Virginia Lawmakers Show Historic Support for Critical Environmental Issues

Bills that Conserve Trees, Ban Toxic Products, and Strengthen Climate Resiliency Clear Crossover

Virginia state lawmakers marked the midpoint of their 60-day legislative session on February 13 with historic support for environmental issues.   

At this midpoint known as crossover, bills passed by the House and Senate are sent to the other chamber for consideration. If the bills clear both chambers, they head to Governor Youngkin’s desk to be signed into law, vetoed, or become law without a signature.  

Toxic Pavement Sealant Ban Within Reach 

For the first time since being introduced three years ago, a bill that bans toxic pavement sealants has cleared the House of Delegates by a 78-21 vote.  

If passed into law, toxic products used mainly to seal driveways and parking lots could no longer be sold in Virginia. Delegate Kathy Tran (House Bill 985) patroned the bill. Applied both commercially and privately, the sealant is a black liquid marketed as a pavement protector.  

These products contain high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that can harm people, birds, amphibians, fish, mammals, and plants. The bill would prohibit any pavement sealant with a PAH concentration greater than one percent by weight.  

Landmark Support for Tree Conservation  

Tree conservation has also enjoyed landmark support from lawmakers. Though tree legislation has historically stalled in the House of Delegates, multiple bills are now successfully moving through the General Assembly. These bills mainly give localities authority to conserve and replace trees, among the most cost-effective solutions to alleviating flood impacts and reducing pollution. 

HB 529, introduced by Del. Patrick Hope, would give localities broader authority to replace trees lost during construction. If passed into law, localities could establish tree replacement requirements and establish a tree fund if trees can’t be replaced on site. It heads to the Senate with a 53-44 vote from the House.  

Another bill, HB 1100, introduced by Del. Betsy Carr, would help cities and counties preserve trees before they are cut down, rather than replacing them. It enables all localities to conserve more trees during development. Currently, only some Northern Virginia localities have the authority to adopt tree conservation ordinances. This passed the House by a 52-46 vote. 

Lastly, HB 309 by Del. Patrick Hope and SB 461 by Sen. David Marsden would allow Virginia to determine how many acres of the Commonwealth’s forests are healthy, the cause behind the lost canopy acreage, how to reconnect forest fragments, and identify opportunities for further conservation efforts. HB 309 and SB 461 passed their respective chambers unanimously. 

Resiliency Bills Advance 

Two House bills that prepare Virginia to become a climate-ready Commonwealth are also heading to the Senate with widespread support. 

HB 1458, introduced by Del. Phil Hernandez, passed the House unanimously. This bill unifies the government’s climate change resources and adds oversight to flood protection funding. HB 673, introduced by Del. Michael Feggans, prioritizes low-income communities in the Virginia Resilient Revolving Loan Fund and ensures climate change solutions are equitable.   

Environmental Education Makes Strides 

Human impact on the environment and the value of Virginia’s natural resources are essential parts of state education standards, but many school districts aren’t connected to the resources needed to offer hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities through environmental education. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is also supporting increased funding in the budget for Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences that would be focused on environmental literacy.  

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

“This historic support for critical environmental legislation is a huge step toward protecting Virginians and the environment from toxic products and flooding damage, while communities across the Commonwealth would benefit from cleaner air and water. We applaud these significant advancements by state lawmakers. 

“Virginia urgently needs to ramp up work to become a climate-ready Commonwealth. This landmark support from legislators from tree conservation to resiliency signals the importance to representatives of reducing carbon emissions, polluted runoff, strengthening flood protection, and reducing storm damage.” 


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

The Bay Needs You

The State of the Bay Report makes it clear that the Bay needs our support now more than ever. Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

Donate Today

Stay Up-to-Date on Bay News

Want to stay up-to-date on all news and happenings in your region and across the Chesapeake watershed? Join our digital community.

Sign Up
This website uses cookies to tailor and enhance your online experience. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, including details on how to disable cookies, please visit our Privacy Policy. Close