Virginia Lawmakers Release Budget With Significant Environmental Investments

General Assembly Session Acknowledges Necessity of Climate Readiness and Ecosystem Restoration

Significant investments in cleaner water, conservation, and climate readiness were proposed by Virginia state lawmakers this week as the General Assembly session heads toward the finish line.  

The budget conference report released Thursday afternoon by Virginia state lawmakers proposed support for resilience efforts, flood protection, conserving the state’s disappearing trees, continued investments in beloved species like oysters, and reducing pollution to critical waterways amid a looming 2025 deadline to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration goals. Legislators proposed the following levels of investment over the two-year budget period:

Pollution Reduction

  • Building off last year’s historic investment in farmers, legislators recommended investing $231 million in 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. 
  • Legislators are proposing a $20 million investment for a pilot Pay for Outcomes Program where pollution reduction projects with verified, successful results are compensated. 
  • Legislators recommended $400 million in bonds to fund upgrades at wastewater treatment plants, which are essential to continuing progress in reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. 

Tree Conservation

  • With the state losing tree canopy at an alarming rate, the proposed budget included $1.16 million in funding to study the Commonwealth’s forests and conservation opportunities. The conference report also supports funding for a Department of Forestry policy specialist.  

Climate Resiliency

  • Although the proposed budget removes $25 million from the Resilient Virginia Revolving Loan Fund, it maintains the $100 million in year one that the Governor proposed for the Community Flood Preparedness Fund (CFPF). Communities from Southwest Virginia to Fairfax to the Eastern Shore have used the CFPF for projects that protect homes and businesses from flooding.
  • Lawmakers included language to return Virginia 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.
  • The budget also includes $1 million over the biennium to create the Office of Commonwealth Resilience, which will help coordinate climate adaptation efforts across Virginia government as we build towards a Climate ready Commonwealth. 

Tackling Invasive Species & Rebuilding Keystone Species

  • The budget proposal restores $1 million over the biennium for oyster replenishment activities. This funding is vital to thriving waterways and local economies that until recently had long-suffered from overharvesting, pollution, and disease.
  • Strengthening the blue catfish industry also received support from lawmakers. The final budget for this initiative included $250,000 in the second year of the biennium. A robust commercial fishery for blue catfish will help reduce their predatory pressure on other commercial and recreationally important fishery species.  

The House and Senate compromise on the state budget will head to the governor for approval.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Policy Manager Jay Ford issued the following statement:  

“Virginia lawmakers heard growing calls from their communities about the detrimental loss of neighborhood trees, flooded streets, and the threat of pollution to beloved waterways and species. They answered these calls with this conservation-focused budget, which invests in cleaner water, agricultural conservation practices, and climate resilience.  

“The historic show of bipartisan votes and funding for these solutions demonstrates the increasing urgency to contend with these environmental threats. We applaud these investments and look forward to working with legislators to further protect Virginians and the environment.”


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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