The General Assembly is considering a variety of proposals this year that could bring positive change in the Commonwealth for years to come. As of February 6, the mid-point of this year’s session, we and our partners have made significant progress on our priority issues of environmental justice, solar energy, fracked-gas pipelines, just transition and fairness for electricity ratepayers.
The session is scheduled to end Saturday, Feb. 27, which means we have just a few days left to get these bills over the finish line. See the list below, and contact your elected officials. Watch this space for future updates! (You can also check the official General Assembly website.)
In 2018, the solar industry generated $157 million in investments in Virginia — and it’s poised to do much more! But some of Virginia solar policies still stifle jobs and economic opportunity across the state. Here’s what’s on deck:
- Power Purchase Agreements (HB 2034/SB 1420): Ensures that schools and local governments in Southwest Virginia have access to this financing program so they can save money with solar power. (Sen. Edwards, Del. Hurst)
- Brightfields (HB 1925): Creates a grant program to promote renewable energy development on coal-mined sites and other brownfields. (Del. Kilgore)
- Water quality protections (SB 1311): Improves the review process for pipelines permitted by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality by (1) requiring the agency to submit “erosion and sedimentation” control plans before considering the project’s Clean Water Act certification, and (2)reducing the degree of slope that requires review from 15% or greater to 10% or greater. (Sen. McClellan)
- Adverse impacts to water (SB 1265): Strengthens DEQ’s authority to issue a stop work order for pipeline construction when adverse impacts to water quality are found. (Sen. Deeds)
- State Corporation Commission: Restores the discretion of the regulatory commission to set fair rates for electricity customers and to limit runaway profits of electric monopolies.
- HB 2200 (Del. Jones, Del. Ware)
- Customer refunds: Guarantees full refunds of the money that utilities overcharge ratepayers.
- HB 2160 (Del. Tran)
- Rate reductions: Eliminates accounting gimmicks that currently allow monopoly utilities to avoid rate reductions and empowers the SCC to set fair rates going forward.
- HB 1914 (Del. Helmer, Del. Subramanyam)
- HB 1984 (Del. Hudson)
- HB 2049 (Del. Bourne)
- Environmental Justice Act (SB 1318): Incorporates new definitions into last year’s EJ act and establishes the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice as a permanent body. (Sen. Hashmi)
- Environmental justice omnibus (HB 2074): In addition to changes reflected in SB 1318, the omnibus package (1) requires five state secretariats to develop an environmental justice policy, (2) requires local planning commissions to consider environmental justice tenets when updating their comprehensive plans, and (3) directs the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice to examine Virginia’s current air pollution monitoring practices. (Del. Simonds, Del. Keam)
- Power plant closures (SB 1247/HB 1834): Requires power plant owners to provide information about the facility’s financial status and advance notice when the plant will close to support communities in transitioning from fossil fuels. (Del. Subramanyam and Sen. Deeds)
- Gold mining (HB 2213): Establishes a study of environmental and health impacts from large-scale gold mining. (Del. Guzman)
LATEST UPDATE (Feb. 18): Both HB 2034 and SB 1420 have passed both chambers unanimously and now head to the Governor’s desk.
LATEST UPDATE (Feb. 19): HB 1925 passed the House of Delegates and the Senate Commerce unanimously and now heads to the Governor’s desk.
(Listen to our Southwest Virginia staffers Austin Counts and Chelsea Barnes testify at the subcommittee hearing on Jan. 18.)
Virginians know all too well how fracked-gas pipeline projects can wreak havoc on water quality in our streams, rivers, wetlands and drinking water sources. We’re supporting bills that would strengthen the state’s oversight and enforcement of water quality standards.
LATEST UPDATE (Feb. 23): SB1265 and SB1311 have both passed the House of Delegates.
For years, Dominion Energy has convinced state legislators to allow the utility to write its own rules and escape standard regulation of an electric monopoly. As a result, Dominion has “legally” overcharged its customers more than $500 million since 2017.
This is an outrage — especially now, as a growing number of families struggle to make ends meet during the Covid crisis. Help us convince lawmakers to stop this ratepayer ripoff by restoring full oversight of all electric utilities in the commonwealth.
COMBINED LATEST UPDATE (Feb 15): These five bills passed the House of Delegates with strong bipartisan support. Unfortunately, none made it out of Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Appalachian Voices will continue working with partner organizations at all levels — legislative, administrative, legal — to reform monopoly utilities like Dominion Energy and work toward fair electricity rates for all.
Justice for Virginia Communities
Far too many communities are impacted by industrial pollution or the threat of proposed projects, including fracked-gas facilities. Others are at risk of economic loss from the ongoing shift to cleaner energy. Help us ensure these communities have fair and equal opportunity to be involved in the decisions that impact them.
LATEST UPDATE (Feb. 18): SB 1318 passed the House Committee on General Laws 13-9, and will now head to the House floor.
LATEST UPDATE (Feb 22): HB 2074 passed the Senate Finance Committee and now goes to the Senate floor for a final vote
LATEST UPDATE (Feb. 18): SB 1247 has now passed both the House and the Senate and heads to the governor’s desk. HB 1834 passed the Senate and now heads to the House for approval of amendments made in the Senate. HB 1834 and SB 1247 are now identical and the House will accept the Senate amendments. Read the op-ed from Del. Subramanyam and Appalachian Voices’ Chelsea Barnes.
LATEST UPDATE (Feb. 16): HB 2213 passed the House of Delegates before crossover, and has now passed the Senate 23-16. It had unanimously reported from the Senate Rules Committee with an amendment that removed a proposed moratorium on gold mining while the study was conducted that was included in original bill.