Front Porch Blog

Crossover: Virginia General Assembly session reaches an important milestone

AV staff and Southwest Virginia community advocates at the capitol in January. Photo by Jen Lawhorne

AV staff and Southwest Virginia community advocates at the capitol in January. Photo by Jen Lawhorne

The Virginia General Assembly session has reached the halfway mark — and amid the highs and lows of committee decisions, hundreds of Virginians have helped advocate for critical environmental protections. Thank you for your calls and emails to legislators!

Get Involved!

Stay in the know about key bills your state legislators are voting on and make sure that they are hearing from you! Letters and phone calls from constituents can make a tremendous difference, especially at the state level. Sign up for our email list!

This year, Appalachian Voices has supported priority legislation to defend progress on climate change, protect water quality from metal mining, strengthen pipeline review, expand solar energy and protect against utility shutoffs. The General Assembly session has brought multiple successes, and some disappointing outcomes. Through all this, our team has been lobbying in the newly renovated General Assembly building, meeting with legislators and staff, and helping Virginians from across the Commonwealth connect with their legislators.

Director of State Energy Policy Peter Anderson provides expert testimony during subcommittee. Source: House of Delegates Live Stream

In our online webinar kicking off the session, we shared our 2024 priorities. Since then, we’ve been energetically highlighting select legislation by spreading the word on social media and to our email list (sign up here!) and supporting lobbying efforts at the General Assembly. All the while, Virginia Director of State Energy Policy Peter Anderson has been testifying in committee hearings and articulating Appalachian Voices’ positions on energy and environmental protection bills.

Henrico and Chesterfield county advocates at VCN Lobby Day. Photo by Virginia Conservation Network

Appalachian Voices Virginia Campaign Coordinator Matt Allenbaugh meets with Sen. David Suetterlein. Photo by Jen Lawhorne

At the end of January, members of our Southwest Virginia team traveled to Richmond to lobby, joining community advocates from the Southwest region to discuss expanding shared solar and to meet directly with legislators from their area. That same week, Appalachian Voices participated as a co-host for the January 31 Virginia Conservation Network Lobby Day, helping with constituent meetings and tabling at the crowded event. The empowering day drew over 200 participants, from first-time lobbyists to seasoned pros. The day featured impassioned speeches from multiple legislators and passionate advocates lobbying on clean water protections, tree canopy preservation, wildlife corridors and renewable energy.

What’s the latest on our legislative priorities?

This year, our legislative priorities included some defensive positions and lots of legislation for which we’ve been excited to advocate.

The General Assembly session reached its “crossover” point on Feb. 13. That means a bill must have passed a subcommittee, committee and the full House of Delegates or Senate by that date to continue to the other chamber. This sometimes means that bills have been left in committee, and were never discussed, or “continued” — or postponed — to next year. Crossover is a hectic day as legislators prepare for the second half of session and a new round of advocacy efforts.

Many bills we supported have passed the one side of the General Assembly to be heard after crossover in the House or Senate! Some of the bills which made it to crossover include:

  • HB 84: to create public notification requirements for exploratory drilling for mineral mining
  • HB 85: to prohibit the use of cyanide in mineral mining
  • HB 106 and SB 253: which expand the shared solar program in Dominion territory
  • HB 108 and SB 255: which require Appalachian Power to offer a shared solar program
  • HB 906 and SB 480: which would prevent electric, gas, water and wastewater utilities from disconnecting services to residents during a state of emergency or during extreme weather
  • SB 25 and HB 199: which remove a restriction on allocation of state funds to the Virginia Brownfield and Coal Mine Renewable Energy Grant Fund and Program

Lobbying tips

  • Email your legislator’s office to request a meeting time
  • Determine the bill you want to discuss
  • Come prepared — know the purpose of the bill you support or oppose, and bring a one-page fact sheet about the bill to leave behind with staff
  • During the meeting — keep conversation focused on why that bill is important to you and your community!
  • Or check out this lobby-how-to video

Unfortunately, some of our priorities did not pass, including HB 524, which would have required the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to expand the scope of its review of large interstate gas pipelines.

We’ve also been actively opposing SB 454, which would allow Dominion and Appalachian Power to start charging customers for licensing and early-stage development of speculative nuclear projects called small modular reactors, or SMRs, before either company even applies for permission to build one. If the General Assembly passes this bill, Virginia utility customers could get stuck paying for billions in costs with no guarantee that a SMR will actually ever be built. Unfortunately, SB 454 advanced on a 20-16 vote from the full Senate on Feb. 13 and will now crossover to the House of Delegates.

The full list of bills and their status can be found on our 2024 Virginia General Assembly landing page.

Southwest Virginia community advocates meet with Del. Sam Rasoul. Photo by Jen Lawhorne

What’s next?

Session continues until March 9, so stay tuned for more updates as legislation fails or passes, and be on the lookout for more calls to action from Appalachian Voices to contact your legislators!

Thank you for your advocacy to support our priority bills and to defend against environmental rollbacks. It’s a whirlwind of advocacy, committee testimony, disappointment and celebration, and Appalachian Voices appreciates your participation in this process!

Appalachian Voices staffers Matt Allenbaugh, Amanda Killen and Emma Kelly enjoy watching bill votes in the House Gallery Photo by Jessica Sims




AV Mountain border tan1

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment