By Larry Land
On June 27 VACo’s Environment and Agriculture Committee held its first meeting to review actions by the 2014 General Assembly and hear presentations on several high profile issues relating to natural resource protection and agriculture.
The most dominant issue was stormwater and the legislation passed by the 2014 General Assembly allowing certain localities (not subject to federal MS4 permitting requirements) to opt out of the mandate to develop a Virginia Stormwater Management Permit (VSMP) program by July 1 of this year.
Melanie Davenport, Director of DEQ’s Water Division, made a presentation on her agency’s plans for going forward with Virginia’s stormwater regulatory program. Russ Baxter, Secretary of Natural Resources for the Chesapeake Bay, provided the committee with an update on the McAuliffe Administration’s strategy for continuing Virginia’s participation in the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Loading (TMDL) program.
The committee also spent considerable time discussing the issue of hydraulic fracking, an issue that has gained much attention in Virginia in recent years. Currently, a Regulatory Advisory Panel (RAP) convened by the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) is considering a series of amendments to Virginia’s regulations on gas and oil drilling. The two local government representatives on the RAP (Ann Neil Cosby in her capacity as Caroline County’s Attorney, and Erik Gregory, King George County Attorney), provided the committee with their perspectives on DMME’s process for amending the regulations, and issues about which local governments might have concerns. Ruby Brabo, Caroline County Board of Supervisors, presented her concerns to the committee about hydraulic fracking.
And finally, Julie Ufner, the National Association of Counties’ Associate Legislative Director, presented information to the committee about regulations proposed by U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to define “waters of the USA” under the Clean Water Act. The public comment period for these proposed regulations has been extended from July 21, 2014 to October 20, 2014.
The chief purpose for the June 27 committee meeting was to provide background information on significant policy issues. Preliminary policy positions are scheduled for adoption at the committee’s next scheduled meeting on August 15.