Regional, State and National

PEC joins with partner organizations to promote thriving communities and healthy natural resources in the Shenandoah Valley, the central Piedmont, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground corridor and Northern Virginia counties.

Take Action to Support Conservation Funding

Take Action to Support Conservation Funding

At this point in the 2021 Virginia General Assembly, the House and Senate versions of the budget have passed their respective chambers and a conference committee has been assigned to work out the differences. While we believe many of our conservation funding priorities are well-positioned, we’re making a final push to help ensure they make it into the final budget. 

And that’s where you come in. The budget conferees are on an abbreviated timeline to work out any differences and decisions will be made swiftly. Now is the time for you to show support for funding that Virginia relies on to protect natural resources and farmland, and expand public access.

Though it’s always helpful for people to contact their own delegate/senator, this week the focus is on communicating with the General Assembly members in the budget conference committee. See the list below for contact information.

PEC Budget Priorities

Below is the short list of amendments/asks that PEC is focused on. For a longer list of funding priorities that our partners in the conservation community are working on, scroll down to the bottom of this page.

  • SUPPORT senate amendment 385 #1s Historic Properties Catalogue – $250,000
    This amendment by Senator McClellan provides $250,000 for the purpose of surveying of historic properties related to untold histories, providing for a more inclusive state database of historic properties.

  • SUPPORT full funding for the Farmland Preservation Fund – $2 million
    Delegate Gooditis placed an amendment in the house for $2 million. It was included in the house budget at an additional $1 million (but the senate version provides no increase). This program supports local purchase of development rights programs with matching funds.

  • SUPPORT full funding of the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation
    Full funding of this program would be $16 million according to state code. Though given the need, one could argue for even greater levels. The introduced budget contained $10 million and the house kept that amount. However, the senate budget took $3.5M out and placed a hold on an additional $5M for two specific projects.

    Ultimately, whatever the amount determined, we should not encourage the use of those funds for projects picked by the legislature (the $5M). This ignores the purpose of the independent VLCF Board appointed to make those decisions using an established criteria. If it is the will of the committee to fund the projects specified in the senate budget, then it should be accomplished through a specific allocation.

  • SUPPORT $40 million for multi-use trails in senate budget (from CARES Act)
    This funding was a welcome surprise. While the full amount is already allocated for specific projects, we welcome this infusion. This provision recognizes the importance of trails and shines a spotlight on the need for future funding.

  • SUPPORT full funding for Agricultural Best Management Practices (Ag BMPs) – $100 million
    While the house budget funded Ag BMPs at a higher level than the senate, the actual needs assessment calls for $100 million per year. This funding is critical if we are to hit the targets called for in the Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) for the Chesapeake Bay. 

  • SUPPORT $250,000 to study the health and environmental impacts of gold mining
    The house budget includes $250,000 to study the health and environmental impacts of the mining of gold, pursuant to House Bill 2213. This effort is essential if we are to ensure regulations adequately protect the public health and environment. 

Contact the Budget Conferees

Members of the House/Senate budget conference committee will ultimately decide which amendments/initiatives move forward. Please contact the conferees below to express your support for conservation funding, especially if your own delegate/senator is one of them.

House Budget Conferees

Del. Luke Torian52(703)
Del. Mark Sickles43(703)
Del. Betsy Carr69(804)
Del. Roslyn Tyler75(434)
Del. David Bulova37(703)
Del. Barry Knight81(757)
Del. Terry Austin19(540)

Senate Budget Conferees

Sen. Janet Howell32(703)
Sen. George Barker39(703)
Sen. Louise Lucas18(757)
Sen. Mamie Locke2(757)
Sen. Creigh Deeds25(434)
Sen. Tommy Norment3(757)
Sen. Emmett Hanger24(540)
Sen. Dick Saslaw (advisor)35(703)
Sen. Stephen Newman (advisor)23(434)

Conservation funding priorities for Virginia’s environmental community

*List pulled together by our partners at the Virginia League for Conservation Voters.

Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

  • $100 million per year for the Virginia Agriculture Cost Share program.
  • At least $80 million per year for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund.
  • At least $55 million per year to upgrade wastewater facilities.

Land Conservation

  • $20 million per year for the Virginia Land Conservation Fund.
  • Full funding of the Farmland Preservation Fund of $2 million.

Outdoor Recreation

  • $5 million for multi-use trail development.
  • $40 million for a statewide multi-use trail initiative.

Environmental Enforcement

  • Re-allocation of $12 million for the Department of Environmental Quality.
  • Full funding of Governor Northam’s proposed budget for all other natural resources agencies.

Specific Budget Amendments:

  • Budget item #307 #1s: $60,000 in FY22 for PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances) Drinking Water Study.
  • Budget item #124 #1h: $250,000 to study the health and environmental impacts of gold mining.
  • Budget item #385#1s: $250,000 to expand Virginia’s historical property catalogue to include underrepresented African American and indigenous communities.
  • Budget item #125 #1h: $5 million the second year from the general fund for the Electric Vehicle Rebate Fund consistent with the provisions of House Bill 1979.
  • Budget item #442 #2h: $500,000 for DRPT to study the Commonwealth’s current public transportation system focusing on the equitable delivery of transportation services and the modernization of transit in the Commonwealth.
  • Budget item 442 #3s: provides $5 million in federal funds to the Transit Ridership Incentive Program.
  • Budget item 443 #1s: provides $137.6 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Act to extend intercity passenger rail service from Roanoke to the Blacksburg-Christiansburg area and increase passenger rail service along the I-81/Route 29 Corridor from Washington, D.C.
  • Budget item #376 #1h: “Advanced Recycling Study” directs the Department of Environmental Quality to study Advanced Recycling, and report its findings to the Chairs of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources and Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources Committees by December 31, 2021.

View even more budget issues/bills that the environmental community is paying attention to this session on the Virginia Conservation Network’s website

Action Alert: Righting a Wrong – Help Bring Untold Histories to Light

Action Alert: Righting a Wrong – Help Bring Untold Histories to Light

Preserving historic resources is crucial to understanding our nation’s history. However, historic resources related to African-American and indigenous communities are woefully underrepresented in Virginia’s state database. This has resulted in important resources being overlooked or worse yet, irretrievably lost, and has meant these communities are rarely included as part of larger historic district conversations.

Action Alert: Protecting Farmland Now and For the Future

Action Alert: Protecting Farmland Now and For the Future

Farmland lost is farmland lost forever. Budget amendment 97 #2h (Gooditis) would provide an additional $2 million to the Farmland Preservation Fund grant program (current funding is only $250,000), providing much-needed matching funds and encouraging other localities to adopt Purchase of Development Rights programs of their own.

Support SB 1199 and Reject the Proposed Floor Substitute

Good news! On Tuesday, January 26, Senator Stuart’s attempt at a floor substitute for SB 1199 was defeated. This allowed the bill that came out of full committee to proceed to a floor vote. On Wednesday, January 27, SB 1199 was read a third time and passed the Senate on a 25-14 vote. You can see the full vote count here:

The bill’s house companion, HB 1760 (Webert / Gooditis), passed the house 100-0, putting the legislation on the path to final passage (barring any unforeseen mischief).

aerial image of farmland in the goose creek watershed
Aerial image of farmland in the Goose Creek watershed in Loudoun County, VA. Photo by Hugh Kenny.

A troubling development occurred Friday afternoon on the Senate floor. Our priority land conservation legislation (SB 1199 Petersen) was derailed by the introduction of an unfriendly substitute from Senator Stuart. If accepted, this change would entirely defeat the purpose of the bill. The Senate will consider the substitute during Monday’s floor session. Please ask your state senator to reject the proposed substitute and support the original legislation as passed by the full committee. 

Conservation easements are one of the most effective ways to protect farmland, forests, water quality, scenic and historic resources for current and future generations. SB 1199 preserves the integrity of all existing conservation easements, ensuring that disputes over terms are decided in favor of the conservation purpose of the easement, reflecting the intent of the original easement donor. 

Send a Letter to Your Senator

Ask your state senator to stop this substitute and support SB 1199. Take action ASAP!

More information

Read the briefing paper that PEC’s Dan Holmes wrote with Nikki Rovner from The Nature Conservancy in the Virginia Conservation Network’s Legislative Briefing Book, about the need for this legislation. Sunset over farmland in Greene County photo by Harlow Chandler.

Conservation easements are one of the most effective ways to protect farmland, forests, water quality, scenic and historic resources for current and future generations. Private landowners work with state and federal agencies, along with nonprofit land trusts, on easement terms that protect the public values laid out in the Virginia Conservation Easement Act and the Open-Space Land Act.

These easements are legally binding agreements that stay with the land in perpetuity, ensuring that their natural and cultural resources are protected even if the property is sold. Although rare, there have been several recent legal cases in which new landowners dispute the land uses that are and are not permitted under the conservation easement.

A 2016 Virginia Supreme Court ruling made clear that legislation is needed to clarify how courts should handle these disputes. The introduced bills SB 1199 (Petersen) and HB 1760 (Webert/Gooditis) would direct the courts to interpret the easement terms based on the original intent of the conservation easement donation and their protection of public benefits.

What Does 2021 Hold for Conservation?

The 2020 Special Session, focused on resolving budget issues stemming from Covid and addressing police and criminal justice reform, has ended just in time for the holidays. But as in the movie Groundhog Day, now we prepare to do it all over again. Virginia’s 2021 legislative session opens on Jan 13 and will prove no less challenging than the special session. At this moment, details are still fluid, but here is what we know.

Take Action: Help Save Metro and Other Public Transit!

Take Action: Help Save Metro and Other Public Transit!

empty metro car
Photo by M.V. Jantzen, Flickr.

Congress needs to pass a stimulus package with $32 billion in emergency operations funds for transit agencies across the country. Send a quick email to your Representative and Senators using this campaign set up by our colleagues at The Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Once we have widespread access to a COVID vaccine and our region fully re-opens, we need a transit system that works, for all who need it, when they need it. On top of that, more people staying at home during the pandemic has highlighted how much individual vehicles contribute to air pollution. A well-functioning Metro is critical for reducing those greenhouse gas emissions by giving people public transportation alternatives and reducing pressure to expand highways and sprawling development into rural areas.

This stimulus package funding would help cover the collapse in fare revenue, maintain service, prevent service disruption, and provide support for health safety measures that are currently under threat from WMATA’s expected $500 million budget shortfall for FY2022. 

Local comprehensive plans in places like Loudoun County depend on a functioning Metro system to balance development and conservation. Regional land use and transportation plans are built around reliable weekday, weeknight and weekend service. This is not just a local and regional priority either – it is essential infrastructure that makes it easier for people to work at or travel to the federal government and other important institutions.

And most of us either use Metro or have family, friends, employees, or community members who depend on the opportunities and service it offers. 

In short, we need to support Metro to protect our workforce, environment, and economy.

The following was an email alert sent out by our colleagues at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which is a division of PEC that promotes walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities in the Washington D.C. region.

Take action so we don’t lose decades of progress

Last week, WMATA released some very grim news regarding their upcoming fiscal year 2022 budget which begins July 1. If Congress cannot pass a stimulus package soon, we will lose decades of hard-fought progress on transit expansion and service improvements. Facing a $500 million budget shortfall, the proposed FY22 budget would:

  • End weekend rail service 
  • Cease rail service at 9pm daily
  • Close 19 Metro stations
  • Slash bus service

Our region relies on WMATA to transport essential workers, keep vehicle emissions low, and stimulate economic activity. These cuts, on top of those already proposed for January 1, threaten the progress made from decades of advocacy, but we’re not ready to give up.

Though this proposed budget is bleak, all hope is not lost. There is still time for Congress to pass a long overdue stimulus package with $32 billion in emergency operating funds for transit agencies nationwide. We’ve been pushing for this level of funding alongside many other transit advocacy groups since June.

The Senate has introduced a package with $15 billion for transit. While we appreciate our own Congressional delegation’s work on this, the allocation formula will provide nowhere near enough for WMATA to avoid severe cuts next year. 

Push your representatives to support the full $32 billion needed for transit to survive the pandemic

Even if politics limits the current deal to $15 billion, we’ll fight for the additional funds needed. We must fight for the emergency transit funding necessary to protect our workforce, environment, and economy but we can’t do it without your help. So take action today, and share on social media to spread the word!

Thanks for all you do,

Stewart Schwartz
Executive Director
Coalition for Smarter Growth

P.S. If you represent an organization, we are circulating an organizational sign-on letter here.