Environmental Wins and Losses in Proposed Virginia Budgets

The Virginia House and Senate unveiled separate proposed spending plans Sunday, which included needed investment in environmental efforts but also marked missed opportunities to support critical issues. 

These proposals approved by the House and Senate money committees Sunday made amendments to the budget previously pitched by Governor Youngkin. The House and Senate budgets vary significantly in their proposed funding for conservation over the next two years.   

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) looks forward to working with legislators and the Youngkin Administration throughout the budget process to secure significant support for clean water, a climate-ready Commonwealth, agricultural conservation practices, and invasive species management. CBF is gratified the see the following investments in the state's natural resources:   

Agricultural and Tree Conservation 

  • Building off last year’s historic investment in farmers, legislators in both Houses proposed $231 million for each year of the biennium to the Virginia agricultural cost-share program. Practices like fencing cattle out of streams and planting streamside trees are among the most cost-effective steps Virginia can take to restore the Chesapeake Bay and improve water quality throughout the state. 
  • The House proposed a $20 million investment in a pilot program that would pay for verified, successful results in pollution reduction projects.  
  • With the state losing tree canopy at an alarming rate, the House included $1.16 million in funding to study the Commonwealth’s forests and conservation opportunities. Both chambers also proposed funding for a Department of Forestry policy specialist.  

Wastewater Treatment  

  • The House budget included $400 million in bonds to fund upgrades at wastewater treatment plants essential to continuing our progress in reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. 
  • Stormwater runoff from roofs, sidewalks, and roadways remains a growing source of dangerous pollution and the focus of many local pollution reduction projects. But neither chamber proposed needed investment in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund. This fund provides matching grants to localities for projects like rain gardens and stream restoration. 

Climate Resiliency  

  • The House proposed $200 million over the biennium for the Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which supports local flood prevention and protection projects. This fund has been tapped by communities from Southwest Virginia to Fairfax to the Eastern Shore to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. 
  • The House conditioned their budget upon Virginia’s reentry to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon emission reduction program. RGGI participation is key to Virginia’s climate adaptation and mitigation efforts as well as our clean water goals.  

Tackling Invasive Species & Rebuilding Keystone Species 

  • The Senate restored $500,000 per year that had been removed for oyster replenishment activities. Oyster restoration efforts are vital to thriving waterways and local economies that until recently had long suffered from overharvesting, pollution, and disease.  
  • Efforts to strengthen the blue catfish industry enjoyed support from both chambers with the House investing $500,000 and the Senate $250,000 in the second year of the two-year budget. A robust commercial fishery for blue catfish will help reduce their predatory pressure on other commercial and recreationally important fishery species.  

A conference committee of legislators will now negotiate a single set of budget amendments, which will need approval from Governor Youngkin before becoming law. 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Chris Moore issued the following statement:  

“The Commonwealth’s budget is an important opportunity for the state to invest in clean water and restore beloved ecosystems, as well as better protect our homes, businesses, and families as we build a climate-ready Commonwealth. CBF applauds the proposed investments in agricultural conservation, wastewater, and climate resilience. We look forward to working with legislators to ensure widespread support for programs that enhance Virginia’s waterways and protect residents from a host of environmental threats. 

“Communities across the state are ramping up work to confront invasive species, protect their local economies, reduce pollution and better ready their communities for the reality of climate change. Passing a robust conservation focused budget will help demonstrate that Virginia lawmakers are committed to enhancing Virginia’s economically and ecologically important natural resources.” 


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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