Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and fellow Chesapeake Bay State-sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), and Chris Coons (D-DE) today announced that they urged Senate leaders to support across-the-board funding sufficient to answer the many threats facing the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“Our states are heavily invested in implementing a Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint designed to restore this national treasure. Continued federal partnership to support this complex, regional effort is key to their success,” the senators wrote. “To maintain the trust and collaboration of state and local partners, we have identified essential programs across the federal agency partners in Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23).”

Notably, the senators advocate funding levels of $15 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake WILD program; $10.7 million for the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office; $5.6 million for National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office programs; and more than $17 million for scientific and monitoring services of the U.S. Geological Survey.

“As a testament to the value of this federal-state partnership, all watershed states signed the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Under the Agreement, the jurisdictions and federal agencies have voluntarily committed to work together to restore water quality in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025,” wrote the senators. “We must maintain federal investment in the programs below to support state-led efforts and ensure their continued success.” 

Full text of the letter is available here.   

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released the following statement on President Biden’s decision to ban Russian oil imports amid Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine:

“By banning Russian oil imports, President Biden has made clear once again that Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine will not go unpunished. Right now, Ukrainians are fighting with their lives against authoritarian rule to preserve the same freedoms we hold sacred. While only three percent of U.S. crude imports come from Russia, we cannot stand with the Ukrainian people while also continuing to support Russia’s energy economy. As the conflict in Ukraine continues to contribute to rising gas prices worldwide, I am committed to working with the administration and my colleagues in Congress to do what we can to address the pain Americans are feeling at the gas pump.”

Last week, Sen. Warner joined Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in introducing the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act – legislation to prohibit the importation of Russian crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal into the United States.

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 WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $1,530,000 in federal funding awarded to school districts across the Commonwealth. The funds were administered through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of two programs: the 2021 American Rescue Plan Electric School Bus Rebates and the annual 2021 Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates. The funds will go towards the replacement of old diesel school buses with new electric, propane, compressed natural gas, diesel or gasoline buses that will reduce harmful emissions in the environment.

“We are glad to see so many Virginia school districts receive funding to invest in electric school buses and cleaner vehicles,” the Senators said. “This investment will significantly benefit our communities by reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. We look forward to helping Virginia school districts compete for additional funding through the $5 billion clean and electric school bus grant program in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”  

The funds will be broken down as follows:

  • $900,000 for three school buses for Petersburg City Public Schools as part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan Electric School Bus Rebates.

This new program provides funds to replace old diesel school buses with new, zero-emission electric school buses. The funds are reserved exclusively for school districts in underserved communities, Tribal schools, and private fleets serving those schools.

  • $250,000 for 10 buses for Newport News Public Schools as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates.
  • $200,000 for 10 buses for Loudoun County Public Schools as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates.
  • $100,000 for five buses for Carroll County Public Schools as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates.
  • $80,000 for four buses for Culpeper County Public Schools as part of the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates.

This program funds the replacement of old diesel school buses with new electric, diesel, gasoline, propane, or compressed natural gas school buses meeting current emission standards.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and a bipartisan group of Senate and House members in introducing the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act, which would prohibit the importation of Russian crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal into the United States.

In 2021, the United States imported an average of 670,000 barrels of oil and petroleum products daily, with a high of 848,000 barrels per day in June 2021. Total imports of Russian crude oil and petroleum products were up 24% in 2021 over 2020. The U.S. has also imported Russian LNG and coal despite having some of the largest reserves domestically. The continued importation of Russian energy commodities would only help support Vladimir Putin’s ongoing illegal invasion of Ukraine and his ability to stay in power.

“Since Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has pulled together an impressive international coalition to impose swift and severe sanctions on Russia. While these measures have already put intense pressure on Russia’s economy, it’s clear more must be done to punish Putin for the tragedies occurring in Ukraine. As Putin continues his vicious assault on the citizens of Ukraine, we should not continue to support Russia’s energy economy by importing these commodities. That’s why I’m proud to support this legislation that would strike at the heart of the Russian economy by banning the importation of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal into the United States,” said Senator Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“The entire world is on edge as Vladimir Putin terrorizes the sovereign democratic nation of Ukraine. The U.S. cannot continue to purchase more than half a million barrels of oil per day because in doing so, we are emboldening Putin to continue using his greatest weapon of war – energy exports,” said Chairman Manchin. “The Ban Russian Energy Imports Act would declare a national emergency with respect to Russian aggression and immediately prohibit the importation of Russian energy products. Importantly, this bipartisan bill shows our strong commitment to stand behind the valiant efforts of the Ukrainian people and the measures our allies in Europe are taking to rebuke Putin and his continued aggression. I urge Leader Schumer to quickly bring this bipartisan bill to the floor and urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support it.”

“The world is watching in shock as Russia wages an unprovoked war on Ukraine, killing innocents as it attempts to destroy a fragile democracy. While the Biden administration has taken noteworthy steps to try to convince Vladimir Putin and his regime to stand down, we need an all-encompassing approach that uses every viable tool at our disposal. By leaving Russia’s energy exports untouched, the United States is ignoring one of our most potent options to stop the bloodshed. We must ban Russia’s energy imports into the U.S. so that Americans aren’t forced to help finance their growing atrocities and halt the Russian aggression. I’m proud to sponsor this bill with Senator Manchin and urge the Senate to pass it immediately,” said Senator Murkowski.

Sens. Warner, Manchin and Murkowski were joined in introducing the legislation by U.S Sens. John Tester (D-MT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rob Portman (R-OH). U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5) will introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Ban Russian Energy Imports Act would:

  • Declare a national emergency specifically with respect to the threat to our national security, foreign policy, and economy that exists as a result of Russian aggression against Ukraine and directs the President to prohibit imports of crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, LNG, and coal from Russia.
  • The President has had the authority to take these actions since 1917; this legislation does not grant additional authority. This approach is modeled on the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.  
  • The ban would be in place during the national emergency and either the President or Congress would be able to terminate the emergency and the import ban. 
  • The bill exempts product that is already loaded or in transit at the time of enactment. 

Full text of the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act is available here. To learn more about the legislation click here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09) today announced $174,458 in funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to the United Way of Southwest Virginia, Inc. for the Hurley Disaster Recovery Project following the August 30, 2021 flooding in Hurley, Virginia.

“The Town of Hurley has been left reeling from catastrophic flooding that took place last August,” the lawmakers said. “This funding will provide much-needed relief to the area and help those still dealing with the effects to rebuild.”  

Losses due to the flooding affected 1,000 community members, as 30 residential structures were damaged and more than 40 were completely destroyed. The ARC funds will be used to support a public-private partnership, which is coordinating the long-term recovery efforts from the flooding. The project will support Hurley in its recovery from the August 30, 2021 flood event by assisting 70 households with disaster relief and constructing or rehabilitating 50 homes.

Sens. Warner and Kaine and Rep. Griffith have been pushing for federal assistance since the devastating floods. Earlier this month the lawmakers announced the availability of disaster assistance applications for Southwest Virginia residents and businesses affected by the flooding.

In October 2021, the lawmakers sent a bipartisan letter to President Biden to express their strong support for former Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam's September 30th request for a major disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Virginia and Buchanan County. On October 26, the President approved Virginia’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration, which provided Public Assistance for Buchanan County and Hazard Mitigation for the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, on October 29, 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a formal denial of Governor Northam’s request for Individual Assistance for Buchanan County.

In December 2021, Sens. Warner and Kaine and Rep. Morgan Griffith sent a letter to President Biden asking his administration to approve an appeal that would grant federal assistance to individual residents in and around Hurley. Despite these efforts, Virginia’s appeal was ultimately denied last month.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today applauded $161 million in federal funding to rehabilitate the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP). This historic funding was made possible by the Great American Outdoors Act, a once-in-a-generation law authored and championed by Sen. Warner. The funding will come to Virginia by way of a contract issued by the National Park Service (NPS) in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

“When we passed the Great American Outdoors Act, we knew it would help enable historic investments in national parks throughout the nation. Today, I’m proud to see these dollars come to Virginia to help rehabilitate one of the most important parkways in the nation,” said Sen. Warner. “Along with the funding that’s coming through our bipartisan infrastructure law, I look forward to seeing how these investments strengthen our Commonwealth, create local jobs, and reinvigorate our local economies.”

The George Washington Memorial Parkway is a scenic roadway that honors the nation’s first president and preserves cultural and natural resources along the Potomac River from Great Falls to Mount Vernon.  The northern section of the parkway – from Spout Run to Interstate 495 – is the busiest section of parkway and serves about 26 million drivers annually or roughly 70,000 vehicles per day. This section, which opened in 1962, has never undergone a major rehabilitation. The first phase of the project will be project design, and park visitors and drivers will experience little or no change to their routines. Construction, which is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2023 and be completed in 2025, will impact drivers. Before construction begins, the NPS will provide detailed information to help drivers plan their trips.   

Championed by Sen. Warner, the Great American Outdoors Act is a landmark law that preserves and protects our country’s national parks and public lands. The bipartisan law provides permanent and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and helps address the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks and other land management agencies. It also tackles $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s national parks.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the deferred maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance. In March 2018, after extensive negotiations, Sen. Warner and a bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner and his colleagues introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which was signed into law in August of 2020. According to the Park Service, approximately $249 million in funding from the Great American Outdoors Act has been allocated to national parks in Virginia thus far.

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WASHINGTON —Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Ben Cardin (D-MD), introduced the Enhancing Military Base Resilience and Conserving Ecosystems through Stormwater Management (EMBRACE) Act, legislation to authorize the Department of Defense (DOD) to carry out stormwater management projects at military installations to improve resilience at the facilities while protecting waterways and stormwater impacted ecosystems, such as those that feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Senator Kaine is pushing to include the legislation in the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year.

“Sea level rise, flooding, and stormwater pollution threatens not only our environment and economy, but our military readiness too,” said Senator Kaine. “I’m proud to introduce the EMBRACE Act, legislation to help our Armed Forces protect our military bases and environment from the effects of climate change. This is a collaborative approach to defend our nation, improve our waterways, and preserve our environment for generations to come.”

“Military bases across the Commonwealth are at risk of flooding due to climate change. The EMBRACE Act will allow for projects to reinforce these bases while protecting our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. These projects are crucial to keeping our military facilities operational and ready,” said Senator Warner.

“The impacts of the climate crisis – from flooding to natural disasters – increasingly threaten Maryland communities, including our military installations. We need all hands on deck to respond, which is why our legislation authorizes the Department of Defense to help reduce stormwater runoff that threatens access to clean water and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. This common-sense bill will support our efforts to protect both civilian and military communities, while also supporting a clean and healthy Bay,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Climate change, including more extreme weather and flooding events that increase stormwater runoff, has significant implications for U.S. national security and defense. This legislation bolsters the work of the Department of Defense – a federal agency partner of the Chesapeake Bay Program restoration effort – to reduce runoff and improve water quality by implementing stormwater management practices at military installations,” said Senator Cardin.

Stormwater remains the only pollutant in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that continues to increase. Climate related impacts, such as increased rainfall intensity, only exacerbate this problem. As the second largest federal landholder in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, DOD plays a vital role in reducing stormwater loads and enhancing climate resiliency.

Specifically, the EMBRACE Act would:

  • Make stormwater management projects eligible for federal funding under either military construction projects, military installation resilience projects, unspecified minor military construction projects, defense access roads projects, the Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP), and Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program (ERCIP).
  • Instructs DOD to prioritize projects that retrofit buildings and grounds on bases and improve access to roads prone to flooding.
  • Supports the building of stormwater ponds and other retention strategies.
  • Supports replacing impermeable paving that lets water run off with materials that let water seep into the soil, allowing projects such as rain gardens, cisterns, and planters to be eligible for funds. 

Climate change has put numerous Virginia and Maryland military bases at increased risk of flooding, including Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Air Station Oceana, Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads, Langley Air Force Base, Naval Support Activity Annapolis, Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Joint Base Andrews, and Naval Support Activity South Potomac.

The EMBRACE Act is endorsed by The Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Chesapeake Conservancy, Choose Clean Water Coalition, American Flood Coalition Action, the Nature Conservancy, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Wetlands Watch.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Representatives Bobby Scott (VA-03), Rob Wittman (VA-01), and Elaine Luria (VA-02) introduced companion legislation in September. The bill also passed as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 in September in the House of Representatives.

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that President Biden has approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Buchanan County, after extreme rainfall on August 30 resulted in devastating flash floods and landslides. The declaration provides federal support through Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation grant programs to assist in recovery efforts and protect against future disasters. 

“I’m grateful to President Biden for approving my request and providing much needed federal assistance,” said Governor Northam. “Federal support will help Buchanan residents recover from this devastating storm and reduce the future flood risk to local organizations, homes, and businesses. As Governor, I will continue to do everything I can to support the Hurley community.”    

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) will hold Applicant Briefings in the coming weeks to help inform potential grant applicants of the process for applying for and receiving federal grants. Applicants will have 30 days to register and submit a Request for Public Assistance (RPA) in the FEMA Grants Portal.

Public Assistance (approved)
With this approval, local, state, and private non-profit organizations with infrastructure damage or emergency and debris removal expenditures, may apply to FEMA for reimbursement of 75 percent of eligible costs. The FEMA Public Assistance program could take years to be fully reimbursed for disaster related expenditures. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is the administrative agency for this grant program.
https://www.fema.gov/press-release/20210318/what-fema-public-assistance

Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (approved)
With this approval, Virginia will receive funding for projects to reduce future flooding to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. This program could take 5-7 years to implement. The application phase of this program is 12 months, and then FEMA may take 6-18 months to award the project based on environmental and historic review compliance or technical feasibility review. Federal assistance is approved at 75 percent of the total eligible project costs. Local governments and state agencies will apply through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management as the administrative agency.
https://www.fema.gov/es/grants/mitigation/hazard-mitigation

“We’re pleased President Biden has heeded our calls and supported Governor Northam’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration,” said Senator Mark R. Warner and Senator Tim Kaine. “Now, Virginia can receive much-needed federal funds to help Buchanan County recover. We will continue working with the Governor’s office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other relevant federal and state agencies to ensure the residents of Buchanan County have the resources they need following this tragic natural disaster.” 

“Recovery from August’s severe flooding will take time, but the federal major disaster declaration will significantly help Hurley move forward,” said Congressman Morgan Griffith. “This declaration opens up new sources of aid for the rebuilding effort and will contribute to overcoming the flood’s devastation.”

A decision on the potential award of Individual Assistance is still pending.

For more information, please visit VDEM’s grants page.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), introduced legislation to preserve invaluable local resources and help generate economic activity in the Northern Neck. By officially designating the region as a National Heritage Area (NHA), the Northern Neck National Heritage Area Act would deliver critical federal dollars, encourage public-private partnerships, and assign a specific entity – the Northern Neck Tourism Commission – to help protect the Northern Neck’s natural, cultural, scenic, and recreational resources. 

NPS defines national heritage areas as congressionally designated places where “natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.” Through their resources, NHAs communicate “nationally important stories” that celebrate the nation’s diverse heritage. Under this legislation, the NHA designation would apply to the land between the Potomac River and Rappahannock River, spanning King George, Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland counties. 

“As many Virginians already know, the Northern Neck is reflective of the Commonwealth’s unique history, with deep connections to eight Algonquian tribes and a number of American statesmen, including James Madison, James Monroe, and George Washington,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation to help protect the rich history and unique geography of the Northern Neck, and leverage federal dollars to spur long-lasting economic opportunity in the region.” 

“Virginia’s Northern Neck is a source of pride, history, and economic development for the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Kaine. “The beauty and cultural significance of the region attract tourism, strengthening Virginia’s economy and supporting jobs. I’m proud to introduce this piece of legislation to highlight the Northern Neck’s natural beauty and cultural assets, which will bring visitors and economic development.”

“The Northern Neck’s lands and waters showcase a natural beauty unlike any other. As a longtime resident of the Northern Neck, I know our heritage is unique and worthy of preserving,” said Rep. Wittman. “With a history profoundly intertwined with that of the entire nation, it’s only right for us to recognize the Northern Neck as a National Heritage Area. I’m proud to join Senators Warner and Kaine in introducing this bipartisan legislation.” 

The introduction of this legislation follows the completion of the Northern Neck National Heritage Area Feasibility Study. The National Park Service (NPS) – which began conducting this study more than a decade ago – recently concluded that the Northern Neck’s themes, local traditions, and natural and historic resources retain “sufficient integrity and opportunities for public engagement” to be eligible for an NHA designation. 

Under this legislation, and as approved by the NPS study, the heritage area would be managed by the Northern Neck Tourism Commission, which would serve as the NHA’s local coordinating entity. 

This legislation would also make federal funding available to the region and empower the commission to carry out an area management plan, including by:

·         Protecting and restoring relevant historic sites and building;

·         Carrying out programs and projects that recognize, protect, and enhance important resources;

·         Developing recreational and educational opportunities in the area;

·         Establishing and maintaining interpretive exhibits and programs;

·         Promoting a wide range of partnerships among the federal government, state, tribal and local governments, organizations, and individuals; 

·         Increasing public awareness and appreciation for natural, historical, scenic, and cultural resources in the area; and

·         Ensuring that clear, consistent, and appropriate signs identifying points of public access and sires of interest are posted throughout the area

"The Northern Neck has been working together for over 20 years in pursuit of the National Heritage Area Designation.  With designation, the Northern Neck Region will have a greater voice in sharing its stories which contribute to understanding the early origins of our nation. The National Heritage Area Designation recognizes the region for the special place it is, historically, culturally, and for its natural resources. It aligns with the region's tourism strategy as an important economic development driver in this rural area,” said Jerry W. Davis, AICP, Executive Director of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission.    

Sen. Warner, Sen. Kaine, and Rep. Wittman have long advocated for the designation of the Northern Neck as a National Heritage Area. Last year, the lawmakers penned a letter requesting an update from NPS on the area’s feasibility study, following apparent delays in its release.

The text of this legislation is available here.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) joined universities and wind energy experts from across the country on Friday to announce the winners of the Collegiate Wind Competition. Over the course of the academic year, thirteen undergraduate teams designed, built, and tested model wind turbines, developed project plans, collaborated with industry experts, and engaged with their local communities—preparing them for careers in the growing wind and renewable energy workforce to support President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

“Congratulations to the students at Virginia Tech for winning the Connection Creation Contest in the Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition,” said U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner. “Virginia is proud to be a leader in renewable energy and I look forward to seeing the extraordinary work these students continue to do in the jobs of tomorrow.”

“Wind energy is an essential part of our fight against the climate crisis, and that means one thing for talented and driven young people like these students: jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “With their help, I have no doubt that we’ll propel the wind industry to sky-high heights, and send a gust of growth from coast to coast that lifts every American community into a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future.”

Each year, the Collegiate Wind Competition integrates a new challenge into the contest that reflects real-world wind industry needs. Taking the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat of supply chain disruptions into account, the 2021 challenge tasked teams with developing projects for deployment in highly uncertain times, with a significant degree of unknown risks and delays. This year’s competition also featured a new “Connection Creation Contest,” which challenged students to engage with industry professionals, their local communities, and local media outlets, in order to broaden their understanding of the workforce and educate new audiences about the benefits of wind and renewable energy.

The full list of winners is below:

  • Connection Creation Contest: Virginia Tech University
  • Overall First Place: Pennsylvania State University
  • Overall Second Place: Johns Hopkins University
  • Overall Third Place: California Polytechnic State University
  • Turbine Prototype Contest: Kansas State University
  • Project Development Contest: Pennsylvania State University

“Congratulations to the students of Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Wind Competition team on their victory in the Connection Creation Contest. Their accomplishment showed an impressive understanding of the wind power industry and an ability to engage the community in their goals. This achievement shows once again how Virginia Tech leads the way in the STEM field and equips young people for the challenges of the future,” said U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith.

“Congratulations to Cal Poly’s Wind Energy Team for their recognition in the 2021 Collegiate Wind Competition! They embodied the ‘learn by doing motto,’ tackling this real world project with dedication and determination. We know renewable energy is the future, so it is imperative that we have a workforce that is prepared for these future-oriented jobs. We will need smart people, like the members of the Cal Poly Wind Energy Team, to lead the way,” said U.S. Representative Salud Carbajal.

The 2022 Collegiate Wind Competition is scheduled for May 16–19, 2022, at the American Clean Power Association’s CLEANPOWER 2022 Conference & Exhibition in San Antonio, Texas. For more details about Collegiate Wind Competition, visit the CWC website

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) along with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today introduced the Chesapeake Bay Science, Education and Ecosystem Enhancement (SEEE) Act, which aims to restore the health of the Bay Watershed, strengthen fisheries management, and expand environmental education programs for residents across the Bay Watershed. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. John Sarbanes (D-MD), Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA).

“The Chesapeake Bay is not only an important recreational and ecological treasure, it’s also a vital economic engine for Virginia,” said Sen. Warner. “I am proud to introduce this legislation that will support the mission of NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay office to improve the health of the Bay and ensure its sustainable use for generations to come.”

“The prosperity of the Commonwealth and the health of the Chesapeake Bay are inextricable,” said Sen. Kaine. “This bill will support the vital work of preserving our ecosystems, maintaining healthy waterways, and understanding climate challenges so Virginia can continue to reap the benefits the Bay provides.”

“We are at a critical moment for Chesapeake Bay restoration, facing harmful climate change impacts such as rising sea levels, temperatures, and extreme rain events,” said Sen. Cardin. “NOAA's science helps ensure the investments we make will go the furthest to benefit the watershed through improved livelihoods, public health, water quality, and resilience—now and in the future.” 

“A clean Chesapeake Bay is essential to the health of Maryland’s environment and success of our Bay economy,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “This legislation will help deliver on our commitment to preserve and protect the Bay through crucial partners like the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office and environmental educational programs. I am proud to support this bill and will continue working in Congress to provide the resources necessary to promote a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay.” 

“I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to support restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, an incredible wildlife area that includes multiple counties in West Virginia. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work to reauthorize the NOAA Chesapeake Bay office and the programs they support to benefit the habitats in our state and across the Chesapeake Bay region,” said Sen. Manchin.

Specifically, the Chesapeake Bay SEEE Act would: 

  • Reauthorize the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office (CBO), a key partner of the Bay Program and leader of the Program’s fisheries, environmental literacy, climate resiliency, and habitat work. The bill would allow NOAA CBO to collaborate with universities, nonprofits, and other Bay stakeholders to promote integrated coastal observations – such as monitoring and observing restoration activities, collecting and analyzing marine resources data – and information sharing to assist policymakers, resource managers, and the public.
  • Direct NOAA to support coordinated management, protection, characterization, and restoration of Bay habitats and living resources, as well as the Interpretive Buoy System along the Capital John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
  • Authorize the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program, which awards educational grants related to Bay restoration.
  • Reauthorize NOAA CBO through 2025, funding it at $12 million in FY22, $20.7 million in FY23, $22.57 million in FY24, and $24.627 million in FY25.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. More than 150,000 streams and rivers thread through the Chesapeake’s 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to 18 million people across Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. 

A copy of the bill text can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and a bicameral group of lawmakers in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requesting the agency include measures to better support the involvement of residential and small commercial energy consumers as it works to establish the Office of Public Participation (OPP). 

As one of the lead agencies responsible for developing energy infrastructure and ensuring reliability of the electric grid, FERC has sweeping authority over the wholesale power markets and ultimate jurisdiction in the federal siting and permitting process for natural gas pipelines. While FERC’s decisions determine which energy projects are constructed and significantly influence the energy prices consumers pay, private citizens have expressed frustration that participating in FERC’s complex proceedings is extremely challenging.

“As sponsors of the Public Engagement at FERC Act, we write to commend the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the steps you are taking to encourage and facilitate greater public involvement in FERC proceedings as directed by Congress,” wrote the lawmakers. “As the Commission determines how to fulfill its responsibility to coordinate assistance to the public, we encourage you to pay particular attention to providing residential and small commercial energy consumers a strong voice in shaping our nation’s energy future.”

The lawmakers continued, “As you work to establish an organizational structure for this office, we urge the Commission to consider measures included in the Public Engagement at FERC Act as a way to further improve public participation and remove technical barriers that may prevent consumers from making their voices heard.” Specifically, the lawmakers urged the Commission to consider measures included in the Public Engagement at FERC Act to further improve public participation and remove technical barriers that may prevent consumers from making their voices heard, including:

  • The employment of directed outreach methods, such as consultation services and technical assistance, to ensure the interests of residential and small commercial consumers are adequately represented; and
  • The creation of a Public and Consumer Advocacy Advisory Committee for the office composed of representatives from the national and state-based nongovernmental consumer advocacy community and provide intervener funding to individuals or small commercial energy consumer groups to encourage their participation in FERC proceedings. 

The lawmakers concluded, “As Federal policies continue to expand FERC’s impact on utility bills paid by families and small businesses, it is essential that the public play a more prominent role in decisions made by the Commission. Energy consumers have waited more than 40 years for FERC to create an office to strengthen public involvement and ensure the decisions being made are in the best interest of those who will be most impacted. We hope you will consider the priorities laid out in our legislation and establish the Office of Public Participation without delay.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – Amid the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, a bill written and passed into law by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner is set to create more than 18,851 jobs nationwide in 2021, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Great American Outdoors Act, which was championed by Sen. Warner and signed into law by President Trump last year, provides for up to $1.6 billion a year for five years to help address a multi-billion-dollar deferred maintenance backlog at national parks and other public lands.

Warner announced today that among the projects that will receive funding this year are overdue upgrades at three National Park Service (NPS) sites in Virginia: the GW Memorial Parkway ($207.8 million in overdue upgrades); Colonial National Historical Park ($10 million in upgrades); and Skyline Drive ($26.2 million in upgrades), as well as additional repairs at Shenandoah National Park (to the tune of $3.5 million).

“Amid the COVID-19 crisis, this law will create thousands of jobs,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud that Virginia’s national park sites will finally be receiving crucial repairs that have been postponed for years. Future generations will reap the benefits of this once-in-a-lifetime investment in our national treasures.”

The Great American Outdoors Act is a product of Sen. Warner’s effort of more than three years to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the overall maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars. A previously released estimate found that the law is expected to create or support more than 10,000 jobs in Virginia over the life of the bill.  

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined by Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, urging the EPA to use all tools available to meet the 2025 goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The pollution reduction requirements in the Bay TMDL are vital to protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay and ensuring the Bay’s surrounding states each do their part in reducing pollution. Recently, however, Pennsylvania has fallen behind in their TMDL requirements. While the Trump Administration refused to use its legal authority to ensure compliance, the Senators are urging the EPA to take the necessary action to do so.

The Senators write, “On December 29, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, a historic and comprehensive agreement that includes accountability features to restore clean water in the seven jurisdictions within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The agreement is a national and indeed international model for watershed restoration. It sets limits for pollution that equate to a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen, 24 percent reduction in phosphorous, and 20 percent reduction in sediment. As the Bay TMDL states, ‘The TMDL is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures needed to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025[.]’”

“The Courts have upheld the legality of the Bay TMDL. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted, the ‘Clean Water Act does not simply direct the publication of the TMDL; it is one step in a process with several layers, each placing primary responsibility for pollution controls in state hands with ‘backstop authority’ vested in the EPA,’” they continue. 

“The implementation of the Bay TMDL and the Bay jurisdiction’s Watershed Implementation Plans are, therefore, part of EPA’s legal obligation to achieve and maintain the nutrient goals of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL under the Clean Water Act,” the Senators note.

The Senators point to the need for action, writing, “We are at a critical juncture in implementation of the Bay TMDL. EPA’s response to Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) noted that Pennsylvania is on track to meet only 75 percent of its nitrogen reduction targets and the Commonwealth itself identified a $324 million annual shortfall in their plan. The State of New York’s Phase III WIP is also 1 million pounds under its nitrogen goal. We ask that you use all tools at your disposal—including those identified in Bay TMDL Section 7—to make sure that all jurisdictions are on track for 2025.”

The text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Administrator Regan:

Congratulations on your confirmation as Administrator to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

We stand by to offer our partnership to your efforts as Administrator of the EPA to achieve our mutual goal of clean water in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.

On December 29, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a historic and comprehensive agreement that includes accountability features to restore clean water in the seven jurisdictions within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The agreement is a national and indeed international model for watershed restoration. It sets limits for pollution that equate to a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen, 24 percent reduction in phosphorous, and 20 percent reduction in sediment.  As the Bay TMDL states, “The TMDL is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures needed to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025[.]”

The goal of the Clean Water Act is to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” To that end, states are first required to set water quality standards for all waters within their boundaries regardless of the sources of pollution.  When those water quality standards cannot be met and maintained through effluent limitations and technology-based controls on point sources, water quality-based controls are required under Section 303(d) of the Act. States are required to identify waters within its boundaries that cannot achieve water quality standards based on effluent limitations, and then “shall establish for [impaired] waters […] the total maximum daily load, for those pollutants which the Administrator identifies […] as suitable for such calculation.” A TMDL is a specification of the maximum amount of a particular pollutant that can pass through a waterbody each day without violating water quality standards.  Such “load shall be established at a level necessary to implement the applicable water quality standards with seasonal variations and a margin of safety which takes into account any lack of knowledge[.]” Once the 303(d) list and any TMDLs are approved by the EPA, the reporting state must incorporate the list and TMDLs into its continuing planning process.

The Courts have upheld the legality of the Bay TMDL. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted, the “Clean Water Act does not simply direct the publication of the TMDL; it is one step in a process with several layers, each placing primary responsibility for pollution controls in state hands with ‘backstop authority’ vested in the EPA.”

In addition to these requirements, Section 117(g) of the Act requires EPA to take certain actions regarding the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement and the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.  It states that the EPA Administrator, “in coordination with other members of the Chesapeake Executive Council, shall ensure that management plans are developed and implementation is begun by signatories to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement to achieve and maintain (A) the nutrient goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreements for the quantity of nitrogen and phosphorous entering the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed; (B) the water quality requirements necessary to restore living resources in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem; […] (D) habitat restoration, protection, creation, and enhancement goals established by Chesapeake Bay Agreement signatories for living wetlands, riparian forests, and other types of habitat associated with the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem; and (E) the restoration, protection, creation, and enhancement goals established by the Chesapeake Bay Agreement signatories for living resources associated with the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.” (emphasis added).

The implementation of the Bay TMDL and the Bay jurisdiction’s Watershed Implementation Plans are, therefore, part of EPA’s legal obligation to achieve and maintain the nutrient goals of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL under the Clean Water Act.  

Since the inception of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL – and through its Reasonable Assurance and Accountability Framework in Section 7 – EPA has communicated its expectations for the Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia to develop Watershed Implementation Plans and two-year milestones and “demonstrate satisfactory progress toward achieving nutrient and sediment allocations established by EPA in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.” In addition, the Agency laid out potential backstop actions the Bay jurisdictions would face if they failed to demonstrate progress on their obligations under the Bay TMDL, noting that the “identification of possible federal actions is intended to strengthen our individual and collective resolve to make the difficult choices and decisions along the road to a restored Chesapeake Bay and watershed and fill in the gaps to aid States and the District to meet their commitments in order to ensure that the allocations in the TMDL are achieved.”

Time and again, EPA has demonstrated through its approach in establishing and implementing the Bay TMDL, including its application of “backstop actions” when states deviated from their respective obligations, its view that the Bay jurisdictions are responsible for meeting the allocations in the Bay TMDL.  Indeed, as recently as April of 2017, in laying out its expectations for Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan, EPA noted several examples of potential actions it could take specific to Pennsylvania if it determined that the state did not meet these expectations.  Those backstop actions included: (1) Targeting federal enforcement and compliance assurance in the watershed; (2) Directing Chesapeake Bay funding to identified priorities; (3) Establishing finer scale wasteload and load allocations through a Pennsylvania state-specific proposed amendment to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL; (4) Requiring additional reductions of loading from point sources through a Pennsylvania state-specific proposed amendment to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL; and (5) Initiating a process to propose promulgating nitrogen and phosphorous numeric water quality standards for Pennsylvania applicable to streams and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

EPA’s defense of the Bay TMDL and its historic approach to the Bay jurisdiction’s development of the Watershed Implementation Plans clearly indicates that it took its responsibilities under Sections 303d and 117(g) seriously and that it viewed achieving the allocations in the Bay TMDL as necessary to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.  

We are at a critical juncture in implementation of the Bay TMDL.  EPA’s response to Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) noted that Pennsylvania is on track to meet only 75 percent of its nitrogen reduction targets and the Commonwealth itself identified a $324 million annual shortfall in their plan. The State of New York’s Phase III WIP is also 1 million pounds under its nitrogen goal. 

We ask that you use all tools at your disposal—including those identified in Bay TMDL Section 7—to make sure that all jurisdictions are on track for 2025.  

The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load has made strong progress towards cleanup of this national treasure and economic engine in our region. We are at a critical moment, and we look forward to working with you to make sure we meet our 2025 goals for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen's (D-NH) bipartisan letter to President Biden urging him to prioritize robust investments in programs that promote energy efficiency in his upcoming budget proposal to Congress. In the letter, Shaheen and the Senators noted these investments would combat climate change by reducing harmful emissions and pollution and stimulate our economy by creating sustainable jobs and reducing energy costs for consumers. 

Since the pandemic has slowed progress in energy efficiency and led to job losses disproportionately harming workers of color, the Senators expressed urgency in delivering funding to unleash the full potential of the energy efficiency. 

“We applaud your commitment to restoring our nation’s global leadership on climate change while creating jobs here at home. To further these goals, we respectfully request you provide robust funding for programs that promote energy efficiency throughout our economy as your administration crafts its budget recommendation to Congress for fiscal year 2022,” wrote the Senators. “Increasing investment in energy efficiency programs within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) can deliver significant emissions reductions, grow jobs in the clean energy sector and provide savings to American consumers.”

They continued: “Unfortunately, the pandemic and associated economic impacts have hit the energy efficiency sector especially hard, slowing progress and costing jobs, particularly for workers of color. According to recent analysis, more than 300,000 American jobs in energy efficiency have been lost since the beginning of the pandemic, representing a 12.8% reduction from pre-pandemic levels. Though jobs have been slowly returning, we need to invest in programs and implement policies—as we did in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—to truly unleash the job-creating potential of this sector.”

The bipartisan letter was also signed by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Kelly (D-ZA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Senator Shaheen is a leader in the Senate for safeguarding our environment, combating the effects of climate change and investing in energy efficiency policies. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Shaheen traveled to Paris to participate in high-level discussions at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference that led to the international Paris Climate Accord. Shaheen also introduced the widely praised Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC) with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), which contains key energy efficiency policy reforms that will strengthen the economy and reduce pollution. Policy experts at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that over the lifetime of the legislation through 2050, the bipartisan bill will save consumers more than $41 billion on their energy bills, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.18 billion metric tons, which is the equivalent of taking 3.1 million cars off the road each year for 30 years, and add more than 100,000 jobs to the economy. Shaheen is a founding member of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, which brings together an equal number of Republicans and Democrats to craft and advance bipartisan solutions to address climate change.

Read the Senators’ full letter here or below:

Dear President Biden: 

We applaud your commitment to restoring our nation’s global leadership on climate change while creating jobs here at home. To further these goals, we respectfully request you provide robust funding for programs that promote energy efficiency throughout our economy as your administration crafts its budget recommendation to Congress for fiscal year 2022. 

Increasing investment in energy efficiency programs within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) can deliver significant emissions reductions, grow jobs in the clean energy sector and provide savings to American consumers. Specifically, the Buildings Technologies Office and the recently reauthorized Federal Energy Management Program develop and deploy cost-effective technologies and tools to improve energy efficiency performance of residential, commercial and federal buildings and their interactivity with the electric grid. The Advanced Manufacturing Office accelerates research, development and deployment of advanced technologies that make U.S. companies competitive in international markets. Moreover, the Weatherization Assistance Program and State Energy Program empower our states and community organizations to help put people to work improving the efficiency of homes, businesses, manufacturing plants, institutional buildings and other facilities that are critical to community development and resilience. Investing in these programs will also help address equity issues by reducing pollution that disproportionately impacts minority communities, lowering the higher energy burdens faced by low-income households and creating more comfortable and habitable shelters as the severity and pace of climate disasters continue to increase across the country. 

The environmental and economic benefits of energy efficiency are clear. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy efficiency globally has the potential to achieve more than 40% of the energy-related emissions reduction needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the United States, energy efficiency employment grew by 20%, nearly three times the rate of growth in the overall economy, in the five years leading up to 2020, and energy efficiency jobs are available in nearly every county in every state. Unfortunately, the pandemic and associated economic impacts have hit the energy efficiency sector especially hard, slowing progress and costing jobs, particularly for workers of color. According to recent analysis, more than 300,000 American jobs in energy efficiency have been lost since the beginning of the pandemic, representing a 12.8% reduction from pre-pandemic levels. Though jobs have been slowly returning, we need to invest in programs and implement policies—as we did in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—to truly unleash the job-creating potential of this sector. To help us understand these trends and the potential for growth, we also encourage your administration to recommit to collecting data and publishing an annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report and properly funding the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  

Finally, while DOE is clearly a leading agency in the federal government’s efforts to improve energy efficiency, we encourage your administration to prioritize energy efficiency across the administration and throughout sectors of our economy. We have a tremendous opportunity ahead to encourage work on energy efficiency through the General Services Administration, Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development programs, Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program, and more.  

We look forward to working with you to unlock the unrealized potential of energy efficiency. Thank you for your consideration. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supporting two major projects designed to increase the reliability of rural electric utility systems in Virginia. The Senators today announced two low-interest loans of $25 million to the Northern Neck Electric Cooperation in Warsaw, Va., and $16 million to the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative in Palmyra, Va., through the Electric Loan Program, which targets rural regions where capital is limited to finance infrastructure upgrades, create jobs, and improve rural electric customers' operations in Virginia. 

“We applaud this investment in Virginia’s rural communities,” said the Senators. “These low-interest loans will help improve reliability for local residents and businesses, which in turn strengthens our entire economy.”

The $41 million in funding will be disbursed to the following electric cooperatives in Virginia:

  • $25,000,000 in loans to the Northern Neck Electric Cooperation in Warsaw, VA to build and improve 40 miles of electrical line, fund smart grid projects, and make system improvements. Northern Neck Electric Cooperation will also use the funding to install 45 miles of fiber-optic communication lines.
  • $16,000,000 in loans to the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative in Palmyra, VA to build and improve 27 miles of electrical line, fund smart grid projects, and make system improvements.

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WASHINGTON — Today, Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Congresswoman Elaine Luria, sent a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) urging them to expedite regulatory processes for offshore wind development in Coastal Virginia. 

“Virginia’s diverse maritime industry, workforce, port assets, deep, wide channels, and no overhead obstructions have positioned the Commonwealth to become a hub for manufacturing and ongoing operations and maintenance activities for projects along the Atlantic Coast,” said the lawmakers in the letter. “We are proud that the first two wind turbines permitted and constructed in federal waters are off our Commonwealth’s coast, producing clean energy for Virginians. Unfortunately, we have heard from local stakeholders and constituents that the adjacent Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project is at risk of delays due to the backlog at BOEM.” 

In December 2020, Dominion Energy filed a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the 2,640-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial project. In the letter, the lawmakers expressed concerns that bottlenecks in the permitting process may slow progress and prevent offshore wind investments. Currently, offshore wind developers have submitted thirteen COPs to BOEM but have yet to receive a clear timeline for action. This backlog could stifle the development of an offshore wind industry supply chain. 

The full text of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Director Lefton, 

We write concerning the Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the 2,640-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) commercial project, filed by Dominion Energy on December 18, 2020. As representatives from the Commonwealth of Virginia, we value the critical role offshore wind will play as part of the renewable energy portfolio of the United States, as well as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)’s role in supporting this emerging technology. As you begin your tenure as Director, we want to draw your attention to the backlog of offshore wind project COPs and urge you to take all necessary measures to address this backlog. We ask the Bureau to thoughtfully advance the CVOW permitting process. 

The offshore wind energy industry in the United States is projected to become a $50 billion business over the next 30 years. Virginia’s diverse maritime industry, workforce, port assets, deep, wide channels, and no overhead obstructions have positioned the Commonwealth to become a hub for manufacturing and ongoing operations and maintenance activities for projects along the Atlantic Coast. We are proud that the first two wind turbines permitted and constructed in federal waters are off our Commonwealth’s coast, producing clean energy for Virginians. Unfortunately, we have heard from local stakeholders and constituents that the adjacent CVOW project is at risk of delays due to the backlog at BOEM. 

Offshore wind is poised for substantial growth at a time when we must seize opportunities to help our region and nation recover from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are concerned that bottlenecks in the permitting process slow progress and prevent critical investments in the US offshore wind industry. We understand that developers have submitted thirteen COPs to BOEM but have not received a clear timeline for action. This backlog could delay the development of an offshore wind industry supply chain. 

We must explore any actions the federal government can take to expedite our regulatory processes for offshore wind development. We understand that staffing shortages hinder BOEM’s ability to quickly review necessary documentation and we are committed to assisting BOEM in this matter. Please provide any additional information that will help us fully understand the challenges BOEM faces and how you plan to expedite the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you and your staff to maximize the potential of offshore wind development off Virginia’s coast and across the Atlantic Coast.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the bipartisan, bicameral spending bill to fund federal programs crucial to Virginia and keep the federal government open through 2021. The legislation also includes comprehensive measures to help Americans amid the ongoing economic and public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following today’s Senate passage, the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature. 

“For nine long months, folks waited for Congress to deliver critical relief as they watched COVID-19 further devastate their communities. Today, despite that unacceptable delay, relief is officially on its way,” said Warner. “I’m proud to have worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues to help get this legislation into shape and in the hands of House and Senate leaders. And while I know that this bill is not perfect, I’m glad to know that it will help American families weather this winter and get through the holidays.”

“While this relief should have been passed much earlier, I’m pleased to see families, small businesses, hospitals, schools, and more get the assistance they need,” Kaine said. “This legislation makes critical investments in unemployment assistance, food aid, housing assistance, and other areas to directly help those struggling amid the pandemic. Though we still have more work to do to help Americans get back on their feet, I’m relieved Congress was able to come to this bipartisan compromise and fund these priorities before the holidays.” 

The following list includes some of the priorities Warner and Kaine advocated:

  • Assistance for out of work Virginians: Extends federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, preventing hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Virginians from losing benefits over the holidays. The senators were cosponsors of the legislation that provided the model for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), through which more than 9 million Americans are currently receiving benefits. More recently, the Senators called on leadership to extend and add additional weeks of federal employment benefits to both PUA and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs. Additionally, it gives states the option to offer additional weekly financial relief for Americans with a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income who are not able to claim their full benefit, modeled after Senator Warner’s legislation.
  • Stimulus checks: Includes a stimulus payment for low- and middle-income Americans; with $600 for individual filers and $1,200 for joint filers, with an additional $600 for each qualifying child in the household. Early in the crisis, Senator Kaine called for stimulus efforts to include direct payments to households. 
  • Vaccines: Includes over $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic and take a step towards a future where COVID-19 is managed.
  • Emergency housing aid and protections: Creates a new $25 billion emergency rental assistance fund to prevent evictions during the pandemic, which will be delivered through state and local governments. Earlier this year, the Senators joined their colleagues in introducing legislation to provide emergency housing assistance for those facing potential evictions. The bill will also extend the CDC eviction moratorium to allow time for implementing the emergency housing aid.
  • Relief for hard-hit small businesses and nonprofits: Provides targeted relief for small businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic. This includes a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans for small businesses and nonprofits that experienced a substantial revenue decline in 2020, as well as other funds for small business relief. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is directed to provide guidance to ensure priority access for underserved communities, such as minority-owned businesses. The bill also includes grants for small businesses and nonprofits in sectors likely to continue to see substantial drops in revenue in 2021, particularly in the live entertainment sector. This aid will ensure that Virginia’s small businesses are able to stay afloat during the pandemic, keep workers on payroll, and return to job creation as COVID-19 is controlled. The Senators have been strong supporters of providing relief to small businesses, cosponsoring the Heroes Small Business Lifeline Act, which included many of the provisions in the final bill, and the Save our Stages Act, on which the live entertainment grants are modeled. 
  • Targeted relief for underserved communities: Provides the largest single investment in our country's history for minority-owned and community-based lending institutions. Largely drawn from Senator Warner’s Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, the provision provides $12 billion to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) to build capital and unlock affordable access to credit for underserved and minority neighborhoods, which have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.
  • Education Stabilization Fund: Provides $82 billion to provide emergency support to K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The legislation includes provisions of Kaine’s Coronavirus Relief Flexibility for Students and Institutions Act that allow colleges to use emergency stabilization funds to cover lost revenue and better target funds designated for colleges hardest hit by COVID-19 by requiring an application to demonstrate need. 
  • Broadband: Includes $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on provisions Senator Warner drafted with bipartisan Senators. Additionally, the bill includes an extension of the deadline to use Coronavirus Relief Funds so that state and localities interested in using the money for broadband expansion have more time, as Senator Warner called for.
  • Support for child care providers and families: Includes $10 billion in flexible funding for the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to help support child care providers and ensure that working parents have access to child care during the pandemic. The bill also includes $250 million for Head Start programs.
  • Public health data modernization: Includes Senator Kaine’s Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, which will improve the nation’s public health data systems at CDC and through grants to state and local health departments to expand and modernize their systems, promoting more seamless communication, which can save lives when we’re faced with public health threats such as COVID-19. The omnibus authorizes $100 million for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2025.
  • Telehealth: Includes Senator Kaine and Senator Schatz’s Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act of 2019, which creates a grant program to evaluate, develop, and expand the use of distance health education models such as ECHO to increase access to specialty care in rural and medically underserved populations. The omnibus authorizes $10 million for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026. The funding bill also permanently expands coverage of and payment for telehealth to treat mental health care, which is in line with Senator Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act, which Senator Kaine is a cosponsor.
  • Ends surprise billing: Includes a provision to end surprise billing, something Senators Warner and Kaine have long advocated for. 
  • U.S. Postal Service: Converts the CARES Act $10 billion loan into direct funding for USPS without requiring repayment. These funds will be used for operational costs and other expenses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Warner is a cosponsor of the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act, which would provide USPS with significant direct funding. 
  • Veterans: Provides $104.4 billion in funding for the VA, an increase of $12.5 billion over FY20 levels. This funding increase provides $2.7 billion more than the previous fiscal year for health care delivered at VA facilities nationwide. The bill provides robust funding in several areas important for Virginia veterans, including $815 million for critical VA Medical and Prosthetic research, an increase of $1.18 billion over FY20 levels for electronic health record modernization, nearly $2 billon in support of programs to prevent veteran homelessness and $312.6 million for suicide prevention.
  • Infrastructure: Includes funding for key projects that were championed by Warner and Kaine to benefit Virginia’s infrastructure:
    • Includes a provision pushed for by Senators Warner and Kaine to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge on the Potomac River, which will double the capacity of the rail crossing between Virginia and D.C. The current two-track Long Bridge is the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C., and it is at 98 percent capacity during peak hours, which means it is one of the most significant rail chokepoints along the East Coast. The new Long Bridge program will double the capacity of the Potomac River rail crossing by adding a second two-track bridge adjacent to the existing bridge and including a new bike-pedestrian shared use path spanning the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Potomac River. Senators Warner and Kaine introduced the Long Bridge Act of 2020 in August to allow for this construction.
    • Includes the full federal funding of $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to fund critical capital investment and safety projects. In addition, the bill provides $14 billion in emergency relief for public transit agencies to continue operations during the pandemic, ensuring access to transportation for frontline workers and civil servants.
    • Includes a one year extension of Community Development Block Grant funds to the City of Norfolk and other localities to build climate resilient infrastructure projects. Senators Kaine and Warner joined Senator John Hoeven in introducing S.4017 in June, which would also have provided an extension for the NDRC program.
    • Includes $87.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program—an increase of $2.5 million from FY 2020. The Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and protection efforts, and the majority of its funds are passed through to the states and local communities for on-the-ground restoration.
    • Authorizes federal funds to cover 65% of the costs associated with construction projects to address close to $1.5 billion of flood control needs in the City of Norfolk.
    • Grants a critical cost adjustment to allow work to continue on the Deep Creek Bridge inChesapeake to address traffic concerns.
    • Authorizes over $102.7 million in federal funds for construction of the North Landing BridgeReplacement project.
    • Provides up to $9 million for the Federal Aviation Administration to continue its remote tower system pilot program at smaller airports, including the Remote Air Traffic Control Tower at Leesburg Executive Airport.
  • Great American Outdoors Act: With Senator Warner’s Great American Outdoors Act now law, the FY21 omnibus affirms funding for several deferred maintenance projects in Virginia:
    • George Washington Memorial Parkway – A $207 million project to restore 7.6 miles of northern section of the GW Parkway and implement critical safety measures. The Senators have long advocated for federal funding for this project for several years as seen here and here.
    • Shenandoah National Park – A $27 million project to pave and restore nearly 50 miles of Skyline Drive and various overlooks. Shenandoah will also receive nearly $3.5 million to remove unnecessary buildings and restore greenspace within the park.
    • Colonial National Historical Park – A $16.5 million project to restore nearly 5 miles of shoreline along the York River.
  • FBI Headquarters: Provides no funding for a new FBI headquarters and includes language that encourages General Services Administration (GSA) to provide a new prospectus, particularly after the Trump Administration abruptly abandoned plans to develop a new campus headquarters for the FBI. Earlier this year, Senators Warner and Kaine opposed an attempt in an earlier Republican COVID-19 relief package that would have provided $1.75 billion for construction of a new FBI HQ in its current downtown D.C. location.  
  • Miners’ Benefits: Extends the funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund until the end of 2021 by extending the tax on mining companies that helps fund the program. Both Kaine and Warner introduced the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Solvency Act calling on Congress to extend the excise tax through the end of 2030.
  • Shipbuilding & MILCON funding: Provides $23.27 billion for shipbuilding for 10 battle force ships including full funding for a second Virginia-class submarine, which Senators Warner and Kaine personally advocated for. The bill also appropriates $237 million for 6 MILCON projects in Virginia, including:
    • Humphreys Engineer Center, Training Support Facility (Army) - $51m
    • Norfolk, E-2D Training Facility (Navy) - $30.4m
    • Norfolk, Corrosion Control and Paint Facility (Navy) - $17.671m
    • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Access Control Point Main Gate with Land Acquisition (Air Force) - $19.5m
    • Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Story, Operations Facility and Command Center (Def-Wide) - $54.5m
    • JEB Little Creek-Story, NSWG Facilities (Def-Wide) - $58m
  • Federal contractors: Senators Warner and Kaine also pushed to extend a provision from CARES (3610), which allows contractual adjustments for a paid leave program, allowing contractors to keep employees on the payroll if federal facilities close due to the pandemic – an important provision for our defense industrial base and cleared national security workforce. 
  • Foster care and homeless youth: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Murray and Senator Portman, the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, to remove barriers to financial aid for students experiencing homelessness or students formerly in foster care by easing the application and determination for becoming eligible for aid. The bill also includes language allowing foster youth to remain in the system until October 1, 2021, regardless of their age—a move that Senators Warner and Kaine called for in a recent letter to the administration.
  • Funds Childhood Disease ResearchProvides $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program to conduct pediatric cancer and disease research. The Senators worked to enact the legislation authorizing this program, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County, who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
  • Supporting working students and families: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Baldwin, the Working Students Actto reduce the “work penalty” that many students who work while attending school face. Currently, students who work while attending school often are eligible for less financial aid due to their work income. The appropriations bill enacts a 35% increase for working students and 20% increase for families to the income protection allowance (IPA), shielding more of their income from reducing their financial aid.
  • Student Loan Repayment: Extends an important change to existing tax policy allowing employers to use pre-tax dollars to help pay down employees’ student debt until 2025 – a provision modeled after Senator Warner’s bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act to help more than 44 million Americans with student loan debt.
  • Ashanti Alert: Includes $1 million in federal funding to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. Following the abduction of 19-year old Ashanti Billie, who did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert, Senator Warner secured unanimous passage of this national alert system through the Senate on December 6, 2018, and has been a leader in the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide ever since.
  • Nutrition: Provides $13 billion in nutrition assistance, including a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through June 30, 2021 for all SNAP participants. Excludes unemployment compensation from being counted as income for the purposes of calculating SNAP benefits and eligibility. Provides $400 million for food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
  • Farmers: Provides $13 billion for direct payments, purchases, and loans to producers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic, including funds to support the food supply chain through food purchases, donations to food banks, and support for local food systems. Additionally, it includes $5 billion for supplemental payments to row crop producers; $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers and contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry; $225 million for producers of specialty crops; and $1.5 billion to purchase food for distribution to those in need.
  • Timber Harvesting/Hauling: Provides up to $200 million to support timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Dairy: Provides up to $400 million for a Dairy Product Donation Program, modeled after the 2018 Farm Bill pilot program to facilitate the donation of dairy products and minimize food waste. 
  • Textiles: Allows USDA to make payments to users of upland cotton and extra-long staple cotton.
  • Fisheries: Provides $300 million in assistance to help fisheries mitigate COVID-19 related impacts. 
  • Water Utility Bill Assistance: Provides $638 million for a new program to help low-income families cover the costs of drinking water and wastewater utility bills by making funds available to states and Tribes. These localities will provide dollars to owners or operators of public water systems or treatment works to reduce arrearages and rates for low-income households.
  • Appalachian Regional Commission: Includes a record $180 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, an increase of $5 million from FY20.

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WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $7,485,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to construct a new stormwater pump station in the Olde Towne Historic District of Portsmouth. It’s estimated that this project will reduce the flooding risk for the entire Olde Towne Historic District, including 210 buildings, and protect an area of approximately 23 acres.

“We’re pleased to announce this federal funding to support the construction of a critical flood mitigation project in Portsmouth,” said the Senators. “Recurrent flooding can have detrimental effects on a region. This project will better protect the treasured Olde Towne Historic District from future flood damage.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met virtually with Patrick Kenney, the new superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.  

In the meeting, Sen. Warner and Superintendent Kenney discussed park priorities for 2021 and beyond, including Department of the Interior projects that were made possible by the passage of Sen. Warner’s legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA).  During the meeting, Sen. Warner reiterated his commitment to seeing through the implementation of the GAOA and addressing the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog – an effort he has championed since 2017.

“America’s great outdoors are part of the heritage and beauty of our nation. But to preserve them, we need to quickly start tackling our parks’ deferred maintenance needs, which are only getting worse by the second,” said Sen. Warner. “I am committed to working with Superintendent Patrick Kenney to help protect, maintain, and preserve the public lands within his jurisdiction, particularly Shenandoah National Park, which will be receiving GAOA funds to help address a portion of the park’s nearly $90 million deferred maintenance backlog. While we may have cleared the hurdle of getting the GAOA passed and signed, our work is not done until this law is fully implemented and important repair and upkeep projects are tackled across the Commonwealth.”

On Monday at an outdoor and socially-distanced ceremony at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Sen. Warner was awarded the National Park Foundation’s Hero Award by Foundation President, Will Shafroth. The award commemorates Sen. Warner’s work in getting the GAOA signed into law.

The Great American Outdoors Act is a product of Sen. Warner’s more than three years effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars. At Shenandoah National Park, the current maintenance backlog sits at $88,765,195. At Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historic Park, the maintenance backlog sits at $823,242.

Superintendent Kenney, who was appointed superintendent of Shenandoah National Park on August 5, 2020, is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in zoology.  He began his NPS career in 1990 at Big Cypress National Preserve as a natural resource manager. He then served as superintendent of Cape Lookout National Seashore, where he improved access to the park by awarding a ferry service contract, establishing two gateways, and opening the Beaufort Visitor Information Center. He later served as deputy superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, where he managed the operations of 2.2 million acres, a staff of 800, and an annual budget of $35 million. He is also a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute – Leadership for Democratic Society and is a Project Management Institute certified Project Manager.

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WASHINGTON – Today at an outdoor and socially-distanced ceremony at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was awarded the National Park Foundation’s Hero Award by Foundation President, Will Shafroth. The award commemorates Sen. Warner’s work in getting The Great American Outdoors Act, a bill he championed, signed into law.

“As a lifelong advocate of our national parks and public lands, I am honored to be an inaugural recipient of the National Park Foundation’s Hero Award. I am incredibly proud that Congress was able to come together and pass The Great American Outdoors Act this year, which included my bill – the Restore Our Parks Act – that will allocate up to $6.65 billion to the National Park Service to address critical maintenance needs at our beloved national parks,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan legislation represents a truly once-in-a-generation investment in our national parks and other public lands that will protect these cherished sites for decades to come. It’s only fitting that we were able to celebrate at the Jefferson Memorial, which will in fact be one of the first projects to receive funding from the new law. Ushering the bill’s passage and eventual bill signing wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless advocacy of the National Park Foundation.”

“As we reflect on Senator Warner’s leadership in passing the Great American Outdoors Act, the National Park Foundation is proud to recognize his commitment to national parks across our nation,” said Will Shafroth, President & CEO, National Park Foundation. “A true park hero, Senator Warner has been a champion for Virginia’s treasured places such as Shenandoah National Park, Great Falls Park, Petersburg National Battlefield, and Fort Monroe National Monument, among others. He has also been a great proponent for the Foundation’s work to enhance national parks through philanthropy, and we are grateful for his ongoing support.”

The Great American Outdoors Act is a product of Sen. Warner’s nearly three year initial effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars.

In June, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog. 

In addition, a recent NPS study highlighted the financial impact national parks sites have on Virginia’s economy. Last year, 22.8 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending $1.2 billion. Additionally, national parks in Virginia helped support 17,300 jobs and contributed over $1.7 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. Because of the economic impact national parks have on communities across the country, more than 800 organizations have pledged their support for the Great American Outdoors Act.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to take care of maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance.

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The new law would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, A. Donald McEachin, Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton (all D-VA), wrote a letter to President Trump requesting that he extend a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling to the Commonwealth of Virginia. This letter follows the President’s decision to exempt three states led by Republican governors (Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina) from his Administration’s plan to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing. This, despite requests for an exemption from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation, and Virginia’s coastal communities, whose industries would be severely impacted by the proposal. 

“In Virginia, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to offshore drilling, including the Commonwealth’s most populous cities, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In addition, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that would prohibit oil and gas drilling and related infrastructure in Virginia waters,” wrote the lawmakers. “Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the Commonwealth’s economy, natural resources, and military assets. Virginia’s coastal communities rely predominantly on industries that would be affected by your proposal including tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and deepwater port commerce. Further, the Department of Defense’s analysis has shown that oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia could potentially disrupt military operations, training, and testing activities critical to the U.S. military’s readiness and our national security.” 

They continued, “For these reasons and more, Virginians are overwhelmingly opposed to your administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. Virginia has been as vocal in its opposition to opening up its offshore area to oil and gas drilling as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Yet, Virginia has not received the same promises as these states.” 

In 2018, the Trump Administration proposed a program to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing. This program was subsequently opposed by Republican and Democratic governors all along the Atlantic seaboard. Offshore oil and gas drilling has also been opposed by more than 285 localities on the East Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, 2,300 elected officials, 46,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families along the East Coast. 

In their letter, the members of Congress noted the President’s lack of explanation for Virginia’s exclusion, and urged the President to take the concerns from Virginia coastal communities just as seriously as those in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. 

A copy of the letter can be found here and text is available below.

 

Dear President Trump:

We write today regarding your recent issuance of a Presidential Memorandum to the Secretary of the Interior extending a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina until at least 2032. We are deeply concerned that a similar moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling has not been extended to the Commonwealth of Virginia, despite requests from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation, and Virginia’s coastal communities. 

In 2018, your administration released the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program, which would have opened more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to oil and gas leasing including the coast of Virginia. Republican and Democratic governors along the Atlantic seaboard have indicated their opposition to this proposed plan. In addition, over 285 localities on the East Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, 2,300 elected officials, 46,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families along the East Coast have expressed their opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling.

In Virginia, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to offshore drilling, including the Commonwealth’s most populous cities, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In addition, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that would prohibit oil and gas drilling and related infrastructure in Virginia waters.

Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the Commonwealth’s economy, natural resources, and military assets. Virginia’s coastal communities rely predominantly on industries that would be affected by your proposal including tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and deepwater port commerce. Further, the Department of Defense’s analysis has shown that oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia could potentially disrupt military operations, training, and testing activities critical to the U.S. military’s readiness and our national security. 

For these reasons and more, Virginians are overwhelmingly opposed to your administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. Virginia has been as vocal in its opposition to opening up its offshore area to oil and gas drilling as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Yet, Virginia has not received the same promises as these states. Your September 8, 2020, Presidential Memorandum, and accompanying remarks in Jupiter, FL, provided zero reasons for extending the moratorium for three states while excluding every other affected state.

Throughout this process, your Administration has emphasized the consideration and importance of the “local and state voice.” Therefore, we respectfully urge you to take the concerns from Virginia coastal communities just as seriously as those in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced legislation to strengthen the public’s ability to evaluate the impacts of natural gas pipelines being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This bill makes it easier for the public to offer input and clarify the circumstances under which eminent domain should and should not be used. Among other guidelines, this bill requires public comment meetings to be held in every locality through which a pipeline would pass, at every stage of the review process, in order to minimize situations where individuals are forced to commute long distances with very little time to comment. It also strengthens landowners’ rights by improving the processes in which landowners are notified of a pipeline application and bolstering their ability to intervene to ensure any concerns about their property are given fair consideration and compensation. This bill builds upon an earlier version of legislation the Senators introduced last Congress.

While Congress does not decide on the merits of individual gas pipeline projects, Congress provides the legal authority under which FERC is tasked with evaluating the benefits and drawbacks to energy infrastructure proposals.

Each of the FERC reforms outlined in this bill is directly based on input submitted by Virginia residents to Warner and Kaine during FERC’s consideration of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

“During the public comment periods for the ACP and MVP, we heard a whole series of legitimate complaints about FERC’s flawed process – from inadequacy of notice for the comment period, to public hearings that were held too infrequently and too far away from where impacted Virginians live. Simply put – FERC did not give people enough opportunity for input and did not ensure all affected landowners were given a fair deal. Based on the concerns that we heard, we’ve drafted our bill to improve the way FERC gathers public input on matters of such importance as to whether their land is taken. We have to make a commitment on something as important as this to have a better process to listen to the public and ensure communities have a real say in these decisions,” said the Senators.

 

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy applauds Senator Kaine and Warner’s leadership in ensuring poorly planned energy infrastructure does not degrade the essential values of our National Scenic Trails,” said Sandra Marra, President and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “As stewards of the Appalachian Trail, we must examine the big picture impacts of proposed developments, and the Pipeline Fairness Act will require that same perspective and commitment from FERC. We will continue to work with the Senators to protect the values of our National Scenic Trails, which benefit millions of visitors, thousands of volunteers, and hundreds of trailside communities.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Improve the process by which landowners are notified of a potential pipeline project affecting their property;
    • Require that FERC review companies’ notices to landowners  to ensure notices meet the requisite criteria;
  • Require that applicants for a FERC Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (e.g., companies with pipeline proposals) provide clear and complete instructions to all affected landowners on how to request an appeal or “rehearing” through FERC, including the deadline to file, no later than 60 days before the deadline to intervene. The notice must make it clear to landowners that they must appeal in a timely manner to FERC for a rehearing to preserve certain rights to seek judicial review;
  • Prevent pipeline projects from exercising eminent domain or commencing construction until:
    • the project has received all requisite permits, certifications, or other permissions from necessary federal and state agencies
    • FERC has issued rulings on all timely landowner rehearings. This process improvement comes in response to a public request by two FERC Commissioners;
  • State that it is the policy of the United States that eminent domain be limited to situations in which the taking of property for natural gas pipelines is for public, not private, use. This language is modeled after a 2006 Executive Order by President George W. Bush clarifying the scope of federal eminent domain authority;
  • Help ensure fair appraisals and offers of compensation for affected property owners by giving landowners the opportunity to accompany appraisers during the inspection of property, which must be completed prior to an offer of compensation. That offer of compensation must be of fair market value or better;
  • Require a single programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) if two gas pipelines are proposed within one year and 100 miles of one another, and provide that if there is more information that comes out after a draft EIS than is in a draft EIS, FERC must do a supplemental EIS, with another public comment period;
  • Mandate public comment meetings in every locality through which a pipeline passes, at every stage in the process (draft EIS, final EIS, supplemental EIS) so members of the public do not have to drive long distances to meetings where they are only able to speak for just a few minutes;
  • Specify that eminent domain takings of land under conservation easement be given fair compensation not just for the land value but for the lost conservation value of the land;
  • Ensure that plans to mitigate unavoidable impacts be subject to public comment so the public can verify that the mitigation is fair and proportionate;
  • Require cumulative analysis of visual impacts on National Scenic Trails (including the Appalachian Trail) for multiple pipelines that cross the same trail within 100 miles, in order to prohibit any downgrading of National Scenic Trail scenic integrity requirements in current law if the project represents a net degradation to the trail;
  • Codify the end of “tolling orders—” a longstanding practice that allowed FERC to place landowner rehearing requests in limbo while pipeline constructions were allowed to continue — and strengthen landowners’ ability to proceed to court should FERC not rule on grievances in a timely manner. The “tolling orders” practice was recently struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit;
  • Extend the deadline in which FERC must consider landowners’ rehearings from 30 days to 45 days to ensure the Commission has a reasonable amount of time to address landowner concerns.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced legislation to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge across the Potomac River – a move that would double the capacity of the rail crossing between Virginia and the District of Columbia (D.C). The Long Bridge Act of 2020would authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to transfer to Virginia and D.C. the land needed for the construction of the new commuter rail and pedestrian bridge adjacent to the existing bridge. 

“Adequate rail infrastructure is an essential aspect of our Commonwealth’s economy. It helps ensure fast and convenient transportation for passengers and commuters and facilitates commerce by providing a reliable way to move and ship goods,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “This legislation will allow NPS to transfer the needed land to Virginia so that it can build the new Long Bridge and double the amount of rail capacity in this important passageway.”  

“The legislation introduced by Senators Warner and Kaine is a significant milestone in transforming passenger and freight rail service along the East Coast,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The construction of the Long Bridge is a project of national significance – unlocking the gridlock across the Potomac, expanding rail capacity, creating essential rail redundancy, and supporting economic recovery and growth.”

The existing Long Bridge is one of the most significant choke points along the East Coast. It’s the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to D.C. and serves as the main rail connection between the Southeast and the Northeast for passenger and freight rail, carrying almost 80 CSX, Amtrak and VRE commuter trains per day.  

The construction of the new Long Bridge is at the center of an investment by the Commonwealth of Virginia, which recently reached a landmark $3.7 billion rail agreement with CSX, which includes acquisition of 350 miles of rail and 225 miles of track, and allows Virginia to double VRE and state-supported Amtrak service. Under current law, NPS does not have the legal authority to convey the needed land to Virginia and D.C. without an act of Congress.

This legislation would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to transfer approximately 4 acres of land to Virginia and the D.C. for the construction of rail and other infrastructure relating to the Long Bridge Project. 

U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA) and Don Beyer (D-VA) have introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives to facilitate the construction of the new Long Bridge.

The text of this legislation is available here

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law. The bipartisan legislation includes Sen. Warner’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would help tackle the $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s parks and could create up to 10,340 jobs in the Commonwealth alone. The legislation overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives earlier this week and was approved by the Senatein June. 

“As the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to financially strain communities across the country, this new law will help create tens of thousands of jobs and make a positive economic impact for gateway communities that depend on our national parks,” said Sen. Warner“Now that this bill is the law of the land, Virginia’s historical sites will finally start receiving crucial repairs that have been postponed for years. I want to thank my colleagues for joining me in my years-long effort to create jobs and make sure our nation’s historical treasures are around for years to come.”

Today’s bill signing comes nearly three years after Sen. Warner’s initial effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars.

In June, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog.  

In addition, a recent NPS study highlighted the financial impact national parks sites have on Virginia’s economy. Last year, 22.8 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending $1.2 billion. Additionally, national parks in Virginia helped support 17,300 jobs and contributed over $1.7 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. Because of the economic impact national parks have on communities across the country, more than 800 organizations have pledged their support for the Great American Outdoors Act.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to take care of maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance.

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more. 

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