On Sunday, while Hollywood was abuzz with red carpet arrivals, lawmakers in Richmond were wrapping up and heading home. Awards season and the 2019 General Assembly may be over, but the James River won’t be going home empty handed. We’ve had some major wins for clean water this year!

And we couldn’t have done it alone. So the award for Best Supporting Cast goes to…you! Our Action Network sent over 3,500 emails to elected officials calling on Virginia’s leaders to make clean water a priority. Your support makes our work possible. If you haven’t joined our Action Network yet, please do!

Now, let’s look back at our goals for the 2019 session and see how we performed.

Coal Ash

In a landmark achievement for the future of the James River, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring clean closure of all four coal ash sites within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Under this bipartisan agreement, more than 28 million tons of coal ash will be removed from unlined pits and either recycled or excavated and moved to a permitted landfill.

This clean closure agreement puts public health first and ensures that we will leave the James River cleaner for the next generation to enjoy. We are incredibly grateful to our legislative champions – Senators Scott Surovell and Amanda Chase and Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy – who remained steadfast in protecting their constituents and our waterways from the threat of coal ash. We also thank Governor Northam for his commitment to securing clean closure.

Clean Water and Conservation Funding

Budget negotiators in the House and Senate have proposed a compromise that is now under consideration by the Governor. The proposal includes:

  • Almost $90 million for Agricultural Best Management Practices to help farmers install conservation practices that prevent polluted runoff. Last year, the budget included $22.5 million.
  • $10 million available for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund to assist urban and suburban communities installing projects to treat stormwater runoff. SLAF received $20 million in FY 2019.
  • $4.5 million for the Virginia Land Conservation Fund to support green, open spaces that help filter water. VLCF received no funding last year.

The General Assembly’s proposal doesn’t quite meet the high demand for these successful programs. But it does show that our leaders see the value in these efforts and remain committed to investing in clean water and a fully restored James River. We continue to urge the Governor and the General Assembly to support these programs in the final budget deal.