Virginia’s 2019 Legislative Session

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Clean Water Priorities for 2019:

Safe and Responsible Closure of Coal Ash Ponds: When coal is burned for energy, coal ash is a resultant waste product containing heavy metals and toxins that include arsenic, mercury, and lead. Even at low exposure levels, such metals are linked to cancer, respiratory problems, neurological difficulties, and gastrointestinal diseases. For decades the practice in Virginia has been storage of coal ash in unlined ponds adjacent to rivers, creeks, and streams. The Virginia General Assembly should require that utilities in Virginia dig up their coal ash ponds and either recycle the ash for use in concrete or other safe projects or dispose of it in modern, lined landfills.

Tackling Polluted Runoff: Stormwater runoff is one of the leading contributors to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Impervious surfaces, such as the roads and pavement that cover densely populated areas, don’t allow rain to seep into the ground, causing more polluted stormwater to enter the Bay. After big storms, the water carries whatever is on the ground and in the streets into our waterways.  In 2018, the health of the Chesapeake Bay was downgraded due to heavy regional rainfall after years of sustained cleanup efforts. In order to stop this downward trend, it is critical for Virginia to make investments in green infrastructure and land conservation.

Virginians rely on local waterways for clean drinking water, seafood production, and recreational tourism. Virginia lawmakers need to demonstrate their financial commitment to build restoration projects that will reduce polluted runoff. Otherwise we risk failing at the Commonwealth’s goal to restore our local streams and Chesapeake Bay by 2025.

Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF): Much of our urban and suburban infrastructure was built before we fully understood how stormwater degrades local streams. In order to meet the pollution reduction goals laid out by the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, we must continue to invest in proven-effective programs, including the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF). SLAF is a state and local matching grant program that helps localities protect and improve the health of our waterways. While $20M was included in the state budget last year, it still fell far short of what is needed. The Virginia General Assembly must commit at least $50M per year for SLAF.

Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP): Green infrastructure and conservation landscaping protects local waterways and Virginia’s diverse landscapes and are critical in achieving measurable goals on protecting water quality, water supply, climate resiliency, and the Chesapeake Bay. The Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP) provides cost-share assistance for smaller-scale residential and commercial projects, such as rain gardens, conservation landscaping, and permeable surfaces. In addition, VCAP provides financial incentives and technical and educational assistance to property owners to address problems like erosion, poor drainage or poor vegetation (bare soils). To help property owners, businesses, schools, and localities address erosion and polluted stormwater in their communities, the Virginia General Assembly must uphold consistent and adequate annual funding to ensure certainty.

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