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The 2018 General Assembly convened for the first time at 12:00pm on January 10, 2018 with hundreds of bills already pre-filed and awaiting assignment to a committee in either house. Over the course of the next several weeks, members from both the House of Delegates and the Senate continued to work with constituents, special interests, the new administration, and other groups like Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) to draft and introduce legislation.

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Healthy Rivers Initiative

Image result for livestock exclusion fencing john marshallFriends of the Rappahannock works with James River Association (JRA) and Potomac Conservancy as a part of our Healthy River’s Initiative to fight for strong funding for state level water quality programs. This includes funding for Agricultural Best Management Practice Cost-Share Programs, the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF), State Water Quality Revolving Fund, and more.  These programs have brought millions of dollars to the Rappahannock River watershed to protect water quality through installation of important projects like livestock exclusion fencing, cover crops, riparian buffers, rain gardens, stream restoration, and more.

In order to secure funding for these programs, we work with key members of each house to introduce budget amendments that address our water quality programs.

We are currently working with our partners to support the following water quality budget amendments:

Patron Amendment # Description
D. Landes C-45 #1h/368 #1h $25 M in bonds for SLAF.
S. Hanger
D. Bulova
C-45 #1s C-45 #2h $50 M in bonds for SLAF.
S. Edwards
D. Rasoul
362 #8s
362 #7h
$500,000 each year from the GF to establish a statewide Virginia Urban Retrofit BMP Cost Share Program administered by local Districts.
S. Ruff
D. Peace
366 #3s
368 #3h
Language authorizing a voluntary $30,000 fee to expedite DEQ review of stormwater impacts from large land disturbing activities.
S. Hanger
D. Landes
3-1.01 #2s
3-1.01 #4h
Language directing unrefunded marine fuel sales to the NRCF.
S. Hanger
D. Landes
3-6.01 #1s
3-6.01 #1h
Language directing 100 % of the recordation fee to NRCF.
S. Hanger
D. Landes
362 #2s
362 #4h
An additional $10 M each year from the GF for the NRCF.
S. Hanger
D. Landes
362 #1s
362 #8h
An additional $10 M each year from NGF for the NRCF.  A companion to 3-6.01 #1s and 3-6.01 #1h, respectively.
S. Lewis
D. Webert
362 #6s
362 #2h
An additional $57.5 M each year from the GF for NRCF.
S. Ruff
D. Ingram
362 #9s
362 #1h
An additional $11.8 M each year from the GF for Soil and Water Conservation District operations and technical assistance.
S. Hanger
D. Landes
362 #3s
362 #5h
An additional $100,000 in first year and $200,000 in second year for DCR engineering staff to support local Districts.
S. Wagner
S. Lewis
D. Bloxom
376 #1s
376 #2s
376 #2h
An additional $1.5 M each year from the GF for oyster replenishment and restoration activities.
S. Stuart 366 #2s $100,000 each year from the GF for DEQ to establish a statewide sewage pollution registry.
S. Deeds 295 #1s $50,000 in the first year from the GF for a DOH review of health risks from the land application of biosolids.

 


 

Fracking

 

HB 904: “Creates a general record exclusion for trade secrets submitted to a public body”.

This bill would provide a blanket exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) any information claiming the status of “trade secret”. This would include the contents and quantities of the chemicals used in fracking. In the 2017 general assembly session, FOR and partners worked together to defeat four bills specifically designed to exempt the disclosure of fracking chemicals from FOIA. This bill goes 10 steps further to exempt all trade secrets.

FOR Assistant Director Daria Christian joined SELC to provide testimony AGAINST the bill at the House General Laws subcommittee. The bill was voted to pass the subcommittee but ultimately was DEFEATED prior to crossover (when bills are transferred for review and approval of the other legislative body).

SB 951: “Prohibits hydraulic fracturing, as defined in the bill, in the Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Area”.

This bill was introduced by Senator Scott Surovell as a strategy to address the concerns of his and other constituents about the need to protect their drinking water and natural resources. The bill only targeted a ban in a specific area, essentially east of I-95, which has a unique and specific geology and has four localities which have already taken steps to limit or ban fracking activities.

FOR Programs Manager Bryan Hofmann was joined by representatives of VCN, VALCV, Sierra Club, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation in support of the bill. Hofmann testified in SUPPORT of the bill when it was heard at the Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources Committee meeting and highlighted the specific need of the area. A video of the testimony is available HERE.

The bill passed the committee with a 9-5 vote!

Special thanks to Senator Surovell for introducing and defending this bill and to Senator Richard Stuart, who represents the Rappahannock River watershed, for voting in favor of the bill.

This bill was eventually sent back to the Senate Finance Committee where it was defeated by a tie vote 8-8. Three out of five committee members that represent the Rappahannock River watershed voted in favor of the bill.

Thank you to Senator Jill Vogel, Senator Ryan McDougle, and Senator Richard Stuart for voting to protect the Rappahannock River!

Menhaden

There have been a lot of new developments with regards to the Virginia and Chesapeake Bay Menhaden fishery. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is the entity in charge of regulating Menhaden populations throughout the Atlantic coast. The have just recently adopted new guidance and regulations that put new harvest limits on the fisheries allocation to individual states. Therefore it is important for Virginia to adopt these new regulations to stay in compliance with the commission.

HB 822 was introduced by Delegate Knight to help bring Virginia code into compliance with the commission’s new guidelines.

“Menhaden; total landings. Adjusts the annual total allowable landings for menhaden downward from 168,937.75 metric tons to 168,213.16 metric tons and provides that any portion of the coast-wide total allowable catch that is relinquished by a state that is a member of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission shall be redistributed to Virginia and other states according to the Commission’s allocation guidelines.”

This bill was left on the table by the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources which then did not get a vote. This means the bill failed.

FOR is committed to continue to work with our regional partners to ensure the best protections for the Menhaden fishery which has a direct impact on the larger ecosystems in the Rappahannock River.


 

Our partners at Virginia Conservation Network host a bill tracking website if you are interested in following additional legislation at the general assembly. This information can be found HERE

To search a complete list of bills and resolutions at the general assembly this session you can query the Legislative Information System HERE

If you have any questions or would like to know more about the Virginia General Assembly, a specific bill currently in session, how to find or contact your legislators, or the advocacy work of Friends of the Rappahannock, please call 540-373-3448 x112