General Assembly

This was taken from an email alert we sent out on February 13, 2020:

farm landscape, farmer with fence, cattleAerial photo by Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program; photo of farmer courtesy of Choose Clean Water.

Dear Supporter,

Wednesday marked the halfway point of Virginia’s 2020 General Assembly Session, a date known as ‘crossover.’ The House and Senate have each finished voting on the bills their members put forward, and now move on to consider legislation passed by the other body.

While much legislating is left to be done, this is always a good time to provide an update about where various pieces of legislation stand. Read below for specifics.

Right now, if you ask me what you can do to make a difference, I would recommend calling or writing your delegate and senator and asking them to support full funding for the conservation and restoration programs that we know are effective. In particular, we need to fully fund our agricultural cost-share programs (like cattle-exclusion fencing) to improve water quality.


Land Conservation

Piedmont landscape

The Rapidan River winding its way through Orange County, VA. Photo by Will Parson, Chesapeake Bay Program.

We have prioritized several bills related to land conservation and the tools used to protect the places you love.

We are pleased to report that SB553 / HB1605 (Ruff and Hope), which would help protect heirs of family land from having their properties split up, are moving forward with unanimous support.

Unfortunately, SB621 (Deeds), which would have ensured that in instances where there is ambiguity in an easement, that it be ruled in favor of conservation, failed on the floor in the Senate.

When it comes to conservation funding, our efforts to conserve land often rely on investments in Virginia’s three main grant programs: Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), Farmland Preservation Fund and Battlefield Preservation Fund. While VLCF has been fully funded in the Governor’s proposed budget, the other two are significantly underfunded. Please reach out to your delegate and senator in support of all three programs!

More on conservation >>


Water

farmer tony pollario

Learn more about how farmers like Tony Pollario are using funding for Ag BMPs, in a short video produced by our partners at the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

We participated in the discussion around the cattle stream exclusion and nutrient management plan bill, HB1422/SB704 (Plum and Mason), along with our partners.

The restructured bill continues Virginia’s voluntary approach to cattle-exclusion, and becomes a mandate in 2026 only if the commonwealth fails to meet water quality targets outlined in the bill.

We believe the biggest limiting factor to achieving the watershed restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay is the lack of funding for agricultural best management practices. It has never been more critical to increase the funding for our agricultural cost-share programs, which help farmers install practices, like fencing cattle out of streams, to improve water quality on the farm and downstream. Currently, the introduced budget provides less than half of the necessary annual funding. Please contact your legislators to support full funding.

More on water >>


Loudoun fill dirt

Fill dirt site near Hamilton. Photo by LoudounRuralLandfills.com

Land Use and Transportation

We opposed multiple bills that attacked our Smart Scale scoring system (developed to take the politics out of transportation decisions) and some bad land use ideas from prior years. In general, most of the bad bills were defeated.

In good news, the two bills we supported that address unregulated dumping of fill dirt on agricultural lands - HB1310 (Webert) and HB1639 (Guzman) - have passed out of the House. A big thank you to everyone who wrote to their state delegate! Now it is time to write to the Senate.

More on land use >>


Energy

solar panel installation

Delegate Keam's Solar Freedom Bill includes a number of positive provisions, such as removing Virginia's 1% cap on net metering. Photo by Paula Combs.

The work to change our energy system continued with the introduction of the Virginia Energy Reform Act, HB1677 (Keam and Ware). While the legislation has been carried over until 2021, this session was a great starting point.

Unfortunately, HB754 (Kilgore) related to incentivizing solar on reclaimed mine lands and brownfields, failed to pass the House.

But in good news, HB572 (Keam) removing barriers to distributed solar has crossed over to the Senate.

More on energy >>

*Note: our website contains a larger list of bills and more details about the bills listed above. Things also change quickly in Richmond, so the best place for the latest information is the Legislative Information System website.


As always, PEC coordinates with our partners and the Virginia Conservation Network (VCN). Please visit the VCN website for updates on other legislation impacting the environment across the state. They have an impressive bill tracker and have taken positions on more than 160 bills and 39 budget amendments this session. I encourage you to take a look!

Sincerely,

Dan Holmes
Director of State Policy
The Piedmont Environmental Council
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
 
 

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