Category Archives: Climate Action

Albemarle and Charlottesville set to collect plastic bag tax starting January 1

If you use plastic bags provided by grocery stores to take your food and beverages home in Albemarle and Charlottesville, it’s going to cost you slightly more. 

“As authorized through Virginia Code §58.1-1745, retailers will be required to charge $0.05 per disposable plastic bag provided to customers at checkout,” reads a press release sent out late Monday. 

The idea is to incentivize people to carry reusable bags. Revenue must go to specific sources including purchase of bags for people with eligible incomes, a marketing campaign for environmental education, or litter clean-up programs. 

The tax itself will be administered by the Virginia Department of Taxation. 

For more information: 

Are you a retailer? Are you prepared to implement the fee? What about a consumer? Will this change your behavior?


Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the December 20, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

 

City manager report: CAT service to Center slated to start in May 2023

Tonight the Charlottesville City Council will meet for the final time of 2022 and with that event will come the final monthtly report from interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. Often these items are discussed at the meeting, but sometimes they are not. So, here are some of the highlights:

  • There are a few more days to fill out the National Community Survey if you live in Charlottesville. The input will be used to inform the strategic plan that will soon get underway. (link to survey) (story)
  • A new person has begun work as a grants analyst to manage funds that flow from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Anthony Warn’s position is within in the Office of Community Solutions. The position of housing manager has not been filled. That person will ensure that the city’s affordability provisions are actually being met. 
  • Charlottesville Area Transit is seeking ways to move forward with route changes, or at least expansion of service to the Center at Belvedere on Route 11. In a follow-up, CAT Director Garland Williams said service would begin in May 2023. However, other routes that went through a public process in 2021 will be delayed until later on in 2023.  
  • Charlottesville Area Transit also continues to get ready to provide microtransit service in Albemarle County. Williams said that service will launch in late summer or early fall.
  • Staff is also working to expand the bus stop at Midway Manor which will a require an easement from the property owner. 
  • The city is ready to take possession of plastic bags to provide eligible households with enough in advance of the plastic bag tax that goes into effect on January 1, 2023. Are people ready for this to occur?
  • Work on the city’s economic development strategic plan will begin soon. The city has announced that Resonance has been hired do the work with completion in the summer.  I had posted about the award on November 21, 2022
  • Outgoing interim Police Chief Tito Durrette has ordered a State of the Department to be ready by the time Michael Kochis takes over as police chief.

    “The audit’s goal is to provide stability within the organization ensuring an orderly and efficient transition of command. Some of the tasks that will be accomplished include conducting inventories of the property and evidence room; all firearms (including ammunition) and less-lethal weapons in our possession; the quartermaster’s space; our motorized and bicycle fleet; our communications and electronic systems, including all phones, radios, computers, and audio/video surveillance equipment; all badges and sworn credentials; and of all other fixed assets that are within the main facility and any of our offsite offices.” 
  • Twenty percent of city employees participating in a phishing email campaign failed according to a report from the Department of Information Technology. 
  • The Route 250 bypass fire-station is perhaps $1 million over estimate even after value-engineering. 
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Charlottesville Climate Action Plan to be added to the Comprehensive Plan

City awards contracts for Preston / Harris study, new fuel tank for city fleet

When they meet on December 13, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will vote to recommend the re-adoption of the Comprehensive Plan in part to address a legal issue that may have occurred when the current version of the document was originally approved on November 15, 2021. 

In late August, Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Claude Worrell dismissed three of four counts on a lawsuit calling for the Comprehensive Plan to be overturned, but said he would hear arguments on a claim that the public notice was not sufficient. The readoption will render those claims moot because a new public hearing will be held on December 13. (read my story)

But the notice is not the only change that will be made before the public. Charlottesville’s Climate Action Plan will also be added to the document but in slightly revised version not yet seen by Council. (Review the November 22, 2022 Climate Action Plan)

“It is a community-wide plan that has been developed based on the key sources and sectors of greenhouse gas emissions and contains a framework of actions that can be implemented by and throughout the community,” reads a December 8 press release

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Virginia Supreme Court rules in favor of utility charge for carbon reduction

The State Corporation Commission acted lawfully when it approved a request from the Virginia Electric and Power Company to add a surcharge to utility bills to cover the costs of purchasing carbon allowances in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auctions. That’s according to an opinion yesterday by the Virginia Supreme Court. 

“Though highly complex in its details, the [Carbon Dioxide] Budget Trading Program relies on a basic economic thesis: CO2 emissions can be reduced over time by making those responsible for them pay for the right to emit,” reads the opinion by Justice D. Arthur Kelsey

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Council considers funding for Avon fuel tank replacement

Charlottesville is considering a Climate Action Plan to guide efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050. In the meantime, much of the city’s fleet still operates on fossil fuels with a fueling station on Avon Street in Albemarle County.

“That fuel station has been in place for quite a while and the below-ground fuel tank is at the end of its usable life and is becoming uninsurable at this point,” said Michael Goddard is a Senior Project Manager in the city’s Public Works Department. 

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Public input meetings scheduled for Charlottesville Climate Action Plan

Last week, the Charlottesville City Council got a briefing on the draft Climate Action Plan, as reported in the October 11, 2022 edition of this newsletter. At the end of a work session last week, Councilors indicated they wanted to adopt the plan as soon as possible and make it part of the Comprehensive Plan. But, there’s a process that needs to be followed.  (view the plan)

“So that would entail a joint public hearing with Council and the Planning Council and then it would come to the Council for a vote,” said James Freas, the director of the City’s Neighborhood Development Services Department. 

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Council briefed on draft Charlottesville Climate Action Plan

Charlottesville City Council got a first look at the long-awaited Climate Action Plan for Charlottesville at a work session on October 3. The document is intended to help steer the city towards meeting energy efficiency goals. (view the plan)

“The City of Charlottesville committed to developing a Climate Action Plan, or CAP, to achieve greenhouse gas reductions of 45 percent by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Kristel Riddervold is the manager of the environmental sustainability division in the Charlottesville Public Works Department. 

“It identifies projects, programs, policies, processes, and some key resources needed to support action in the near-term,” Riddervold continued.  

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UVA continues to use coal as a backup to Charlottesville gas

As the temperatures get colder, thoughts of many turn to how homes and businesses will be heated in the winter months. The University of Virginia continues to burn coal for a portion of the year to supplement the natural gas it purchases from the city of Charlottesville. 

The topic came up at the end of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors’ Buildings and Grounds Committee on September 15. University of Virginia Architect Alice Raucher provided an overview of UVA’s sustainability goals. 

“The big goal of course is carbon neutrality by 2030 and fossil-fuel free by 2050,” said Alice Raucher, the University of Virginia architect. 

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Youngkin administration outlines plan to leave cap-and-trade system

Governor Glenn Youngkin has renewed efforts to remove Virginia from an interstate compact intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Within an hour of taking office in January, Youngkin issued several executive orders including one seeking departure from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

However, the Republican governor was unable to leave without the General Assembly’s approval as party control is split across both Houses. Now, however, Youngkin’s appointees now have the edge on the seven-member State Air Pollution Control Board and he sent acting Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Boyles to outline the new plan to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“RGGI is a bad deal for Virginia,” Voyles said. “Whether you agree with the framework and principles of a cap-and-trade system, the way RGGI has been implemented in Virginia does not work as an effective means for greenhouse gas reductions,” Voyles said. 

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Planning for heat for near-term, long-term

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is working on an update of the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is intended to help coordinate public response to natural disasters. There’s a section on extreme heat that may be useful to know at a time when heat records are being surpassed across Europe. 

“Extreme heat can be defined as temperatures that hover 10°F or more above the average high temperature for the region, last for prolonged periods of time, and are often accompanied by high humidity,” reads page H-25 of the plan. “Under normal conditions, the human body’s internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, in extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed, and the body must work much harder to maintain a normal temperature.”

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