Virginia 2018 General Assembly Update

Check back for updates on Virginia's General Assembly session.

February 14, 2018 Update

Preventing Other Sources of Pollution

House Bill 675 (Hodges) would reduce the effluent standards for septic systems. CBF opposed this bill, working with the legislator patron and other involved delegates. An amended and improved bill was reported out of committee and approved by the full House.

Pipeline

Senate Bill 950 (Hanger) would provide new protections for any future interstate pipelines that cross Virginia. In particular, this bill would ensure that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality would not certify a proposed pipeline as protective of water quality unless and until it developed an individual water protection permit that addressed every stream and wetlands area to be crossed by the pipeline. Recognizing the bill as an important step forward, CBF has worked with the legislative patron and other stakeholders to make it as strong as possible. The bill was reported out of committee and has been passed by the full Senate.

February 8, 2018 Update

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, our work to save the Bay shifts into high gear every January. The General Assembly commences, and legislation that has major impacts on local water quality comes at a furious pace. Through it all, CBF staff meet with legislators to discuss bills, speak in front of legislative committees, and organize members to advocate for clean water policy.

Improving water quality has oysters, blue crabs, underwater grasses, and water clarity all trending in the right direction. Working with Virginia's General Assembly is key to making sure we maintain this progress.

CBF is working hard for positive results on numerous pieces of proposed legislation. At the half-way point, here are some of the results. 

Polluted Runoff

House Bills 1307 and 1308 (Hodges) had their genesis in General Assembly 2017, which approved a year-long stakeholder study (in which CBF participated) of possible changes to the stormwater management program for the rural coastal communities of Eastern Virginia. In view of the area's low development rate and unique hydrology, the introduced bills are expected to protect water quality at a lower cost. CBF and many other stakeholders support these bills, which have been passed by the full House and referred to the Senate.

House Bill 801 (O'Quinn) would prohibit the State Water Control Board from adopting any regulation or standard relating to stormwater that is inconsistent with or more stringent than any federal requirement or guidance. CBF strongly opposes this bill, which would prevent Virginia from responding to local challenges with innovative programs that protect our waterways. Although it made it out of committee and to the floor of the House, Delegate Bulova gave impassioned testimony about why this bill would not be good for Virginia's waters. You can see the video starting at 1 hour and 7 minutes here. HB 801 has been rereferred to the House Ag Chesapeake subcommittee.

House Bill 1566 (Hodges) would weaken Virginia's statewide stormwater management program by allowing localities across the Commonwealth to avoid plan review responsibilities, accepting instead the work of developers' retained engineers on plans for large developments. Because this bill would undercut Virginia's ability to enforce stormwater rules on large (>1 acre), CBF strongly opposed the bill. Ultimately, the legislator sponsoring the bill moved to strike it, ending further consideration.

House Bill 1004 (Byron) would have required localities to exempt airports from paying stormwater utility fees for their runways and taxiways to help localities manage polluted runoff and Senate Bill 367 (Newman) would have allowed localities to create such an exemption. We worked hard against both bills, which would have undermined local stormwater management programs. HB1004 ultimately stricken by its legislator patron, and SB367 was "passed by for the year," ending further consideration.  

House Bill 805 (O'Quinn) and Senate Bill 507 (Carrico) restrict the application of modern, effective stormwater management rules to the Chesapeake Bay watershed, relegating Virginia's non-Bay watershed regions to the outdated and ineffective stormwater management rules that were in effect before 2014. CBF—believing that all parts of the state deserve clean water—worked and testified in hearing against these bills, which were both defeated.

Trees and Wetlands

House Bill 494 (Hodges) supports increased tree cover by affording localities across the Chesapeake Bay watershed the authority to expand tree planting and preservation with new development. Currently only localities with a high population density have this authority. Recognizing that increasing tree cover can reduce the polluted runoff that enters waterways, CBF worked with the bill sponsor and other stakeholders, and testified to the committee in support of this bill, which passed the full House and has been referred to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 400 (Keam) is similar to HB 494 discussed above, and would go further, by allowing localities to require tree planting and preservation at any level, without any upward limits. CBF testified in support of the legislation, but the bill did not advance.

House Bill 447 (Hope) would require the State Water Control Board to adopt regulations for localities to encourage and promote preservation of mature trees as a stormwater management tool in Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act areas. CBF testified in support of the legislation in subcommittee, but the bill did not advance.

Preventing Other Sources of Pollution

House Bill 1475 (Poindexter) and Senate Bill 344 (Peake) would facilitate the implementation of new water quality standards for ammonia in fresh water streams. CBF, which has been closely involved in the development of these criteria, has worked with other stakeholders and legislators to ensure that the final bill would implement these important standards without undue delay. The bills have been amended and are working their way to what we expect will be final passage in good form.  

Senate Bill 951 (Surovell) would prohibit fracking in the Taylorsville basin, in Virginia's coastal plain. Recognizing the dangers of fracking for the Bay, and in support of localities in the affected region, CBF and other conservation groups testified in support the bill, and it passed out of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Chesapeake committee as a four-year moratorium on fracking, reported to the full Senate, where it will be considered by the Senate Finance Committee. 

House Bill 675 (Hodges) would reduce the effluent standards for septic systems. CBF opposed this bill, working with the legislator patron and other involved delegates. An amended and improved bill was reported out of committee where it will receive consideration by the full House. 

House Bill 1150 (Wilt) would prohibit the use of toxic coal tar sealants in Virginia. These sealants have high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are harmful to humans and wildlife under certain conditions. The Chesapeake Bay Program has prioritized PAHs as the second most important toxic contaminant. PAHs are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and mutations to aquatic life. CBF worked closely with its patron, Delegate Wilt, in support of this potentially groundbreaking legislation. While the patron ultimately determined to withdraw the bill, we will work to get the bill reintroduced next year.  

House Bill 192 (Yancey) would promote the use of rainwater harvesting by requiring the Virginia Department of Health to develop a more extensive regulatory program on the use of rainwater and gray water. CBF testified in committee iin support of the bill, citing CBF's Brock Center to illustrate the innovative possibilities for use of rainwater and graywater. This bill passed out of committee and is under consideration by the full House.

Fisheries

House Bill 822 (Knight) would adopt into Virginia law the recent changes to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's menhaden management plan. Failure to adopt this science-based legislation could lead to sanctions affecting many of Virginia's most important fisheries. CBF is working hard with other stakeholders, legislators and the Administration to support a path forward for bringing Virginia into compliance with the latest menhaden management plan.

House Bill 1488 (Helsel) would remove a longstanding provision in state code that prohibits carrying oyster dredge gear onboard a vessel while crossing an oyster sanctuary. In force since the 1950s, this prohibition is intended to prevent oyster poaching from sanctuaries, and is one of the Commonwealth's most serious natural resources violations. CBF strongly opposes this bill, working hard with legislators, who ultimately decided to "pass the bill by indefinitely," cutting off further consideration.

Pipeline

Senate Bill 950 (Hanger) would provide new protections for any future interstate pipelines that cross Virginia. In particular, this bill would ensure that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality would not certify a proposed pipeline as protective of water quality unless and until it developed an individual water protection permit that addressed every stream and wetlands area to be crossed by the pipeline. Recognizing the bill as an important step forward, CBF has worked with the legislative patron and other stakeholders to make it as strong as possible. The bill was reported out of committee and is now in the full Senate for consideration.

Investing in Clean Water Programs

CBF has also focused on important l budget amendments that would provide critical funding for water restoration programs, including:

Agricultural best management practices such as fencing cattle out of streams and planting cover crops and streamside trees, which are cost-effective ways to keep valuable nutrients and topsoil on the farm and out of our waterways. CBF is advocating for several budget amendments that would increase funding for these programs, potentially bringing the total investment in these farm programs to $62 million.

Virginia's Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) addresses one of the state's most vexing water quality problems by providing matching grants to localities for projects that treat polluted runoff from our roofs, sidewalks, and roadways. CBF is advocating for essential  budget amendments that could bring the total investment in SLAF to as much as $50 million each year.

Overharvesting, pollution, and disease decimated Virginia's oyster population, but in recent years, oysters have shown signs of recovery. Support for oyster replenishment and restoration with an increase in funding will allow this growth to continue, helping to rebuild an industry that once supported thousands of jobs and added millions to our economy. CBF is advocating for budget amendments that would bring the total annual investment in oyster replenishment up to $3.5 million and oyster restoration to $500,000.

Share Your Clean Water Story

What does the Bay, its rivers and streams mean to you? What impact have the Bay and its local waters had on your life? We'd like to know.

Share Your Story

Save the Bay

Founded in 1967, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to saving the Bay.

Save the Bay