Includes Initiatives to Conserve Open Space and Land, Help Restore the Chesapeake Bay, and Make Virginia the “Energy Capital of the East Coast”
RICHMOND – Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech gave an update on Governor Bob McDonnell’s natural resource and energy goals during a morning press briefing in Richmond. During the briefing, Domenech discussed land conservation, Chesapeake Bay restoration and progress towards making Virginia the “Energy Capital of the East Coast.” He also announced that Governor McDonnell is hosting the next Chesapeake Bay Executive Council meeting in Richmond on July 11th. Domenech was joined at today’s press briefing by Natural Resources Deputy Secretary, Maureen Matsen who also serves as the Governor’s Senior Energy Advisor, and Anthony Moore, Assistant Secretary for Chesapeake Bay Restoration.
Speaking about Governor McDonnell’s natural resource initiatives, Secretary Domenech remarked, “Virginia has been blessed with abundant natural resources including our cherished Chesapeake Bay, scenic vistas in our mountains and beaches, minerals resources that provide cost-effective energy, an award winning state park system, and recreational and commercial fisheries that provide recreation for our citizens and keeps our economy thriving. The McDonnell Administration is committed to protecting and enhancing our natural resources so that they can be enjoyed by generations to come.”
Domenech continued, “Among the governor’s natural resource initiatives is an effort to conserve more open space and land in the Commonwealth. We are all working hard to make this happen and have already conserved 60,000 acres while simultaneously facing a tough economy. We are continuing to evaluate how to best do our part in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, a valuable natural resource to the Commonwealth and the country. The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council meeting will be a great opportunity for Virginia to showcase progress toward meeting the requirements set out in the Chesapeake Bay Agreement signed in 2000. Finally, we are diligently working to meet Governor McDonnell’s goals of making Virginia the ‘Energy Capital of the East Coast’ by utilizing all of our vast, God-given natural resources to do our part to promote American energy independence.”
Even in today’s economy, over 60,000 acres have been protected in Virginia since the beginning of the McDonnell administration. The Governor provided funds in the current FY2011 budget to support this goal, including $1 million for land conservation easement through the Department of Conservation and Recreation, $1 million to the Civil War Battlefield preservation program at the Department of Historic Resources, and $400,000 through the Farmland Preservation Office at VDACS.
One state program that is helping to further this goal is the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) which will award approximately $2.4 million in matching grants in September, 2011, to help local governments and land trusts purchase land or conservation easements. VLCF grants, which are available to nonprofit organizations and to public bodies (e.g., local governments, state agencies, or regional park authorities), have helped preserve 30,382 acres since the program first received funding in FY2000.
VLCF leverages limited state funds through matching grants and partnerships to protect working farms and forests, historic lands, open space and parks, and natural areas. The program’s distinctive features include (1) requirements for public use and access on most properties conserved with VCLF monies, (2) cross-cutting grant review criteria to maximize conservation values of funded projects, (3) an inter-agency staff review team that involves expertise from multiple state agencies, and (4) a final review by a unique Board of Trustees whose membership includes appointees from the Governor, Speaker of the House of Delegates, and the Senate of Virginia.
CHESAPEAKE BAY RESTORATION
Domenech announced today that the governor would be serving as the host for the next Chesapeake Bay Executive Council meeting in Richmond on July 11. The meeting brings together the governors of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, along with the mayor of Washington D.C. and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss the status of the program. Other states such as West Virginia, Delaware and New York will also send representatives.
Since the EPA’s approval of the Commonwealth’s Watershed Implementation Plan, without any backstops, much hard work has been done by the natural resources secretariat and its agencies. With the implementation having an estimated cost in excess of $8 billion, every sector affected by the plan will be affected by its cost, including wastewater treatment facilities, agriculture and forestry, on-site septic, and urban stormwater sectors.
In the upcoming months, there will be revisions to the Chesapeake Bay Model to correct known deficiencies. The EPA expects that this will be completed by June 30. Once the model has been modified, states will develop phase II of their Watershed Implementation Plans focusing on actions to be completed at a smaller, local scale. The phase II draft is due to be submitted to the EPA by Dec. 1, 2011. Following the submission of the phase II plan, the EPA will review the plans and make comments, with this work due to be completed by Jan. 3, 2012. The final phase II plan is due to the EPA by March 30, 2012.
The Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan provides additional information on how localities will help to meet the goals of the state watershed plan. Working with the various planning district commissions and localities in the bay watershed, Assistant Secretary Moore and staff at the Department of Conservation and Recreation have met with all 16 commissions, presenting additional details on programs, technologies and practices to implement by the 2025 deadline. In addition to the presentations and meetings with Assistant Secretary Moore, a stakeholder advisory group that includes representatives of agricultural groups, manufacturing and industrial companies, environmental organizations and other affected parties has been formed to help develop the Virginia’s Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan. Along with these meetings, there was significant legislation passed that will aid in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and contribute to the Commonwealth’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan.
Working to make Virginia the “Energy Capital of the East Coast,” Governor McDonnell has pursued an “all of the above” strategy for advancing development of Virginia’s energy resources, through the passage of legislation, updating Virginia’s Energy Plan, and working with industry and stakeholder groups. The Governor is leading in the development of offshore energy, supporting expansion of renewables, and advocating on behalf of traditional fuels in order to secure an adequate supply of affordable, reliable energy for Virginia’s future. Since the beginning of his administration, Governor McDonnell has been a strong advocate of offshore oil and gas development, and supported moving to alternative fuel vehicles, including compressed natural gas, in an effort to reduce the Commonwealth’s dependence on foreign oil.
Echoing the message of energy independence, and the important balance between economic development, energy and protection of our environment, T. Boone Pickens and Louisiana’s Secretary of Natural Resources, The Honorable Scott Angelle, were keynote speakers in last October’s First Annual Governor’s Conference on Energy that had over 1,000 participants and more than 100 exhibitors. The conference focused on doing energy business in Virginia. Building on the success of that inaugural event, the Second Annual Governor’s Conference on Energy, this year hosted by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, is set for October 17-19 in Richmond. The conference will focus on our energy future, and what it will take to develop all of our energy resources to get there.
In addition, Governor McDonnell was elected Chairman of the Southern States Energy Board, providing him a unique opportunity to advance the regional energy interests of the South where abundant, reliable, and reasonably priced power continues to attract business and support economic growth. This leadership gives Virginia a strong voice in the conversation regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s agenda and its impact on the coal, natural gas, and utility industries and to encourage Congress and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to support the expansion of nuclear power.
Renewable energy opportunities are also an important piece of the Governor’s energy agenda. With a focus on offshore wind and the development of biomass plants, the Commonwealth has become a leader in growing the renewable energy industry. In 2011, a new partnership began between the Huntington Ingalls Shipyard and Gamesa to develop and test next generation offshore wind turbines engineered specifically for the marine environment. Speaking about the partnership, Deputy Secretary Maureen Matsen stated, “This is a first step in attracting the off shore wind supply chain to Virginia’s unconstrained deepwater port, exceptional workforce, and favorable business climate. Virginia is working to be home to the many industries that will serve the offshore wind industry up and down the Atlantic coast” Virginia also submitted an application to the federal government for an offshore research lease in support of offshore wind technology development. Along with the support of wind energy, the Governor is very supportive of the biomass projects that are being developed by Dominion Virginia Power and NOVEC. In addition, successful legislative efforts will support the effort to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and expand opportunities for distributed renewable generation, in particular solar projects on residential, commercial and local government buildings.
Legislation passed during the 2011 session will advance the goal of making Virginia the “Energy Capital of the East Coast.”