It's the Environment
2015 Year End Review
To Our Clients and Friends,
As 2015 has come to a close, the ESC team has taken a moment to reflect on some of the year’s top environmental highlights. As always, we will continue to keep our website up to date with the latest in environmental news, resources for communities, and project-related materials for our clients. Check-in frequently to see what the New Year brings for ESC and our projects!
Global Climate Change
We end 2015 with lots of news, of all sorts. On a big picture front, there is progress on controlling climate change with an agreement among nations meeting in Paris in December. The global environmental crisis of our own human creation seems to be moving toward solutions and leaving behind the naysayers who whine about the scientific evidence and complain endlessly about cost to big corporations. The whiners sound a bit like buggy whip manufacturers at the dawn of the age of automobiles. Hopefully we are looking at a new era of energy for the US and the global community. Unfortunately, the world is increasingly engaged in conflicts large and small, around the globe, all of which is needless, costs lives and damages the social, physical and biological world.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), better known as Superfund, turned 35 this year. In 2015, we’ve seen some milestones in cleanup take place, including the sixth and final season of dredging on the Hudson River where PCBs were dumped by General Electric in the 1970’s, but we also saw egregious remediation plans that do little to protect human or ecological health.
Superfund was aptly named because the tax accrued on petroleum and chemical industries to be put in the trust fund for the cleanup of the nation’s hazardous waste sites equaled billions of dollars. However, the tax was last collected in 1995 and the fund soon dwindled. Now, for those hazardous waste sites without a primary responsible party to pay for the cleanup, the money must be found and appropriated by Congress out of general revenues, which means much less funding is available. These orphan sites sit idle and continue to leach contaminants and chip away at the progress that has been made to improve the environment in the US.
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, the state with the most Superfund sites in the country, is calling upon Congress for the reauthorization of the Superfund tax. Without reinstating the tax on polluters by Congress, tax payers will continue to foot the bill for sites that have no other means for cleanup.
State of Virginia
The EPA’s landmark Clean Power Plan was finalized this year, thus presenting Virginia with the opportunity to make significant reductions in carbon pollution through our own state-implemented plan. Virginia should seize the Clean Power Plan as an opportunity to build a stronger economy through expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors, to improve public health, and to slow down the effects of climate change already being felt across the state. Thankfully, many of our state legislators seem to realize the importance of the Clean Power Plan to the livelihood of Virginians; Senators Kaine and Warner, Governor McAuliffe, and Attorney General Herring have all taken actions this year to publicly support the Clean Power Plan.
Additional state milestones for 2015 include $2.25 million in Virginia land conservation grants, the court decision to uphold Virginia’s uranium mining ban, and Governor McAuliffe’s Virginia Treasures land conservation initiative.
The James River Watershed
This July the ESC team completed a watershed risk analysis for our hometown river, the James. The report detailed the current state of the James and the risks posed to the river and its watershed by coal ash dumping, toxic chemical storage, and crude oil transport. While the project itself was a success, what we uncovered while conducting research was not so positive. Virginia regulations for coal ash disposal and crude oil transport are lacking to say the least. If stricter rules are not enforced, the James is likely to suffer the same fate as many other urban rivers that have lost their ecological diversity and natural beauty due to anthropogenic activities. In pointing out the missing links in environmental protection, we seek to bring awareness to an issue that affects all of the nearly 3 million Virginians living in the James River watershed. As residents of the James River watershed, it is our duty to hold our representatives accountable for the protection of our natural resources and to advocate for stronger water quality regulations.
We wish you all the best in this new year,
The ESC Team
Peter deFur, President
Laura Williams, Senior Environmental Scientist
Jessica Greene, Research Assistant
Sarah Sanford, Research Assistant
Candace Boyce, Office Administrator