The James River. Photo: Parker Agelasto, Capital Region Land Conservancy

Va. Governor Proposes $733 Million for Bay, Clean Energy

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam released his fiscal year 2020-2022 budget this week, and he wants to spend more than $400 million on clean water in the Bay watershed.

The governor’s budget includes “investments to support local governments tackling stormwater pollution, upgrade wastewater treatment plants, and assist farmers implementing conservation practices to reduce farm runoff,” according to the Northam administration. There’s another $10 million for oyster reef restoration. These combined efforts will put Virginia on track to meet its portion of Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals by the 2025 deadline.

In addition to the $400 million clean water projects, Governor Northam’s budget creates an “Office of Offshore Wind” for the first time. The governor plans to upgrade the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, as an investment in the offshore wind supply chain. The governor’s office says these moves will allow Virginia to generate 2,500 megawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2026.

“In Virginia, we are proving that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand—and having both is what makes our Commonwealth such a great place to live, work, and play,” said Governor Northam.

Additional funds in the $733 environmental budget would go to expanding the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grant program, improving the Department of Environmental Quality’s permitting process, and supporting “environmental justice.”

“These significant investments in environmental protection, natural capital, and resilience to climate change will position Virginia as a leader among states in creating sustainable, equitable communities,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler.

Chesapeake Conservancy applauds what the organizaton calls “historic investments” in Chesapeake Bay restoration and conservation.

In a statement, President and CEO Joel Dunn says, “By increasing funding for critical conservation programs like the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, this budget will better enable Virginians to protect iconic natural landscapes across the Commonwealth and protect the places most important for our environment and wildlife, and for outdoor recreation and public health.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is optimistic the governor’s commitment will lead to more progress:

“We’ve now got the framework for major environmental success in Virginia. In the upcoming General Assembly session, we’ll work with legislators to build on the strong foundation provided in Governor Northam’s budget,” said President William C. Baker, in a statement.

Governor Northam will address the Joint Money Committees on Tuesday with full details of his budget plan.

-Meg Walburn Viviano