Friday, February 5, 2016

Episode 302 (2-8-16): Voting on Water in the 2016 Virginia General Assembly

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:38)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 2-4-16.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 8, 2016.

SOUND – ~ 3 sec - ticking clock

As of February 5, the members of the Virginia General Assembly were on the clock, considering over 2700 bills in the 2016 session. About 130 of those bills concern water resources, either directly, or indirectly through energy, transportation, or other land uses. This week, Virginia Water Radio gives YOU a chance to imagine being one of those General Assembly members, and to consider how you’d vote on five water-related bills. I’ll give you brief descriptions of the bills, then a couple of seconds to decide if you would vote for or against the idea. Then I’ll sound a bell [SOUND – 2 sec] if the bill was still alive as of February 5; or a buzzer [SOUND – 2 sec] if it had already essentially failed. Ready?

House Bill 2 would require General Assembly approval before the Commonwealth could implement any plan to comply with the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan for regulating carbon emissions from existing power plants. [SOUND – 5 sec - clock then bell] The bill had passed the House and moved to the Senate.

Senate Bill 537 would require that “coal ash ponds” be closed by 2020, with the ash disposed of in a permitted landfill and the site reclaimed consistent with federal mine-reclamation standards. [SOUND – 5 sec - clock then buzzer] The bill failed in a Senate committee.

Senate Bill 118 would establish a voluntary groundwater conservation program with incentives for groundwater permit-holders who reduce their reliance on groundwater, switch to alternative water sources, or develop necessary infrastructure. [SOUND – 5 sec - clock then buzzer] The bill failed in committee.

House Bill 1115 would require the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to establish an education program on methods of preventing Zebra Mussels or other non-native aquatic nuisance species from invading Virginia waters. [SOUND – 5 sec - clock then bell] The bill was still alive in a House committee.

House Bill 1085 would stablish the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund to provide matching grants to local governments for planning and implementing stormwater best management practices. [SOUND – 7 sec - clock then bell then buzzer] The bill was still alive in a House committee, but a sub-committee had recommended against it.

Obviously, this short game can’t capture the scope of the General Assembly’s potential impact on a subject as complicated, connected, and vital as water. And any bill involves much more information and details than you heard here. The online Virginia Legislative Information System provides such details on all General Assembly bills, and part of every Assembly member’s job is to help their constituents be informed and express opinions about legislation. Citizens, in turn, have the job of paying attention and speaking up. The General Assembly’s Web site,, has tools to help you do so. But don’t wait too long: the 2016 session is scheduled to adjourn on March 12.

Thanks to for making the ticking clock sound available for public use.

For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463. Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show. In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The ticking clock sound was recorded by Kevin GC and made available (10/25/10 upload) online at the Web site,, for public use under the Creative Commons “Public Domain” dedication. For more information on Creative Commons licenses, please see


Tools to help Virginia residents identify their local members of the House of Delegates or State Senate and to learn about the basic legislative process are two of the services for citizens available in the “Capitol Classroom” section of the Virginia General Assembly’s Web site,  Images taken from that site, 2/5/16.


Following are Virginia Legislative Information System summaries of the bills mentioned in this episode, as of 2/4/16, accessed at

House Bill 2, Clean Power Plan state implementation plan (and companion Senate Bill 21): Would require the Department of Environmental Quality to receive approval from the General Assembly for a state implementation plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants prior to submitting the plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

Senate Bill 537, Coal combustion by-product impoundments; closure requirements: Would direct the Department of Environmental Quality to require the closure of surface impoundments of coal combustion by-products, commonly called coal ash ponds, by July 1, 2020. The bill applies to impoundments that managed such by-products from the generation of electricity by an electric utility or independent power producer prior to December 4, 2015, including those impoundments that, prior to December 4, 2015, have been closed by capping in place or have received Department approval for closure by capping in place. The bill requires that the coal combustion by-products be removed for disposal in a permitted landfill meeting federal criteria, and that the impoundment site be reclaimed in a manner consistent with federal mine reclamation standards, for closure to be deemed complete. The bill allows an investor-owned public electric utility to recover the costs of closure from customers.

Senate Bill 118, Voluntary groundwater conservation program: Would have directed the State Water Control Board to establish a voluntary ground water conservation incentive program. The program would have been designed to provide incentives to those ground water permittees who agree to adopt measures that would (i) substantially reduce their reliance on ground water, (ii) transition to alternative water sources, or (iii) develop necessary infrastructure. The permittee would have to agree to either a 50 percent reduction in the amount authorized by its permit or certificate that is in effect on January 1, 2015, or achieve a comparable level of conservation by any combination of authorized withdrawal amount reduction and alternative options approved by the Board. These conditions are referred to as “qualification criteria” and will be used to determine the permittee's eligibility for the program. Each permittee that agreed to the qualification would have had the benefit of a “regulatory certainty” period of 20 years during which the amount of withdrawal cannot be reduced, except in limited circumstances.

House Bill 1115, Zebra mussels; education program: Would require the Director of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to establish a program of education in methods of preventing zebra mussels or other nonindigenous aquatic nuisance species from infesting Virginia waters. The bill requires the program to include cleaning and draining guidelines, designated dry times, a standard boat inspection form, and public outreach. The bill allows the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries to deliver the education program through the mandatory boating safety education program.

House Bill 1085, Stormwater Local Assistance Fund: Would establish the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund to provide matching grants to local governments for the planning, design, and implementation of stormwater best management practices that address cost efficiency and commitments related to reducing water quality pollutant loads.


Used in Audio

Virginia General Assembly Web site, (this site offers several useful features, including member lists, session calendars, links to the live video of floor sessions, and information on legislative processes).

Virginia Legislative Information System, at (online location for following the legislation of General Assembly sessions).

For More Information about the Virginia General Assembly

Virginia Water Central News Grouper posts on the Virginia General Assembly: online at For 2016, see particularly these posts:
Water in the 2016 Virginia General Assembly – Water-related Legislation in the News; and

Water in the 2016 Virginia General Assembly – Inventory of Water-related Legislation.

Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s “Virginia Water Legislation” page, online at inventories of water-related bills in the current and previous sessions of the General Assembly.

To express an opinion on legislation: Citizens can contact their members of the House or Senate. You can find your representatives and their contact information by using the online “Who’s My Legislator” service, available at, or you can find members’ contact information at these links:


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (

Previous episodes on the Virginia General Assembly are the following (all hyperlinked to go to the online show notes for the respective episode):
Episode 143, 1/7/13 – Music for the Past and Present of the Virginia General Assembly;
Episode 147, 2/4/13 – Committees Guide the Flow of Bills in the Virginia General Assembly;
Episode 196, 1/13/14
– The Virginia General Assembly on its 396th Opening Day, January 8, 2014;
Episode 247, 1/5/15 – January Means State Budget Time in the Virginia General Assembly;
Episode 252, 2/9/15 – Voting on Water in the 2015 Virginia General Assembly (same format as this week’s episode);
Episode 297, 1/4/16 – Water’s on the Agenda—along with a Whole Lot Else—When the Virginia General Assembly Convenes.


The episode may help with the following Virginia 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme

4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.11 - relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.6 – renewable vs. non-renewable resources (including energy resources).
ES.8 - influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.
ES.10 – ocean processes, interactions, and policies affecting coastal zones, including Chesapeake Bay.
ES.11 – origin, evolution, and dynamics of the atmosphere, including human influences on climate.

Biology Course
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2008 Social Studies SOLs:

Civics and Economics Course
CE.1 – social studies skills that responsible citizenship requires.
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.8 – government at the local level.
CE.9 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 - how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.10 - cooperation among political jurisdictions to solve problems and settle disputes.

Government Course

GOVT.1 – social studies skills that responsible citizenship requires.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT.16 – role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at