Monday, May 31, 2010

Virginia Water Radio 19: Week of May 31, 2010

Welcome to Virginia Water Radio (Episode 19) for the week of May 31, 2010. This week's show is hosted by Alan Raflo, research associate at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, located at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Our show presents news and notices that relate to Virginia’s waters, from the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean.

Audio removed 8-27-12.  Please contact Virginia Water Radio for access to archived audio file.

  • According to the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, as of late April the Carrizo company of Houston, Texas, had met all requirements for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to issue the company a permit to drill a natural-gas exploration well in the Bergton area of Rockingham County. 

    Carrizo’s proposed exploratory well would be one of the first in Virginia seeking to tap the Marcellus shale, a 95,000 square-mile gas-bearing rock formation underlying parts of Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and a small part of Virginia. Interest in natural gas from the Marcellus shale has increased dramatically in the past two or three years, particularly following a 2008 study indicating that the formation might hold up to 50 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. Production from the formation typically involves horizontal drilling and use of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), which injects a water/sand/chemical mixture to break up gas-bearing rock. Increased Marcellus drilling has generated substantial economic activity but has also led to concerns over water use, disposal of wastewater recovered from the drilling process, and potential groundwater impacts from the fracking mixture.

    If Carrizo receives the state permit, it would still need a special-use permit from Rockingham County. The county board of supervisors tabled the company’s special-use permit request on February 24 in order to gather more information about the exploratory drilling process and its potential environmental impacts.  News source: Proposed Gas Drilling In Bergton, Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, 4/28/10.
  • The potential impacts on climate from coal-fired power plant emissions are the focus of a lawsuit currently in Virginia’s courts. On May 25, the state Court of Appeals denied the claim by the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing several environmental groups, that carbon emissions should be regulated in the permit for Dominion Virginia Power’s coal-fired plant under construction in Wise County. The groups were appealing an August 2009 decision by the Richmond Circuit Court. As of late May, the plaintiffs had not yet decided whether to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. News source: Appeals court upholds hybrid energy center's air permit, Bristol Herald Courier, 5/26/10. Additional details: The appeal on the carbon emissions followed resolution in September 2009 of another aspect of the lawsuit, regarding mercury. While rejecting the carbon-emissions claim, the August 2009 Circuit Court ruling accepted the plaintiffs’ argument to invalidate the original permit because of its mercury provisions, which would have allowed the plant to emit mercury beyond the permit’s limits if the plant were not able to meet the limit. On September 2, 2009, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued a new air permit for the plant, removing the provision for exceeding the permit limit. The limit remains the same, at 4.45 pounds of mercury per year. Sources: “New permit for coal-fired power plant pleases both sides,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/3/09; and “Dominion air permit violates Clean Air Act, Law Center says,” Bristol Herald Courier, 10/1/09. 

  • On May 27—in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico/BP oil spill that began on April 20—President Obama announced actions to stop several offshore oil and gas exploration projects. The actions include cancelling the sale of leases for oil and gas exploration in Lease Sale 220, an approximately 2.9-million-acre area about 50 miles off Virginia’s shore. The sale, which would have been the first in the Atlantic Ocean in 20 years, had been expected to occur in 2012, depending on military and environmental reviews. The next potential opportunity for lease sales to occur in the Atlantic will be as part of In a news release in response to the Virginia lease sale cancellation, Governor Robert McDonnell said that he understood the President’s decision and the need for delay and investigation, but that he does not believe that outright cancellation of the lease sale was the only alternative. The governor asserted that a two-year environmental impact statement already underway would have provided adequate information about whether or not to proceed with the actual leasing.  News sources: Salazar Calls for New Safety Measures for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations; Orders Six Month Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling, U.S. Dept. of Interior News Release, 5/27/10; Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on President's Offshore Energy Decision, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 5/27/10; Report: Va. offshore drilling would interfere with military ops, Associated Press, 5/19/10. For more information: The federal Minerals Management Service’s Web site on the Lease Sale 220 area is


This week we feature a traditional song about a prominent geographic feature in the farthest southwestern corner of Virginia: Cumberland Gap,” performed by the legendary folk musician Pete Seeger, on “American Favorite Ballads,” a 2009 release from Smithsonian Folkways Records. The song dates at least to the Civil War and has been widely recorded both with a variety of lyrics and as an instrumental. It refers to the gap in the Cumberland Mountains where Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee meet. For centuries, the gap provided passage through the mountains for native peoples, and after European settlement it was the opening through which the Wilderness Road took settlers from Virginia to the western territories.  The Library of Congress’s online catalog includes “Songs of the Civil War Era” (1972 recording), which includes “Cumberland Gap”; and the Smithsonian Folkways Web site includes “Ballads of the Civil War” (1954 recording) in its list of albums that include “Cumberland Gap.” As of 5/28/10, the Smithsonian Folkways Web site,, listed 23 albums—recorded between 1954 and 2009—with recordings of “Cumberland Gap.” More information about Cumberland Gap is available from Web site for Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, at]


First, in government policy and regulatory meetings occurring between June 2 and June 9.
  • On June 7, the State Water Control Board’s Advisory Committee on the general discharge permit for confined animal feeding operations meets in Glen Allen. For more information phone Betsy Bowles at (804) 698-4059. The regulation 9 VAC 25-191, Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) General Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. More information and relevant documents are at

  • On June 8, the Board for Waterworks and Wastewater Works Operators and Onsite Sewage System Professionals meets in Richmond. For more information, phone David Dick at (804) 367-8595.

  • And also on June 8, the Regulatory Advisory Panel on development of a permit regulation for Small Renewable Offshore Wind Energy Projects meets in Richmond. For more information, phone Carol Wampler at (804) 698-4579.  The advisory panel is assisting the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in the development of a permit regulation for small renewable offshore wind energy projects. Development of the regulation was mandated by the 2009 Virginia General Assembly. More information and relevant documents are at
Here’s one upcoming event about Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, for impaired waters:
  • On June 7, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., the U.S. EPA is holding its fourth online seminar, or Webinar, on the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. For more information, phone Tom Damm at (215) 814-5560.  Registration for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL Webinar and more information about the Bay TMDL are available at
Finally, in upcoming educational or recreational events:
  • On June 5, from 9 a.m. to noon, volunteers in waterways and on shorelines throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed will participate in the 22nd Annual Clean the Bay Day, organized by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. For more information on volunteering, phone the Virginia office of the Bay Foundation at (804) 648-4011.

  • Also on June 5, Staunton River Battlefield State Park in Charlotte County is holding the Sappony Indian River Festival. The day-long festival includes native dancing, art, and food; learning about birds of prey; an archaeology demonstration; and paddling on the Staunton River. For more information, phone (434) 454-4312.

  • And on June 9 in Richmond, the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships is holding a symposium entitled The Future of Water Partnerships in Virginia. For information, phone Krystine McGrath at (703) 469-2233.
For more information about government policy and regulatory meetings, click here for the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall, where these meetings are listed by date. TMDL meetings are also listed at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality TMDL Web site

Virginia Water Radio is a product of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, which is solely responsible for the show’s content. Hosting and bandwidth for this podcast are also provided by the Water Center. We invite you to visit the center online at

Show notes and production assistance were provided by Patrick Fay. Recording assistance was provided by the Office of University Relations at Virginia Tech.

Opinions expressed on this show are not necessarily those of the Water Center, Virginia Tech, or this station.

If you need more information about anything mentioned this week, call us at (540) 231-5463, or visit our web site at