Public Comments for 01/25/2021 Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources - Chesapeake Subcommittee
HB2129 - Chesapeake Bay; wastewater treatment, Enhanced Nutrient Removal Certainty Program established.
VAMWA (Va Assn of Municipal Wastewater Agencies) supports HB 2129, which is a carefully structured program to carry out the wastewater component of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP). The bill calls on the top nutrient reduction performers in VA's Bay restoration program -- municipal clean water utilities -- to do extra to help the Commonwealth meet statewide goals in 2025, while other sectors continue working on their original 2010 TMDL obligations. Although the bill imposes a large list of requirements on municipal facilities, it is more cost-effective (State WQIF and Local shares) than the original WIP approach that might otherwise be mandated through a pending DEQ rulemaking and VAMWA strongly supports this compromise over the WIP as originally envisioned. As in earlier Bay TMDL phases, critical to implementing this bill (or the more costly pending regulations the bill would supersede) is for State WQIF appropriations over the next 5 years to continue to keep pace and match progress under the necessary engineering and construction contracts. Currently the HB 2129 approach is an estimated estimated 5-year (CY2021 - CY2025) $800M effort with associated State WQIF share of $300M per existing WQIF statutory formulas. Peak construction and related spending is expected CY2023-2025. Thank you for the General Assembly's rock-solid 24-year history of fully funding the Point Source WQIF on the same schedule as the underlying engineering and construction contracts for these multi-year treatment upgrade projects for Bay purposes.
The Virginia Municipal Leagues supports HB 2129. The bill affected nearly 30 wastewater facilities, many of which are owned by towns and cities. The bill provides greater planning and budgeting certainty as well as greater certainty in pollution-reduction targets. The bill is a much more cost-effective approach -- calculated to be at least $173 million less expensive -- than proposed in the Watershed Implementation Plant Phase III. HB 2129 will continue ensuring that Virginia meets its 2025 WIP3 Chesapeake Bay obligations in the wastewater sector.
The Virginia Waster and Wastewater Authorities Association -- represented dozens of public service authorities -- supports HB 2129. The bill affected nearly 30 wastewater facilities, many of which are owned by authorities. The bill provides greater planning and budgeting certainty as well as greater certainty in pollution-reduction targets. The bill is a much more cost-effective approach than proposed in the Watershed Implementation Plant Phase III.
Good afternoon, Chairman Plum and members of the committee. I am Peggy Sanner, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Executive Director. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about HB 2129. I thank Del Lopez for patroning this important bill which addresses next steps in upgrading Virginia’s wwtp program to help Virginia meet its Bay commitments. His legislative and environmental leadership has been invaluable. I also thank Del Bulova whose deep and long term engagement in these issues has also been indispensable. As always, we have appreciated the opportunity to work with our partners Chris Pomeroy at VAMWA and Preston Bryant for VML. And I would be deeply remiss if I did not mention the Administration and especially the ww staff at DEQ on whose tireless expert assistance this whole enterprise rests. As stated, the bill will ensure Virginia’s wastewater program will meet some important pollution reduction goals set out in the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan – a result we surely applaud. But—without stepping away from the compromise reflected in the current bill -- what the bill does not do is also important. 1. The bill does not require the level of improvements necessary for Virginia to overcome looming pollution reduction shortfalls from other sectors. Progress in stemming polluted runoff that reaches waterways from developed lands hovers between flat and negative. And, frankly, Virginia has never funded our agriculture programs at the level necessary to meet that sector’s goals. While the Clean Water Act and Virginia’s State Water Control Law embody the principle and provide the tools to eliminate pollution from wwtp and other point sources to achieve clean water, this bill will significantly limit the extent to which Virginia can rely on achievable WWTP reductions to fill that gap. 2. Equally important, this bill does not take advantage of obvious and achievable opportunities to meet that shortfall. Unlike the plan first introduced in the Phase III WIP in 2019, and -- unlike the comprehensive plan currently before the State Water Control Board for approval -- this bill requires no new pollution reductions from several large facilities discharging to the James and York Rivers – even though their current rates of discharge are substantially higher than from facilities along the Potomac and Rappahannock. The ongoing pollution levels from these facilities and—frankly, the lack of water quality equity for Virginians downstream – cause us great concern. 3. Yes, the bill includes a few measures in a nod to those concerns. Notably, it provides that 3 James River facilities could be required to reduce their nitrogen pollution loads in the future. But such reductions are deeply contingent, limited in scope, and, in any event, would not come to fruition for 15 years. That is a long time to wait for clean water equity. With all that, I close by asking - in muted tones -- to support this bill. But I also ask that you continue to strengthen this program and the related water quality programs for stormwater and agriculture that, in sum, have made Virginia a national leader in Bay restoration. We cannot become complacent, recognizing that this work will only become more difficult due to pressures from needed development but also due to challenges arising from climate change. Thank you.
VACo is pleased to support HB 2129 and is grateful to the patron and all of the other stakeholders for their hard work on this important legislation.
Virginians deserve to breathe clean air. Unfortunately, pollution from vehicles is killing almost the same number of Virginians that die every year in traffic accidents - pollution that hits low-income neighborhoods and communities of color the hardest. While the General Assembly has prioritized acting to address climate change in recent years, cutting back power plant emissions and prioritizing clean energy, emissions from the transportation sector still make up almost half of our state's carbon footprint, with most of this coming from gas- or diesel-powered passenger vehicles. This is why the legislature must act in 2021 to protect public health and address the climate crisis by working to secure a cleaner transportation future. I urge you to support House Bill 1965 and adopt a Clean Cars Standard in Virginia as a first step toward a cleaner, more equitable transportation system in the Commonwealth. Under this program, Virginians will have more access to and greater incentive to purchase Low Emission Vehicles and Zero Emission Vehicles - vehicles that are in high demand but short supply right now as they're being sent predominately to other states with standards in place already. Over time, auto dealers will have to stock cleaner cars, which in turn will help protect public health and the environment by driving down pollution, and save Virginians thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle. The climate crisis won't go away without years of hard work. If we fail to act now, we'll only fall further behind. I urge you to prioritize climate action in 2021 by supporting House Bill 1965. Thanks, Allen.
We need more clean fuel vehicles in VA. Please help support them.
CBF supports this bill conditioned on seeing the final amendments we expect to be made by Wednesday.