Public Comments for 02/18/2021 General Laws
SB1271 - Virginia Freedom of Information Act; meetings held through electronic communication means.
VCOG supports this bill and the clarity it will give to public bodies for meeting electronically during an emergency.
SB1318 - Interagency Environmental Justice Working Group; established, report.
Mr Chairman and members of the committee, Green New Deal Virginia hopes you will support Senator Hashmi's SB1318, The Bill strengthens the Virginia Environmental Justice Act of 2020 which established the promotion of environmental justice as the official policy of the Commonwealth. Although Virginia now has a basic EJ policy, DEQ still needs the guidance, regulations, trainings, and tools necessary to ensure EJ is carried out and to close historic structural gaps in their public engagement, program administration, permitting, regulation development, and regulatory enforcement. This Bill authorizes agencies when making environmental-related decisions to adopt policies designed to mitigate disproportionately adverse and cumulative environmental impacts on environmental justice communities at the state and local level over the next two years. HB 2074’s local government requirements support DEQ Director David Paylor's commitment, after the completion of VDEQ’s 18-month study in October, “to coordinate with local and state government agencies to ensure alignment with environmental justice policies”. On behalf of our diverse coalition’s 80 grassroots partner organizations, and their members from across the commonwealth, we hope you will support this Bill and vote to give the Department of Environmental Quality the tools necessary and clear authority to deny permits, based on environmental justice impacts and cumulative impacts. This authority is critical to any effort to improve DEQ's consideration of environmental justice in their environmental permitting processes. Thank you for your consideration.
Appalachian Voices supports SB 1318, which amends the Virginia Environmental Justice Act of 2020. This bill includes two of the same provisions from HB 2074 that was introduced by Del. Simonds, and that passed the House, although SB 1318 is smaller in scope than HB 2074. However, SB 1318 does take important steps towards ensuring environmental justice by adding a definition to the 2020 EJ Act, and by codifying the Interagency Work Group on EJ (which was modeled after the Federal Interagency Work Group and included in the previous state budget). Members of Appalachian Voices have consistently raised concerns to me about the process by which state agencies make permitting decisions for polluting facilities like power plants, landfills and wastewater management sites, particularly when these types of facilities are destined to be situated within Environmental Justice communities. SB 1318 begins to address those concerns by adding "cumulative impacts" to the 2020 EJ Act, meaning that the state should consider the cumulative and long-term health impacts that its agencies may have on communities, particularly when they are exposed to toxins and other environmental burdens. The Interagency Work Group defined in the bill can help guide the state through the process of ensuring that EJ is ensured. Thank you for considering this bill, and I do hope you vote YES on SB 1318.
New Virginia Majority (NVM) Public Comment SUPPORT: SB1318, Senator Ghazala Hashmi At New Virginia Majority, we support SB1318. We support this Bill, brought forth by the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative, which we are a member, because it builds upon the Virginia Environmental Justice Act (VEJA) by directly defining cumulative impacts in the Code of Virginia and by improving upon the the EJ Interagency Working Group previously included in the budget (Item 372 SNR), modeled after the EPA’s Federal Interagency Working Group, and designed to create agency collaboration to carry out the purposes of VEJA. We do prefer the Delegate Simonds HB2074 language that passed the House, which goes further by requiring state secretariats, including the Secretary of Natural Resources. to create environmental justice plans to be followed by agencies VEJA’s EJ policy declaration and agencies current public participation requirements should be strengthened via SB1318 to provide for adequate fair treatment and meaningful involvement of Virginians in agencies' environmental decisions and actions. This is evidenced by the expansive recommendations from DEQ’s 18-month EJ Study in October and by continued public complaints related to the public engagement process for siting, construction, and operation of fossil fuel infrastructure, landfills, and other environmentally hazardous activities across the state in the past few years. SB1318 also adds two citizen members from the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice and the state Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to this Working Group, which is critical to help and hold agencies accountable for implementing best practices for furthering environmental justice in the Commonwealth. For these reasons, we recommend the committee to support SB1318. Thank you. Tyneshia Griffin, the Environmental Policy Research Analyst at New Virginia Majority
The James River Association appreciates the opportunity to register our support for SB1318. We thank the patron for her commitment to environmental justice, and we hope it will be the pleasure of the committee to support the bill.
Environmental Justice has been a problem in Virginia throughout our history. This bill is essential to address this problem effectively. It requires each of the Governor's Secretaries to designate at least one environmental justice coordinator to represent the secretariat as a member of the Working Group. The bill provides that the Working Group shall expire on July 1, 2031, preventing dissolution by the political whim of the governor.