2020 General Assembly Legislative Preview
Every year, Clean Water members and allies successfully help protect the Chesapeake Bay, open space, farmland, and historic sites during Virginia’s legislative sessions. Here’s a preview of what we Clean Water Action will be focused on:
Stormwater pollution from urban and suburban runoff into local streams is increasing and risks impacting the Commonwealth’s goal to restore Chesapeake Bay by 2025. The Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) is a state and local matching grant program that helps address pollution from existing sites through implementation projects. Clean Water is working to ensure legislators provide consistent and adequate funding for conservation programs and allocating at least $80 million each year for SLAF.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline are two interstate natural gas pipelines poised to have severe impacts on Virginia’s natural landscape and will put hundreds of crucial streams and drinking water supplies at risk. Clean Water is working with a coalition of advocates and allies across the Commonwealth to ensure state agencies conduct thorough, transparent and independent analyses that investigate the need for the pipelines and impacts on our water resources, natural landscape, and communities.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a joint effort of nine northeast and mid-Atlantic states that sets a limit on carbon pollution and requires power plants over a certain size to purchase carbon allowances at quarterly auctions. The proceeds of these auctions are then distributed to RGGI member states, who can invest these dollars in energy efficiency programs, rebates for low-income residents, and incentives for renewable energy. The transition to renewable energy provides massive potential for economic development, green job creation, reduced health consequences and costs from burning fossil fuels, and lower utility bills. Clean Water will advocate for Virginia to formally join the RGGI and support legislation that requires utility investments in carbon-free renewable energy, with a 2050 deadline for 100% renewable energy.
Environmental justice means ensuring access to clean energy for all, access to safe drinking water for all, preventing disproportionate pollution, and more. While Virginia has started to make some progress on environmental justice, vulnerable populations, people of color, and low-income communities continue to be at an increased risk to the impacts of climate change, fossil fuel production, and the increase of toxics. Clean Water and our allies are working to support the implementation of an Environmental Justice Advisory Council in the Commonwealth, as well as legislation requiring an environmental justice analysis for new energy, industrial, and infrastructure projects.
Protecting Virginians from Toxic Chemicals
Lead exposure can lower a child’s IQ, affect the brain and nervous system development, slow growth, and cause hearing and speech problems. There currently is no treatment for low levels of lead in the blood. Though lead paint was banned from indoor use in 1977, paints for outdoor use may still include lead. Clean Water will advocate for a ban on outdoor lead paint, lead pipe disclosures for homebuyers and renters, an inventory of lead service lines made available to the public and a timeline for replacement of these lines, and more frequent testing for lead contamination in drinking water.
Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals present in firefighting foam and found in many products, such as clothing, carpets, fabrics, furniture, food packaging, and cookware. PFAS are linked to kidney and testicular cancers, hormone disruption, thyroid disease, reproductive disorders, infertility, low birth weights, and even resistance to vaccines. They are found in fish, wildlife and humans; and because they don’t break down, PFAS accumulate in our bodies and the environment. Clean Water is working on a set of bills to restrict PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam and in food packaging and food service ware.
Plastic Pollution in watersheds remains a substantial unresolved issue. Currently, municipalities are given inadequate tools to control this kind of litter. Clean Water will advocate for legislation that allows local communities and jurisdictions to establish fees or bans on commonly littered items such as single-use plastics.
Smart growth steers communities towards efficient, compact, walkable neighborhoods with high quality public transit. Fiscal conservatives and conservationists agree that traditional, car-dependent suburban sprawl is costly to taxpayers through inefficient public services and infrastructure spread over vast areas that results in lower air and water quality, and the loss of historic, cultural, and scenic resources. Clean Water is working with land-use and transportation policy experts to ensure Virginia adopts smart growth to save money, protect the environment, and enhance the economic competitiveness of Virginia’s communities and federal Opportunity Zones.