Virginia joins regional effort to curb transportation pollution
Governor Ralph Northam has signed on to a regional effort to curb carbon pollution produced by transportation sources. The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) was established in 2010 by several states in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Other TCI members include Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. in partnership with the Georgetown Climate Center. Virginia joined in September, motivated by the underwhelming federal response to climate change. The goal of the initiative is to develop cleaner, less-congested transportation systems, promote walking, biking and mass transit, support innovation and economic growth, improve air quality and help communities become more resilient to climate change related extreme weather events. The initiative hopes to have a policy proposal by the end of 2019 that would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels. Transportation is the primary source of greenhouses gases in the state of Virginia.
Public lands produce 25% of U.S. Emissions
In a report commissioned in 2016 by the Obama administration and released in late November, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that a quarter of all U.S. carbon emissions come from fossil fuels extracted from public lands. That includes emissions generated by drilling, mining, transporting and refining fuel before it is burned. Coal is mostly responsible for those emissions, with coal-fired power plants accounting for nearly 60 percent of public lands’ carbon emissions. The report also found that public lands are a significant source of the greenhouses gases methane and nitrous oxide. The report noted, too, that public lands sequester about 15 percent of the emissions that originate on them. However, wildfire caused public lands to lose 67 million metric tons of sequestered carbon over the past decade, about a fifth of the total. 43 million metric tons of sequestered carbon was also lost to logging and 39 million metric tons were lost to other land use changes.
Trump signs bill making hemp federally legal
Last week, President Trump authorized the $867 billion farm bill. Included within was The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 which delists hemp as a controlled substance. Many farmers in the southeast see hemp as the most sustainable cash crop since tobacco farming. Hemp contains negligible amounts of THC, the psychoactive in marijuana, and until passage of the bill was regulated by the DEA. Oversight and jurisdiction of hemp is now the responsibility of the USDA. Experts say that hemp has the potential to stimulate the textile, farming and retail sectors, especially given the popularity of CBD, a cannabidiol extracted from the flowers and buds of hemp plants. Americans import about $600 million in hemp annually from countries such as Canada and China. Hemp grows well in the southeast and can be used in building materials, textiles, supplements and more.