First Quarter Update

The 2019 General Assembly Session began on January 9 and ended on February 23. Despite this being a short session, approximately 2,000 bills were introduced.  Environmental bills were primarily focused on groundwater withdrawals, stormwater, coal combustion residuals, and air.  We are only highlighting the legislation most likely to be of interest to VAA members, but please let us know if you would like information on any of the other bills.

The following environmental legislation passed the General Assembly: 
HB 1934 (Bulova) – this bill authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of General Services to operate electric vehicle charging stations on agency property.  

HB 1614 (Cole) / SB 1248 (Reeves)– these identical bills allow localities to create a local Stormwater Management Fund to grant funds to owners of private property or common interest communities for stormwater management and erosion prevention on previously developed lands.   

HB 2611 (Poindexter) – this bill prohibits the Commonwealth from adopting any regulation establishing a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program or bringing about the participation by the Commonwealth in a regional market for the trading of carbon dioxide allowances. Although passed by both houses, on March 14 the Governor vetoed this bill. Because the bill passed on a party-line vote, it is unlikely that the General Assembly will be able to overcome the Governor’s veto during its reconvened session in April. 

HB 2269 (Poindexter) – this bill prohibits the Governor or any state agency from adopting any regulation establishing or bringing about the participation of the Commonwealth in the Transportation and Climate Initiative or any other regional transportation sector emissions program. The bill allows the Commonwealth to participate in a regional transportation sector emission program if the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia each adopt a resolution by two-thirds vote that specifically references and approves the regulatory text proposed for adoption by a state agency. This bill is a rebuke of the Governor’s executive action reported in the last update to join this initiative.  The Governor vetoed this bill on March 14, and it is unlikely the General Assembly will override his veto.  

The General Assembly also made some revisions to the Governor’s proposed budget. Of specific note, the Governor had proposed approximately $2.5 million for additional DEQ staff for water and air permitting.  The General Assembly removed almost all of this funding, and targeted the remaining funding towards information technology upgrades, such as improvements to the DEQ website, enabling online payments, etc.  Additionally, the General Assembly removed $100,000 the Governor had proposed in funding for the Environmental Justice initiative. 

Like many General Assembly sessions, the bills that failed to pass are often just as interesting as those that passed and can provide insights into topics that may resurface in future sessions or outside of the legislative process. Here are several bills that did not pass the General Assembly but that VAA members may find of interest: 

HB 2696 (Herring) and HB 2330 (Keam) – these bills would have established an Environmental Justice Advisory Council to advise the Governor on environmental justice in the Commonwealth through equitable development, implementation, evaluation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, policies, and practices. Importantly these bills would have codified the term "environmental justice” in state law, which would have far-reaching implications for project permitting, compliance, and enforcement. 

SB 1745 (Boysko) – this bill would have created a Permitting Technical Assistance Fund for the purpose of issuing grants to qualified groups to obtain technical assistance in (i) interpreting information with regard to permits, permit actions, or activities conducted at permit sites; (ii) identifying new or alternative permit provisions or conditions; or (iii) formulating, revising, or submitting written or oral comments during a public comment period. The bill authorizes DEQ to issue grants from the Fund to qualified groups and to cover the costs of the grants through permit fees. This bill appeared to be an effort to increase direct citizen involvement in the permit issuance process.  

HB 1880 (Keam) - This bill proposed to change the appointment process for the Air Pollution Control Board, the Waste Management Board, and the State Water Control Board.  Instead of the Governor appointing all of the members, two would be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules from a list recommended by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources; and three would be appointed by the Speaker of the House from a list recommended by the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources. This legislation likely was prompted by concerns about recent Water and Air Board decisions relating to natural gas pipelines.

The General Assembly will reconvene on April 3 to consider the Governor’s budget amendments and vetoed legislation.

Although the legislation proposed to formally create a Virginia environmental justice program failed (and the funding for it was eliminated), Governor Northam signed Executive Order 29 on January 22, 2019.  EO29 re-established the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice started under Governor McAuliffe. The Council will provide independent advice regarding the development of policies to address environmental justice in Virginia and recommend inclusion of environmental justice considerations into state policies, permits, programs, and procedures.  The Governor will appoint the Council members and the application process closed on February 28.  The Council will meet quarterly and is required to submit a report detailing its work by January 2020.  More information about the Council can be found on the Secretary of Natural Resources webpage here.  This is a topic we expect to see much more about, particularly when the EO6 report reviewing DEQ programs is issued in April.  EO29 specifically cross-references EO6, noting that issues of communication and partnerships expected to be recommended in the EO6 report may be helpful guidance for the Council’s work. 

On March 1, 2019, Governor Northam made two appointments to the Secretariat of Natural Resources:
• Meryem Karad as a Special Assistant for Policy and Communications to the Secretary of Natural Resources. She previously served as Assistant to the Secretary of Natural Resources under Governor Ralph Northam and Governor Terry McAuliffe. 
• Katie Sallee as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Natural Resources. She previously was a field organizer for the League of Conservation Voters and previously served as a legislative intern in the office of Delegate Betsy Carr.

State Water Control Board met on March 1. The Board withdrew the action it took at its December meeting concerning revocation of Virginia''s Upland 401 Water Quality Certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. Future meeting dates have not been announced. 
Waste Management Board met on December 17 as summarized in a previous update. 2019 meeting dates have not been set.
Board of Game and Inland Fisheries met on January 24.  No agenda items were relevant to VAA members. The Board will next meet on March 21, and no agenda for that meeting has yet been posted.  
State Air Control Board met on January 10 as summarized in our last update. 2019 meeting dates have not been set. 

DEQ reissued the General VPDES permit for point source discharges resulting from the application of pesticides to surface waters (VAG87). This permit applies to operators that use biological and certain chemical pesticides, including mosquito and intrusive vegetation control products. This includes pesticide application for the control of vegetation along roads and utility rights of way, where a portion of the pesticide unavoidably will be applied over surface water. The permit became effective on March 1, 2019. More information about this permit can be found on the DEQ website here.  

Consistent with the Governor’s redesign and expansion of the Office of Constituent Services and Community Engagement and his focus on public engagement, the Governor recently announced the launch of statewide community office hours hosted by the Office of Constituent Services and Community Engagement.  These will be quarterly meetings held in each region of Virginia. Constituents can have one-on-one meetings with a representative from the Office of the Governor. This program provides residents greater access to the Governor’s Office and assistance with identifying and connecting to state government resources.  The Community Office Hours are open to the public and Community Engagement Specialists will listen to residents’ concerns, connect them to state resources, and provide information on services. 

The first quarter meetings took place in late January and early February.   

On March 14, 2019, Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Stakeholder Advisory Group met to discuss the Commonwealth’s Phase III of Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP).  The Phase III WIP will be Virginia’s roadmap for meeting the required reductions under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).  The WIP will include strategies for multiple state agencies and is likely to include new initiatives, particularly related to the reduction of non-point source nutrient discharges. DEQ has announced that it will publish the Phase III WIP for public comment no later than April 12.  Although VAA members may not be directly impacted, to the extent the Phase III WIP includes a greater focus on nonpoint source discharges, such as stormwater, VAA members may see additional requirements resulting from the proposal.

DEQ recently issued guidance regarding its recent amendments to the General VPDES Permit for discharges of process wastewater and stormwater from Concrete Facilities (VAG11). Guidance Memo No. 18-2009 discusses the changes made to the permit and advises staff on implementation of the revised permit.  

DEQ also updated its Virginia Water Protection (VWP) Permit and Compliance Staff Manual which covers permits other than Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permits such as for state water quality certifications, dredge and fill, and surface water withdrawals. DEQ notes that most of the updates to the Manual reflect statutory changes since the 2016 version was released as well as regulatory changes. DEQ also notes that the update incorporates recent decisions regarding the processing of VWP permits.

All DEQ guidance is available here on TownHall and posted by chapter in DEQ’s section.    

a) Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) Toxic Release Inventory reports are due July 1.  More information is available on DEQ’s EPCRA page.
b) Annual Air Emission Inventory.  Facilities must complete and submit their annual air emission inventory to DEQ by April 15. The reporting form is available here
c) Industrial Stormwater Semi-Annual DMR Submission (and Potential Corrective Action). Asphalt facilities subject to the general VPDES permit for stormwater discharges from industrial facilities were required to submit their semi-annual Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) to DEQ on January 10.  The second DMR will be due to DEQ on July 10.