Category Archives: Environment

Advanced Recycling: A Win-Win for Virginia

by Chris Braunlich

Candidates love to be on the side of the gods – and supporting reduced pollution and greater economic growth is a “win-win.” After all, if Virginia can use new technologies to reduce not only greenhouse gases but also what we send to landfills … while simultaneously creating new, well-paying jobs, who could oppose it?

Technological advances like those invested in by Elon Musk or Google have simultaneously lowered costs and reduced environmental threats for years. But some seem determined to have ideology stand in the way of common sense.

In 2018, more than 35 million tons of plastic municipal waste was produced: only three million tons were recycled; another five million were used for energy production. By far, the greatest amount of plastic waste was simply dumped — American landfills received 27 million tons of plastics because one of the greatest current drawbacks of recycling plastic is … it can’t all be recycled easily or efficiently. Continue reading

Cats Win Round One Over Birds At Assembly

by Steve Haner

Organized efforts to trap and sterilize feral cats, and then return them to roaming free, operate in legal limbo in Virginia. It is against the law to abandon a companion animal that you have taken into care. The latest attempt to change that has divided animal advocates into snarling camps.

Senate Bill 1390 is offered by Eastern Shore Senator Lynwood Lewis, and Tuesday received the approval of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, 11-4. It will be on the full Senate floor this week. Lewis said the purpose is to make it clear that the programs, usually run by volunteers but sometimes by professional shelter operations, are legal.

In subcommittee testimony Monday afternoon, the animal care community split right down the middle once again, basically along the same lines that form when the issue is euthanasia. An unsuccessful anti-euthanasia, or “no-kill,” bill was the fault line in last year’s earthquake, as reported on Bacon’s Rebellion. This year, it is feral cats again. Continue reading

Industrial Escape from Green Energy Costs Blocked

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s major energy-intensive industries will not get a requested path to avoid some of the coming cost shock from the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). The bill that sought them a lifeline was tied to an anvil and sunk in a House of Delegates subcommittee today.

It didn’t even help when the Virginia Manufacturing Association’s president mentioned that California is seeing the same problem for its manufacturers and is working on similar relief. Virginia companies were admonished that “they don’t want to pay their fair share,” a phrase used by opponents more than once. A Dominion Energy lobbyist said that about her best customers. Continue reading

Saving Virginia’s Old Growth Forests One Tree Stand at a Time

Chestnut Ridge Natural Area Preserve. Photo credit: PCO Pros.

by James A. Bacon

This is my kind of environmentalism: The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has purchased more than 800 acres in Giles and Bland counties to preserve two old-growth forest communities dominated by northern red oak and chestnut oak.

The old-growth communities exist in a “large matrix of nearly unbroken forest,” the extent of which is rare in western Virginia, according to the DCR website. Natural Heritage ecologists have confirmed the existence of individual trees between 300 and 400 years old.

Originally, Bob and Darlinda Gilvary, owners of Gilginia Tree Farm LCC, established a 233-acre preserve and managed the forest, selecting and harvesting individual trees themselves. They took care to leave the oldest trees and other mature stock for regeneration, reports WXFR. They also obtained a conservation easement for the land. “Years ago, my husband and I decided to keep the whole land in [the] forest. We did it to protect the environment and to protect water quality. It is important to use to leave it in good hands,” said Ms. Gilvary.

Now the state has acquired that land and added 587 acres of adjacent property. The entire 820 acres are permanently protected as part of the Virginia Natural Area Preserve System managed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program at DCR. Continue reading

CO2 Taxes, Gas Rationing Poll Badly With Voters

By Steve Haner

The Transportation and Climate Initiative plan to tax and ration motor fuels suffered a major setback just before Christmas, when eight of the eleven states considering it decided not to move forward in 2021. Less than two weeks earlier, advocates had released polling that claimed to show overwhelming popularity for the idea.  Continue reading

2020 Was To Be Year of Climate Doom

By Steve Haner

So, let’s take another trip down Climate Catastrophe Memory Lane. Maybe 2020 was not such a bad year after all. It was certainly better than it was supposed to be. The pandemic might have been just a footnote to Climate Doom.

In 1987, the official Jeremiah of the movement, NASA’s James Hansen, predicted the world’s average surface temperature would be 3 degrees Celsius hotter in 2020. Remember, only 2 degrees C of added warmth is now the Line of Doom in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Instead, the 40-year increase, by satellite measurements, has been less than one half of a degree C. All other measurements fall short of the warning.

In 1978, we were warned that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere would double by 2020, but they have risen from just over 310 parts per million to over 410, up about a third. They did not drop during the COVID recession despite major drops in human energy emissions. Interesting.

The optimists at the Associated Press published a claim in 2009 that China and India would have lower CO2 emissions by 2020 then they had reported in 2005.  China was supposed to go down 40% and India 205. Nope, failed again. China is up 85% and India up 150%. Both are building new coal power plants apace.

These are the first three failed predictions about 2020 climate catastrophe in a list of ten doozies compiled on JunkScience.com. Now there is a video (above). Miami was to be underwater by now (meaning Virginia Beach, too).  The citations are solid, and similar examples abound in the literature. Continue reading

A New Fad: Bashing Offshore Wind Turbines

By Peter Galuszka

 Offshore wind power is becoming a whipping boy even as the technology involved becomes more advanced and its costs go down.

Northwestern Europe is offshore wind headquarters globally and countries such as the United Kingdom have wholeheartedly embraced it.

Yet some critics, some of whom are supported financially by the fossil fuel industry, refuse to accept its growth and see its potential. They insist on keeping fossil fuel generating stations going that contribute to dangerous climate change. They also back nuclear plants that have a high capacity factor.

The problem is that any generating station can go offline for any number of reasons. Considering nukes, there are a few points to be made. Consider this from Power magazine:

“North Anna Power Station’s 1,865-MW twin pressurized water reactors were at full power when the quake struck on August 23, 2011, at 1:51 p.m. The quake’s epicenter was 11 miles southwest of the station in Mineral, Va. Both of the station’s units shut down immediately, automatically, and safely. As a result of the earthquake, the plant lost off-site power from the switchyard, but back-up power from diesel generators picked up the load within 8 seconds, as designed. The station returned to off-site power later that evening.” Continue reading

A Giant Wind Turbine, but Not for Virginia

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The issue of wind energy is pretty much out of my field of knowledge, much less expertise. I follow the discussion on this blog with a lot of interest.

In this vein, I found a story in today’s New York Times most interesting. It is about a giant turbine that GE is developing that is much bigger and more powerful than what is now available and is apparently shaking up the industry. That is interesting enough, but what really struck me was this passage about the advantages of the new machine:

“These qualities create a powerful incentive for developers to go for the largest machine available to aid their efforts to win the auctions for offshore power supply deals that many countries have adopted. These auctions vary in format, but developers compete to provide power over a number of years for the lowest price.”

That just underscores the point that has been frequently made on this blog: Virginia has made a huge mistake in granting Dominion Energy a monopoly in building offshore wind power.

Virginia and Other States Pass on Carbon Tax Pact

by Steve Haner

The organizers of the Transportation and Climate Initiative announced Monday that only four of the twelve jurisdictions involved have agreed to move forward and implement the carbon tax on motor fuels, and Virginia is not one of them.  Not yet.

The 2021 Virginia General Assembly could consider legislation to join the interstate compact in 2022, but the memorandum of understanding as it stands now only includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, which are contiguous, and the District of Columbia.

New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania were conspicuously absent along with Virginia.  One surprise that emerged, however, is that North Carolina is now part of the planning group.  The states that didn’t sign anything yet issued a statement of “next steps” that leaves the door open for the future.  Even those that did sign pushed the implementation back one year to 2023, reducing the need to act now.

The Governor Ralph Northam Administration has been silent so far on its plans or reasoning.  His apparent decision to at least delay a year on acting is prudent but leaves the issue alive for debate among 2021 candidates for statewide or legislative offices.  Continue reading

Tufts Study Projects Major TCI Carbon Taxes

Abandoned Gas

An abandoned gasoline station in North Carolina that failed after that state raised its fuel taxes substantially higher than Virginia’s.

By Steve Haner

Monday the organizers of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a carbon tax and rationing regime for Virginia motor fuels, will be announcing details of the underlying interstate compact, according to media reports.

The media in Virginia has been disinterested in the issue, but the debate is raging in New England. The Boston Globe set the stage with a story last week. While 12 states and the District of Columbia have been involved in the planning, there remains some suspense over which states will press forward. New Hampshire is already out, and some other governors have expressed concerns.  Continue reading

The Virginia City Boondoggle

The Virginia City hybrid energy center. Credit: David Hoffman, Flickr

By Peter Galuszka

Back in 2007, Dominion Energy was touting its new hybrid generating plant near St. Paul in Southwest Virginia as the wave of the future because it would burn coal and wood using advanced fluidized bed technologies.

But for eight months this year, the 624-megawatt Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center operated at only 20% and has never reached more than 65% capacity since going online in 2012.

Now, the utility must face the fact that it may close the plant, according to a new report by the non-profit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. Dominion has said it intends to keep the plant open.

If it closes, it would affect 153 full-time jobs and 400 additional ones. Localities would lose from $6 million to $8.5 million in taxes.

The Institute undertook its research at the request of Appalachian Voices, an environmental group. It is based on testimony provided to the State Corporation Commission by Atty. Gen. Mark Herring that ratepayers would have to shell out $472 million more than the plant is worth over the next 10 years. Continue reading

EPA: PM 2.5 At Current Levels is No Threat

Source: EPA Website.  Click to expand.

By Steve Haner

“Everything is a poison, nothing is a poison. It is the dose that makes the poison” – Paracelsus (1493-1541 AD)

A micron is a tiny thing. A grain of beach sand is about 90 microns, and a human hair 50 to 70 microns in diameter. In the coming session of the General Assembly, you are about to hear that micron-sized particles are sickening and killing you. Do not believe it.    Continue reading

Does a $9 Billion Carbon Tax Get Your Attention?

by Steve Haner

The 2021 General Assembly is now six weeks away, with the holidays in between.  We know no more about the coming Northam Administration proposal to impose a carbon tax and rationing scheme on our motor fuels than we did months ago. Keeping you uninformed may be part of the plan.

All we have is the Transportation and Climate Initiative organization’s own data and modeling, which are quite extensive.

The initial added tax per gallon of gasoline in Virginia could range from 17.5 cents to 28 cents per gallon, depending on which of the 25% reduction scenarios the still-unseen TCI memorandum of understanding uses. By 2032 the tax could range between 36 cents and 57 cents per gallon, TCI projects.  Continue reading

The Lies in “Hillbilly Elegy”

By Peter Galuszka

A 2016 memoir by J.D. Vance, a former Ohio resident, drew praise from conservatives for its laud of self-reliance and disciple and criticism from others for its long string of debunked clichés about people from the Central Appalachians.

The book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” was held up as being a great explainer as to why so many in the White lower classes voted for Trump.

Vance exalts the strength of self-discipline, family values and hard work. He complains that when he worked as a store clerk he resented it when people on welfare had cell phones but Vance couldn’t afford one. He ended up going to Yale Law School.

Vance also spends a lot of time complaining about his dysfunctional family including a nasty grandmother, a mother constantly stoned on alcohol and opioids and lots of divorce – in other words the “social rot” of the hillbilly lifestyle he so disdains.

His tie to Appalachia is a bit thin. He grew up in a suburb of Cincinnati but spent summers in Jackson in the mountains of East Kentucky.

Now director and child actor Ron Howard has made a feel-good movie from the book that stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams. It is getting lousy reviews. Continue reading

Behind Dominion’s Shift to Renewables

Image credit: Style Weekly

By Peter Galuszka

Ever wonder why Dominion Energy found religion and announced a major shift to renewable energy?

The answer is that modern, high technology businesses want it and the Richmond-based utility wants to respond to their desires.

This one of the themes in this recent cover story I did for Style Weekly that explores how Dominion’s major shift in direction is part of several dynamics that are pushing solar wind and other renewables instead of keeping on with fossil fuel.

Here’s the reporting in a nutshell:

  • Virginia’s economy is being driven more by data centers, giant box-like warehouses loaded with servers that can handle tremendous amounts of data. Northern Virginia, the incubator of the Internet, already handles about 70% to 80% of the global Net traffic and has a mature and still growing network of data centers.
  • The Northern Virginia experience is shifting downstate. Henrico County now has a partially construction data center run by social media giant Facebook. Centers have been announced or are being planned in Southside and Southwest Virginia.

Continue reading