Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Episode 562 (2-1-21): Voting on Water in the 2021 Virginia General Assembly

Click to listen to episode (5:03)

Sections below are the following:

Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 1-29-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 1, 2021.

MUSIC – ~12 sec – instrumental

That’s part of “Directional,” by the Richmond, Va., band Carbon Leaf, from their 1995 album, “Meander.”  In Richmond, the 2021 Virginia General Assembly has been considering over 1600 bills and resolutions as it sets directions for the Commonwealth’s laws, policies, and budget.

This is Virginia Water Radio’s annual episode giving you a chance to imagine being an Assembly member, and to consider how you’d vote on some of this year’s water-related measures.  I’ll give brief descriptions of each of five measures, based on information from the Virginia Legislative Information System as of January 29.  You’ll have a few seconds of a ticking clock sound to decide if you would vote for or against the idea, and then I’ll give the measure’s status, also as of January 29.

No. 1.  House of Delegates Joint Resolution 556 is a proposed constitutional amendment stating, in part, that “In the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, it is the policy of the Commonwealth to follow the principles of environmental justice, including the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of every person regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.”  [SOUND – ~2 sec – ticking]  This resolution was in a House committee.

No. 2.  Senate Bill 1291 would require that any application for a water-withdrawal permit must include a water-auditing plan and a leak-detection and -repair plan.  [SOUND – ~2 sec – ticking]  This bill had passed the Senate and moved to the House.

No. 3.  House Bill 1983 would set conditions for water-protection permit applicants who are seeking mitigation credits for impacts to wetlands or streams, to purchase such credits from a mitigation bank not located in the sub-watershed where the impacts occur.  [SOUND – ~2 sec – ticking]  This bill had passed the House and was in a Senate committee.

No. 4.  House Bill 1937, a complicated measure called the “Green New Deal Act,” would, among other things, set a moratorium on new fossil-fuel projects, establish requirements for percentages of electricity generation from renewable sources, require a state Climate Action Plan, set a goal to reduce building energy consumption by 36 percent by 2036, and promote environmental justice in various ways.  [SOUND – ~2 sec – ticking]  The bill was in a House committee.

And No. 5.  House Bill 2265 would repeal several previous acts by the General Assembly that promoted renewable energy and called for regulating carbon emissions from fossil fuel-based electricity plants.  [SOUND – ~2 sec – ticking]  The bill was in a House committee.

This short game certainly doesn’t capture the scope of the General Assembly’s potential impacts on a subject as complicated, connected, and vital as water.  These measures all involve more details than you heard here, and many other significant measures are also under consideration.  The General Assembly’s Web site, virginiageneralassembly.gov, has tools to help you get more information and express your opinions to Assembly members.  The 2021 General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on February 11, so now’s the time.

[2-9-21 note, not in audioOn February 4, 2021, Gov. Ralph Northam called for a special session of the Assembly to begin on February 10 and extend the overall session to 46 days; earlier in 2021, the Assembly had failed to approve a session extension.]

Thanks to Carbon Leaf for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 10 more seconds of “Directional.”

MUSIC – ~ 11 sec – instrumental


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Directional,” from the 1995 album “Meander,” is copyright by Carbon Leaf, used with permission.  More information about Carbon Leaf is available online at https://www.carbonleaf.com/.  Lyrics for “Directional” and many other Carbon Leaf songs are available online at https://www.azlyrics.com/c/carbonleaf.html.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at http://newstandardbluegrass.com.


Virginia House of Delegates virtual floor session, February 1, 2021.  Shown in the image are Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41st District) (back and left) and House Clerk Suzette Denslow.   Image taken as screen shot from House livestream, accessed online at https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/chamber/chamberstream.php, 2/1/21 at 4:50 p.m. EST.

Virginia Senate floor session on January 29, 2019, being held at a pavilion at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond.  Image taken as screen shot from Senate livestream archive, accessed online at http://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3, 2/1/21.


Following are Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS) summaries of the one resolution and four bills mentioned in this episode, as of January 29, 2021, accessed at http://lis.virginia.gov/.  The resolution and bill numbers are hyperlinked to the respective LIS pages for each measure.

1.  House Joint Resolution 556 - Constitutional amendment; environmental justice (first reference).  “Section 5. Environmental justice.  In the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, it is the policy of the Commonwealth to follow the principles of environmental justice, including the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of every person regardless of race, color, national origin, or income. Further, it is the policy of the Commonwealth to ensure that no population, especially minority, low-income, or historically economically disadvantaged communities, faces higher levels or greater impacts of pollution and climate change than other populations.”

2.  Senate Bill 1291 - Va. Water Protection Permit; withdrawal of surface water or ground water, plans for water auditing, leak detection.  “Requires that any application for a permit to withdraw surface water or ground water include a water-auditing plan and a leak-detection and -repair plan that comply with regulations adopted by the State Water Control Board pursuant to the provisions of the bill.”

3.  House Bill 1983 - Wetland and stream mitigation banks; proximity of impacted site.  “Provides that when a water protection permit applicant is required to purchase wetland or stream mitigation bank credits but no credits are available (either (i) in any mitigation provider's primary service area or (ii) at a cost of less than 200 percent of the price of credits available from a fund dedicated to achieving no net loss of wetland acreage and functions), the applicant may purchase or use credits from a mitigation provider's secondary service area.  The bill provides certain requirements that the permit applicant must comply with in order to purchase or use such credits from a secondary service area, including minimum tree canopy requirements.”  [Virginia Water Radio note: The bill defines “secondary service area” as “the area outside the primary service area but within the same physiographic province in which the bank is located and any adjacent physiographic province within the same river watershed.”]

4.  House Bill 1937 - Green New Deal Act, establishes a moratorium, effective January 1, 2022, etc.  “Establishes a moratorium, effective January 1, 2022, on approval by any state agency or political subdivision of any approval required for (i) electric generating facilities that generate fossil fuel energy through the combustion of a fossil fuel resource; (ii) import or export terminals for fossil fuel resources; (iii) certain maintenance activities relating to an import or export terminal for a fossil fuel resource; (iv) gathering lines or pipelines for the transport of any fossil fuel resource that  require the use of eminent domain on private property; (v) certain maintenance activities relating to such gathering lines or pipelines; (vi) refineries of a fossil fuel resource; and (vii) exploration for any type of fossil fuel, unless preempted by applicable federal law.  The measure also requires that at least 80 percent of the electricity sold by a retail electric supplier in calendar years 2028 through 2035 be generated from clean energy resources.  In calendar year 2036 and every calendar year thereafter, 100 percent of the electricity sold by a retail electric supplier is required to be generated from clean energy resources.  The clean energy mandates apply to a public utility or other person that sells not less than 1,000 megawatt hours of electric energy to retail customers or generates not less than 1,000 megawatt hours of electric energy for use by the person.  The Director of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy [the Department] is authorized to bring actions for injunctions to enforce these requirements.  The measure requires the Department to adopt a Climate Action Plan that addresses all aspects of climate change, including mitigation, adaptation, resiliency, and assistance in the transition from current energy sources to clean renewable energy.  The measure provides that any retail electric supplier that fails to meet any goal or benchmark is liable for a civil penalty equal to twice the cost of the financial investment necessary to meet such goal or mandate that was not achieved, or three times the cost of the financial investment necessary to meet such goal or benchmark that was not achieved if not met in an environmental justice community.

“The measure provides that it is the goal of the Commonwealth to achieve a 36 percent reduction in electric energy consumption in buildings by 2036.  The measure requires the Department, in coordination with the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice (Council) to establish performance benchmarks for environmental justice communities and to establish programs for jobs for people in environmental justice communities.  The measure requires the Council to develop and make available to each state agency training modules designed to facilitate the promotion of environmental justice.

“The measure requires the Department to establish the Transitioning Workers Program (the Program) to provide support for workers in the fossil fuel industry and affected communities and provide such workers job training, relocation support, income and benefit support, and early retirement benefits.  The measure provides for funding such program by 20 percent of the revenue generated by the allowance auction established by the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality.  The measure prohibits the Commission from approving construction of any new utility-owned generating facilities that emit carbon dioxide as a by-product of combusting fuel to generate electricity.  The measure requires that all utility costs associated with the construction of, acquisition of, or agreements to purchase the energy, capacity, and environmental attributes of certain required generation and storage facilities are recovered through the utility's rates for generation and distribution services.

“The measure requires that under the renewable energy portfolio standard program, Dominion Energy Virginia and American Electric Power be required to produce their electricity from 80 percent renewable sources by 2028 and 100 percent by 2036.  The measure increases the incremental energy efficiency savings that each investor-owned incumbent electric utility is required to achieve that start in 2022 at 2.4 percent for American Electric Power and Dominion Energy Virginia of the average annual energy retail sales by that utility in 2020 and increases those savings annually.”

5.  House Bill 2265 - Regulation of electric utilities; development of renewable energy facilities; powers of Air Pollution Control Board; powers of State Corporation Commission.  “Repeals provisions (i) requiring the Air Pollution Control Board to adopt regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from any electricity generating unit in the Commonwealth and authorizing the Board to establish an auction program for energy allowances; (ii) prohibiting the State Corporation Commission from approving any new utility-owned generation facilities that emit carbon dioxide as a by-product of energy generation, in certain circumstances; (iii) declaring that statutory allowances for energy derived from sunlight, onshore wind, offshore wind, and storage facilities are in the public interest; and (iv) relating to the development of solar and wind generation and energy storage capacity, development of offshore wind capacity, and generation of electricity from renewable and zero carbon sources.  The bill provides that planning and development activities for new nuclear generation facilities are in the public interest.”


Used for Audio 

Virginia Legislative Information System, online at https://lis.virginia.gov/lis.htm.  This site provides lists and summaries of all bills, searchable by topic, member, committee, etc.  As of January 28, 2021, “Session Statistics,” online at https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?211+oth+STA, indicated 1233 measures (House or Senate bills, resolutions, or joint resolutions) had been introduced for the 2021 session and 385 measures were continued from 2020, making a total of 1618 measures under consideration in 2021.

Virginia General Assembly, online at http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/index.php.  This Web site offers several useful features, including member lists, session calendars, live video of floor sessions, and information on legislative processes.

For More Information about the Virginia General Assembly 

Virginia House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, “Legislative Budget Process,” online at http://hac.virginia.gov/legislative.htm.

Virginia House of Delegates live stream video archive, online at https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/chamber/chamberstream.php, and Virginia Senate live stream video archive, online at http://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3.

To express an opinion on legislation, citizens are requested to contact their respective delegate of senator.  If you do not know your representatives or their contact information, you can use the online “Who’s My Legislator” service, available at http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/.  You can find members’ contact information at these links:
House: http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/members/members.php;
Senate: https://apps.senate.virginia.gov/Senator/index.php.

The Lobbyist-In-A-Box subscriber service also offers free tracking for up to five bills, and it offers tracking of more than five bills for a fee; visit http://lis.virginia.gov/h015.htm.  For assistance, phone Legislative Automated Systems at (804) 786-9631.

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, “Virginia Water Central News Grouper” posts on the Virginia General Assembly are available online at https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=General+Assembly.  Items are categorized by the year of each session, from 2012 to 2021.

Virginia Water Resources Research Center, “Virginia Water Legislation,” online at https://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/virginia-water-legislation/.  This site provides access to inventories of water-related bills in the Virginia General Assembly from 1998 through 2020.

Please also see the next section of this post, “Related Virginia Water Radio Episodes,” for a list of previous Water Radio episodes on the Virginia General Assembly. 


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html).  See particularly the “Community/Organizations” subject category.

Following are links to some other episodes on the Virginia General Assembly. 

Episode 147, 2-4-13 – on General Assembly committees.
Episode 247, 1-5-15 – annual General Assembly preview, with special focus on the state budget.
Episode 252, 2-9-15 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 302, 2-8-16 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 353, 1-30-17 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 359, 3-13-17 – on General Assembly subcommittees.
Episode 405, 1-29-18 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 410, 3-5-18 – on 2018 session legislation on electricity regulation.
Episode 460, 2-18-19 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 510, 2-3-20
– annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 522, 4-2-/20
– on 2020 session legislation on electricity generation, carbon emissions, and recurrent flooding.
Episode 558, 1-4-21
– annual General Assembly preview.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.” 

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-5 – Earth Resources
3.8 – Natural events and humans influence ecosystems.
4.8. – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6
6.9 – Humans impact the environment and individuals can influence public policy decisions related to energy and the environment.

Life Science Course
LS.9     – Relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.6 – Resource use is complex.
ES.8 – Freshwater resources influence and are influenced by geologic processes and human activity.
ES.10 – Oceans are complex, dynamic systems subject to long- and short-term variations, including effects of human actions.
ES.11 – The atmosphere is a complex, dynamic system subject to long-and short-term variations, including effects of human actions.

Biology Course
BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems, and natural events and human activities influence local and global ecosystems and may affect the flora and fauna of Virginia.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – Knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.1 – Social studies skills that responsible citizenship requires.
CE.7 – Government at the state level.
CE.10 – Public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.18 - 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.15 – 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 http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15
– on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16
– on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18
– on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18
– on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18
– on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18
– on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20
– on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.