March 18, 2016

Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets support

Two recent Daily Press articles caught my eye.

The first one focused on 33 local lawmakers supporting a NEW pipeline, Dominion's 70-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline that would bring more natural gas to our area. They insist it is crucial to economic development.

The second one was more ominous. It seems that during the last two decades, more than 2000 accidents have occurred on gas transmission lines across the U.S., resulting in 46 deaths, 181 injuries and $1.8 billion in damages.

Decide for yourself if these two articles are saying the same thing. Perhaps our Tidewater lawmakers are thinking about the new jobs that will open up AFTER the pipeline is built, the ones for inspectors to oversee any accidents?

March 16, 2016

Offshore Virginia drilling off the table for now

There was a huge sigh of relief from environmentalists, marine life and fish yesterday when the big news about offshore drilling was announced. For the next five years, Virginia and the mid-Atlantic coast  will NOT see any test drilling for oil and gas. The Interior Department responded to more than one million public comments about concerns for human error in this component of the energy industry. The potential lease areas here were under threat since the initial plan was announced in early 2015 and the longtime moratorium lifted. No one could definitively explain if Virginia would even share in any of the revenue. So, for the time being, look for more progress in renewable forms of energy. Perhaps Dominion Virginia's "voluntary" renewable energy goals could see more of a commitment, rather than a promise.

March 11, 2016

Better news for the James River

The announcement of the settlement between the James River Association and Dominion Virginia Power was a somewhat brighter bit of news this week. Perhaps the recent protesters in Richmond made their point about the discharge of treated coal ash wastewater into the James River. Cleaner water standards will be implemented and fish near the Bremo power station's discharge area will be tested for arsenic and other heavy metals that are in coal ash.

But any threat to theses waters should not be taken lightly. Dominion insists that merely 2.2 million gallons of "treated" wastewater will end up in the James each day, far less than the 10.2 gallons daily that is in their permit. But how long will that be the case?

witnessed the sugar industry's wastewater discharge in Florida just two weeks ago and it was not a pretty thing. The line of demarcation as the wastewater from Lake Okeechobee entered the Caloosahatchee River and then San Pedro Bay was very visible. See for yourself what regulations really mean.

Coal industry subsidies in Virginia

Did you know? . . . that fewer than 3000 Virginians work in the coal industry, according to the Virginia Conservation Network. In 1988, more than 11,000 made a living from this fossil fuel. And yet $610 million of Virginia tax dollars have been poured into this declining industry over the last few decades. More than $37 million last year alone, an increase of $9 million over 2014.

Senate Bill 44 will extend these subsidies during the next five years, unless Governor McAuliffe vetoes the bill.

Subsidies for any industry means that government is picking winners and losers, with OUR money. Is it fair? Or would it be better to invest these dollars in re-training programs for those still struggling in this dirty industry. 

March 3, 2016

Reverse osmosis water plants

After spending a week on Exuma in the Bahamas using nothing but reverse osmosis water got me pondering why the United States has so few of these RO plants. James City County uses one of these plants to supplement our water supply. The largest such plant in the U.S. is a new one in Carlsbad, California. And many cruisers have small scale watermakers onboard. 

The one that began operating in 2004 on Exuma produces an average of 165,000 gallons of desalinated water daily, with the capacity of 400,000 gallons. Yes, this water is more expensive than natural well water. But wells near shorelines frequently have higher saline levels than desired.