,000 limit on the amount that a taxpayer may claim per year under the land preservation tax credit, retaining the $50,000 limit for each subsequent taxable year.

SB 963, Land preservation tax credit limitations per taxpayer.  Sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hanger, Jr. (R-24th District), of Mount Solon, passed the Senate on February 3, and as of February 8, was in the House Finance Committee.  A companion bill to HB 2150 (above), the bill would extend to taxable year 2017 the $20,000 limit on the amount that a taxpayer may claim per year under the land preservation tax credit, retaining the $50,000 limit for each subsequent taxable year.

SB 1540, Certain tax credits aggregate caps.  Sponsored by Sen. Glen Sturtevant (R-10th District), of Midlothian, this bill failed in the Senate Finance Committee.  The bill would have reduced the total aggregate caps of the historic rehabilitation tax credit, the research and development expenses tax credit, the major research and development expenses tax credit, and the land preservation tax credit over a period of 10 years, so that no credits were available for any of the credits beginning in 2027.

Related News Media Item

Va. Senate panel kills Sen. Glen Sturtevant’s bill to cap and phase out historic rehab tax credits, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/31/17.

Virginia Environmental Endowment Marks 40th Anniversary on February 1, 2017; Founding Originated from Kepone Contamination of James River

On February 1, 2017, the Virginia Environmental Endowment observes its 40th anniversary, and the event was recognized in a proclamation from Gov. Terry McAuliffe.  Following is some key information about the VEE, excerpted from the governor’s proclamation; the full proclamation is available online at https://governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/proclamations/proclamation/40th-anniversary-of-the-virginia-environmental-endowment/.
“[The Virginia Environmental Endowment was created on February 1, 1977, as a nonprofit grant-making organization for the purpose of improving the quality of Virginia’s environment.

“[The] initial funding for the Endowment arose out of an environmental enforcement action surrounding the polluting of the James River with the pesticide Kepone, and additional funds from other environmental settlements expanded the Endowment’s grant-making capacity to include the Kanawha and Ohio River Valleys of Kentucky and West Virginia.

“[The] mission of the Endowment is to improve the quality of the environment by using its capital, expertise, and resources to prevent pollution, conserve natural resources, and promote environmental literacy.

“[The] Endowment has awarded over 1,200 grants to nearly 500 partner organizations totaling over $27 million since 1977 [and…] the Endowment leveraged its funding to achieve over $70 million in environmental improvement.”

More information about the VEE is available online at http://www.vee.org/; or contact the organization at P.O. Box 790, Richmond, VA 23218-0790; (804) 644-5000; e-mail: info@vee.org.

Virginia Farmland Preservation Grants for Fiscal Year 2017 Announced on January 4, 2017

On January 4, 2017, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office announced recipients of farmland-preservation grants for Fiscal Year 2017.  Following is an excerpt from the news release on the grants:

“The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (VDACS) Office of Farmland Preservation has awarded a total of $500,000 to six localities.  Localities must use the grants to permanently preserve working farmland within their boundaries through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs.  PDR programs compensate landowners who work with localities to permanently preserve their land by voluntarily securing a perpetual conservation easement.  VDACS allocated nearly $87,000 each to Albemarle, Fauquier, and Clarke counties as well as the cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.  Warren County will receive more than $65,000.  These grant allocations bring the total allocation of state matching funds to more than $11.9 million since 2008 when PDR funds were first distributed. …

“This is the tenth time that the Commonwealth has provided state matching funds for certified local PDR programs.  Of the 22 local PDR programs in Virginia, 18 have received local funding over the past few years.  To date, more than 11,400 acres on 80 farms in 15 localities have been permanently protected in part with $10.5 million of these funds.  Additional easements are expected to close using the remaining funds over the next two years.

“Localities interested in creating a PDR program or applying for future rounds of grant applications for PDR matching funds should contact the VDACS Office of Farmland Preservation Coordinator Andy Sorrell at Andrew.Sorrell@vdacs.virginia.gov or call (804) 786-1906.”

Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces $500,000 in Farmland Preservation Grants; Four counties, two cities receive funds to place working farmlands under permanent conservation easements, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 1/4/17.

More information from the VDACS on farmland preservation is available online at http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/conservation-and-environmental-farmland-preservation.shtml.

$50-million Proposed Settlement Announced Dec. 15, 2016, for Decades-old Mercury Contamination of South River from DuPont Facility in Waynesboro

On December 15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Commonwealth of Virginia jointly announced a $50-million proposed consent decree, or settlement, with DuPont over the company’s release of mercury into the South River in the 1930s and 1940s from a chemical factory in Waynesboro.  The amount of the proposed settlement is the largest ever in Virginia for natural resources impacts.  The South River is a tributary of the South Fork Shenandoah River, in the Shenandoah/Potomac/Chesapeake Bay watershed.  The proposed settlement was submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, will undergo a 45-day public comment period following notification in the Federal Register, and is subject to final approval by the court.  The settlement is available online at https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decree/us-et-al-v-ei-du-pont-de-nemours-and-company.

south-river-foreground-joining-north-river-at-port-republic-dec16-09-2-used-grouper-12-16-16

South River (foreground) confluence with North River at Port Republic, Va. (Rockingham County), to form the South Fork Shenandoah River, Dec. 16, 2009.  This confluence is about 25 river miles downstream (north) of Waynesboro.

Following is an excerpt from the news release of the settlement,  Public and Environment to Benefit from $50 Million Proposed Settlement for Natural Resources Harmed by Virginia Dupont Facility; Officials Announce Largest Natural Resource Damage Settlement in Virginia’s History, U.S. Department of Justice, 12/15/16:

“The Departments of Justice and the Interior joined with the Commonwealth of Virginia today to announce a proposed settlement with DuPont valued at approximately $50 million to resolve claims stemming from the release of mercury from the former E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) facility in Waynesboro, Virginia.  Over 100 miles of river and associated floodplain have been contaminated by mercury in the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River watershed.

“In addition to a cash payment of just over $42 million, DuPont will fund the design and implementation of significant renovations at the Front Royal Fish Hatchery, estimated to cost up to $10 million. ….

“DuPont will provide the funds to government natural resource trustees, who will oversee the implementation of projects compensating the public for the natural resource injuries and associated losses in ecological and recreational services, such as fishing access.

“The trustees, through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Commonwealth of Virginia, invite feedback on actions to restore the river and wildlife habitat and improve public lands and recreational resources.  A draft restoration plan and environmental assessment (RP/EA) was also released today for a 45-day public comment period.  The plan results from stakeholder meetings beginning in 2008 to determine how best to compensate the public for the injured natural resources and their uses. …

“Since 2005, DuPont and the trustees have worked cooperatively to assess and identify potential restoration projects to benefit natural resources affected by mercury releases from the DuPont facility.  Over 100 miles of river and thousands of acres of floodplain and riparian habitat were impacted from the mercury.  Some of the assessed and impacted natural resources include fish, migratory songbirds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.  Recreational fishing opportunities were also impacted from the mercury. …

“Mercury released into the South River from the DuPont facility in the 1930s and 1940s continues to persist in the environment. Monitoring data collected over the last 20 years indicates that mercury levels remain stable, with no clear decreases over time.  Federal law seeks to make the environment and public whole for injuries to natural resources and ecological and recreational services resulting from a release of hazardous substances to the environment.

“The trustees evaluated a range of restoration alternatives and have ultimately proposed a preferred restoration alternative that includes projects that best meet the requirement that restoration efforts specifically focus on the injured resources.  Proposed projects include [the following]:

*land protection, property acquisition, improvements to recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat restoration;
*improvements to water quality and fish habitat through activities such as streamside plantings and erosion control, as well as stormwater pond improvements;
*mussel propagation and restoration to improve water quality, stabilize sediment and enhance stream bottom structure;
*Front Royal Fish Hatchery (in Warren County, Va.) renovations to improve production of warm-water fish such as smallmouth bass;
*recreational fishing access creation or improvement;
*migratory songbird habitat restoration and protection.

“The draft RP/EA outlines these proposed projects, as well as other restoration alternatives and an evaluation of injuries to the natural resources. It is available online, along with other information on the process, at www.fws.gov/northeast/virginiafield/news/news.html.

“The trustees will host a public meeting to summarize key components of the draft restoration plan and answer questions.  The public meeting will be held on Jan. 10, 2017, at the Waynesboro Public Library lower level meeting room from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM.  The library is located at 600 S. Wayne Avenue, Waynesboro, Virginia, 22980.  Following the comment period, the trustees will review and consider comments and prepare the final RP/EA.  Ultimately, the trustees will work with project partners such as local, state, and federal agencies; nonprofit organizations; and landowners to implement the projects.”

Additional sources:
DuPont agrees to pay $50M in record-setting settlement for river contamination near Waynesboro, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/15/16.
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “South River,” online at https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/waterbody/south-river/.

Additional news accounts of the settlement (most recent listed first):

Waynesboro ‘stunned’ by South River restoration plan, Staunton News Leader, 1/31/17.  [Excerpt: “Waynesboro city officials were critical of the draft restoration plan for the South River proposed by the trustees of the DuPont settlement funds in the formal comments the city submitted late Monday afternoon, requesting the trustees alter the plan to work directly with the city on a project.”]

People in Waynesboro Learn About Environmental Draft Restoration Plan, WVIR TV-Charlottesville, 1/10/17.

Community gets first look at Dupont draft restoration plans, WHSV TV-Harrisonburg, 1/10/17.

Public comment curbed at DuPont meeting, Waynesboro News Virginian, 1/10/17.

W&M aided in $50M DuPont draft settlement over mercury contamination, Daily Press, 12/20/16.  [Excerpt: “Years of research by a College of William and Mary ornithologist into toxic mercury’s effects on birds is a key component of a historic $50 million proposed environmental settlement announced last week between state and federal officials and the chemical giant DuPont.”]

Waynesboro Taking Next Steps in DuPont Settlement, WVIR TV-Charlottesville, 12/20/16.

DuPont agrees to pay $50 million to restore contaminated Virginia rivers, Bay Journal, 12/15/16.

DuPont agrees to $50 million settlement for South River mercury contamination, Waynesboro News Virginian, 12/15/16.

DuPont agrees to $50 million deal to clean up mercury pollution from Va. plant, Washington Post, 12/15/16.

USGS 104G Water Resources Research National Competitive Grants Program Request for Proposals (RFP), FY 2017; Pre-proposals Due to Respective State Water Center or Institute by Feb. 15, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the National Institutes for Water Resources (NIWR), requests proposals for matching grants from the National Competitive Grants Program, under section 104-G of the federal Water Resources Research Act of 1984.  The grants are intended to support research on the topic of improving and enhancing the nation’s water supply, including the following specific areas of inquiry (levels of priority are not assigned, and the order of listing does not indicate the level of priority):
–Evaluation of innovative approaches to water treatment, infrastructure design, retrofitting, maintenance, management, and replacement;
–Exploration and advancement of our understanding of changes in the quantity and quality of water resources in response to a changing climate, population shifts, and land use changes;
–Development of methods for better estimation of water supply, both surface and groundwater, including estimation of the physical supply and of the economic supply of water;
–Development and evaluation of processes and governance mechanisms for integrated surface/ground water management; and
–Evaluation and assessment of conservation practices.

This program provides university researchers with up to $250,000 for projects of 1 to 3 years in duration.  Any investigator at an accredited institution of higher learning in the United States is eligible to apply for a grant through a Water Research Institute or Center established under the provisions of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984, as amended (http://water.usgs.gov/wrri/institutes.html).  Grants require a 1:1 non-federal match.  The intent of the program is to encourage projects with collaboration between universities and the USGS.  As of December 2016, funds had not yet been appropriated for this program for Fiscal Year 2017.

The Request for Proposals (RFP), online at https://niwr.net/public/get_RFP/?type=104G, gives information on the electronic application-filing process and on previous funding, including award amounts and funding success rates.  The 104G application process requires a pre-proposal to the principal investigator(s)’ respective water center or institute by February 15, 2017, 5:00 PM.  Please see http://water.usgs.gov/wrri/index.php to find your respective state water center or institute.  After the pre-proposals are evaluated, a certain number of investigators will be invited to submit full proposals, which are due by June 1, 2017.

If you are a water-resources researcher at an accredited institution of higher education in Virginia and you are interested in submitting a proposal, please contact the Virginia Water Resources Research Center Associate Director Kevin McGuire (540-231-6017; kevin.mcguire@vt.edu).  Pre-proposal and budget must be submitted by 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, February 15, 2017, via e-mail to water@vt.edu.

Request for Wetland Mitigation Proposals in Roanoke River Basin in Virginia – Deadline to Submit Proposals is March 10, 2017

Through March 10, 2017, The Nature Conservancy is soliciting proposals for wetlands mitigation in the Roanoke River basin in Virginia.  Information about the solicitation is available online at http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/virginia/explore/vartf-roanoke-wetland-mitigation.xml.

According to the announcement at that site, “The purpose of the project is to provide wetland mitigation to offset unavoidable impacts for which the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund was utilized as the compensatory mitigation.  The Conservancy is seeking projects that will deliver 10 or more non-tidal wetland credits and can service multiple HUCs [hydrologic units] in the Roanoke River basin.  The primary objectives are to restore, enhance, and/or preserve wetland systems to address the credit needs in the Roanoke River Basin.  In general, wetland mitigation [comprises] activities that create, restore, enhance, or preserve wetland resources.  Such activities improve wetland functions and may result in gain of wetland acreage in the case of creation and restoration.”

More information about the Virginia Aquatic Trust Fund is available from The Nature Conservancy online at http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/virginia/explore/the-virginia-aquatic-resources-trust-fund-home.xml.

More information about mitigation generally in Virginia is available from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WetlandsStreams/Mitigation.aspx.

Abandoned Coal Mine Clean-up Examined in Nov. 28, 2016, PBS NewsHour Report

On November 28, 2016, the PBS NewsHour aired a 5 min./25 sec. report on coal mine reclamation and particularly on clean-up of abandoned coal-mining sites.  “Why cleaning up abandoned coal mines is so important — and difficult,” available online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/cleaning-abandoned-coal-mines-important-difficult/, discusses issues of waste left at abandoned mines, reclamation at active mines, potential water-quality impacts of abandoned mine wastes, and funding.  The report includes examples from Pennsylvania and Wyoming.