Pipeline deals threaten conservation funding
On Sunday, members of the Virginia House and Senate tasked with making recommendations on the budget issued their subcommittee reports. When it comes to conservation funding, the news was worse than expected.
Not only did they fail to adequately fund the programs we mentioned in our last email alert, they also proposed even greater cuts for just about every one.
The rationale? Legislators are pointing to money that state and private entities will receive as mitigation for two gas pipeline projects, and the transmission line near Jamestown, as a justification for reducing overall state funding for conservation.
Send an email to your Delegate, Senator, and the new Governor to support Virginia’s conservation programs and reject these severe cuts to funding.
Natural gas pipeline. Photo courtesy of the National Parks Conservation Association.
A Dangerous Precedent
Mitigation agreements are made to offset specific damages to the environment in a specific place. The money should not be diverted from its intended purpose or used to justify cutting conservation funding across the state.
This would be terrible public policy. Statewide, it would mean less funding for parks and trails, fewer resources to protect our waterways, less funding to protect historic and scenic resources, and the continued loss of farm and forest land.
What’s at Stake
The introduced budget left our most important conservation grant programs at only 29% of their full funding levels. Now, legislators in the relevant finance subcommittees are proposing even greater cuts — which would result in less than 14% of full funding in the senate version and roughly 21% in the house version.
In addition to slashing the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), these budget amendments would also limit the Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit and make funding cuts to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. For details about the proposed amendments, check out the alert sent out by our partners at VaULT (Virginia United Land Trusts).
The Bottom Line
Mitigation money is there to address known/potential impacts to natural, scenic and historic resources from pipelines that will generate enormous profits to private corporations. It must not be used to offset the long-term obligations and commitments Virginia has to protect the water we drink, conserve the farms that grow our food and save places for people to experience our natural resources.
While recent developments on the budget are taking center stage, there is still a lot more going on! Check out the Virginia Conservation Network’s website for updates on other issues that PEC and our partners are working on this General Assembly session.
And please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly with any questions on legislation or other efforts.
Director of State Policy
The Piedmont Environmental Council