Q1 2019 Newsletter

Q1 2019 Newsletter

2019 General Assembly Boosts Spending on Water Quality, Maintains Spending on Land Conservation

Ag BMPs is the big winner

The 2019 General Assembly adjourned its legislative session on February 24, having taken up more than 3,100 bills and resolutions and amended the second year of the state’s biennial budget.

VIRGINIAforever principally focuses on the General Assembly’s budget – its proposed investments in water quality and land conservation initiatives.

As the General Assembly kicked off in January, VIRGINIAforever was fully behind Governor Northam’s proposed budget amendments to invest $50 million in the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund to assist local governments in reducing stormwater pollution, $90 million (including $74 million from the Water Quality Improvement Fund) for agricultural BMPs and technical assistance, and $11 million in land conservation funding. VIRGINIAforever also supported new funding for state regulatory agencies’ staffing needs for permitting, oversight, and stakeholder communications.

The governor’s proposals represented unprecedented single-year spending in natural resources, and VIRGINIAforever worked with the governor’s staff, state agencies, and legislators to support it.

The General Assembly worked to balance the governor’s proposed budget amendments – not only in natural resources, but in education, public safety, and healthcare, among other areas – and to consider some level of tax relief in light of certain recent federal tax code changes.

When the General Assembly adjourned in late February, it had reworked Governor Northam’s proposed budget. Legislators reduced the governor’s spending proposals in stormwater and land conservation, reworked his agricultural BMP proposal, and eliminated most increases in state agency staffing.

The General Assembly’s final budget includes the following:

  • $10 million for the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund
  • $4.5 million for the Virginia Land Conservation Fund; this was existing funds, and additional proposed funding was eliminated
  • $90 million from various sources for agricultural BMPs, including $74 million from the Water Quality Improvement Fund
  • $800,000 for the Department of Environmental Quality for IT upgrades to aid in stakeholder engagement and other improvements

The 2019 General Assembly invested less than usual in stormwater pollution reduction, but a hefty amount in other water quality programs. It did not invest what it arguably should have in land conservation. And agricultural BMP investments was the big winner.

The General Assembly returns to Richmond on April 3 for its one-day Reconvened Session to consider the governor’s proposed amendments and vetoes to legislation and amendments to the budget.

VIRGINIAforever will continue working with the Governor’s Office, General Assembly members, and environmental agencies to press the need for additional natural resources spending.


VIRGINIAforever Embarks on Five-Year Funding Plan Updates

In 2013, VIRGINIAforever underwent a multi-phased process to highlight the recent accomplishments of Virginia’s land and water strategies and to propose five-year funding goals for the state to invest in the Commonwealth’s future. This exercise resulted in VIRGINIAforever’s Five-Year Funding Plan, which covered years 2015 through 2019.  With that plan expiring, VIRGINIAforever is now embarking on a mission to develop a new set of funding goals for the years 2020 through 2024.  A workgroup, led by executive board member Nikki Rovner of The Nature Conservancy, is diligently meeting with agency heads, NGOs and other interested parties to determine needs and how VIRGINIAforever can support these needs. The culmination of this research will be a published report to used as VIRGINIAforever’s legislative priorities moving forward.  The plan will be finalized and shared in late-summer. Stay tuned for more information.

VIRGINIAforever Welcomes New Members

In the first quarter of 2019, VIRGINIAforever welcomed the following new members on our general board:

  • Bruce Wingo as an individual member
  • Virginia State Dairymen’s Association, represented by Eric Paulson
  • Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, represented by Jason Carter

To learn more about becoming a member of VIRGINIAforever, contact Ginny Boland at gboland@mwcllc.com.

News from the Administration

Governor Northam Announces $1.4 Million in Grants to Support Restoration of Brownfield Sites. On February 27, Governor Northam announced approximately $1.4 million in Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund (VBAF) Site Remediation Grants for eight localities in the Commonwealth. VBAF was established to provide either grants or loans to local governments to promote the restoration and redevelopment of brownfield sites and to address environmental problems or obstacles to reuse in an effort to effectively market to new economic development prospects. Read more here.

Governor Northam Announces Legislative Proposals to Improve Environmental Quality and Strengthen Protection of Virginia’s Natural Resources. On January 3, Governor Northam announced a legislative package focused on improving environmental quality and management of natural resources in Virginia. The package includes the Coastal Protection Act, the Water Quality and Safety Act, the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund Amendments Act, and two bills designed to reduce conflicts between shellfish growers and other users of tidal waters. Read more here.

Governor Northam Announces Over $600,000 in Farmland Preservation Grants. On January 17, Governor Northam announced the recipients of fiscal year 2019 farmland preservation grants. Six localities have been awarded a total of $633,831 from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (VDACS) Office of Farmland Preservation. The funds will be used to permanently preserve working farmland through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs. PDR programs compensate landowners who work with localities to preserve their land permanently by voluntarily securing a perpetual conservation easement. Read more here.