As summer travel season ramps up, a lot of money will be put toward filling up the car with gas. But a new report claims the average Virginia family could save $560 at the pump this summer by using more fuel efficient cars.
The Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center, an organization aimed at promoting cleaner energy options, released the report. It highlights President Obama’s proposal to increase fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025.
Organization representatives presented the findings today at a press conference at the River House Apartments (1400 S. Joyce Street) in Pentagon City. There, they highlighted the electric car charging station in the parking lot, and urged Arlington residents to consider purchasing an electric car.
The report claims that the improved standards would save the equivalent amount of pollution as taking three coal power plants offline for the summer, on top of the $560 each Virginia family would save.
“Not only could you take that trip to Virginia Beach while burning much less oil along the way, but you could book the family a hotel for a couple of extra days with the money you’re saving,” said John Cross, Federal Transportation Advocate for Environment Virginia.
Congressman Jim Moran (D) backs the proposed standards mentioned in the report.
“From an economic, environmental and national security perspective, we must reduce our dependency on oil,” said Moran in a statement. “This new report from Environment America highlights the importance of moving forward with cleaner, more fuel efficient cars.”
Cross noted that buying an electric car now has a positive environmental impact, even though the standards aren’t yet to the 54.5 mpg mark.
“Drivers do not have to wait until 2025 to reap the benefits of cleaner cars,” Cross said. “A bumper crop of fuel efficient cars have already started coming to the showroom floor.
International developer and construction company Skanska is working on the five story building at 1776 Wilson Blvd, which will contain both retail and office space.
To earn LEED certification, a developer must earn credits in six categories called Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design & Regionalization. The rating system has a total of 110 points, and 80 are necessary to receive platinum certification.
Some of the green features included in the new building are ultra-efficient plumbing fixtures that offer a 40 percent reduction in the typical amount of water used, and water efficient landscaping that doesn’t require a regular irrigation system. Solar panels will be part of the effort to reduce the building’s annual energy costs by 24 percent, and high performance glass will prevent heat gain in the building.
There will also be a green roof terrace on the fourth floor. The garage will feature preferred parking for fuel efficient vehicles, and will be outfitted with power outlets to accommodate electric cars.
The building is scheduled to be mostly completed by August, and the hope is that tenants can move in this fall. Already, the building is 50 percent pre-leased.
The internet has made many things easier, including looking up businesses and phone numbers. If you don’t feel the need to receive those big phone books on your doorstep anymore, there’s a way you can opt out.
Two trade groups have teamed up to create a phone book opt-out website. It was set up to reduce the amount of waste and costs associated with delivering unwanted directories.
The site determines which phone books you are eligible for based on your ZIP code, and allows you to choose which you do or do not want to receive.
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services didn’t have specific stats on how many phone books are recycled in Arlington each year, but officials remind anyone who still wants to receive the directories that they can be recycled in the standard county recycling bins.
Arlington is installing energy performance labels on 14 county buildings today.
The green labels are intended to tell citizens the buildings’ carbon footprint, current energy use and planned long-term reductions in energy use (by 2050). The stats are all relative to the square footage of each building.
The county’s main administrative building, at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, is one of the buildings that will be receiving the labels. The building is 30 percent more efficient than the average U.S. office building, according to its label. Its 17.9 pounds of carbon dioxide per square foot carbon footprint compared favorably to the U.S. office average of 26.1 pounds.
The labels also state when each building was built.
Among the other buildings expected to receive energy labels today: Central Library, Cherrydale Library, Glencarlyn Library, Shirlington Library, Westover Library, Court Square West, Drewry Health Center, fire training facility, 1810 N. Edison Street, parks and cultural affairs office, parks operations office, solid waste and traffic engineering office, and the Water Sewer Streets Bureau.
“We will post labels in the rest of the county buildings over the next couple months,” said Arlington County environmental planner Joan Kelsch.
It may be the most exciting thing to happen outside Ballston Common Mall since this happened last year. The Virginia Sierra Club is planning a made-for-TV rally tomorrow at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and Stuart Street.
With the help of some interesting visuals, environmental activists will be calling for policies that support cleaner air in Virginia. Specifically, the Sierra Club is asking for public hearings regarding Dominion Virginia Power’s long-term energy plan. They’re also asking for the State Corporation Commission to approve Dominion’s plan to retire two coal-fired power plants in Virginia.
To help put an exclamation point on their message, demonstrators will be bringing along “a 6-foot cardboard asthma inhaler… 6-foot tall mock wind turbines…. pinwheels symbolizing desire for wind energy… and posters and signs calling for a transition from dirty coal to clean energy.” In addition, rally bystanders will be encouraged to place phone calls to the State Corporation Commission requesting public hearings about Dominion.
“Switching to cleaner energy sources can not only reduce dangerous air pollution, but also create high-skill, high-wage jobs for Virginians,” the Sierra Club said in a press advisory. “Activists seek public hearings so citizens may voice their strong support for clean energy and clean air in person”
Flickr pool photo by Tim Kelley
Northern Virginia residents were exposed to “dangerous” levels of smog on 33 days last year, the report said. There were also “3 ‘red-alert’ days, when the air quality was so poor that anyone could experience adverse health effects,” according to a press release.
The report was released locally by Environment America offshoot Environment Virginia. Rep. Jim Moran and Del. Patrick Hope were among the speakers at a press conference yesterday at the Langston-Brown Community Center in Arlington.
Environmental Virginia spokeswoman Sarah Hyman said the report is troubling for local residents — particularly children and the elderly, who are a higher risk of adverse health effects from air pollution.
“Virginians deserve clean air. But on far too many days, people in the D.C. Metro area, including Northern Virginia, are exposed to dangerous smog pollution,” Hyman said. “For the sake of our children, we must make every day a safe day to breathe.”
Hyman went on to criticize the Obama administration’s decision to put off updating the Environmental Protection Agency’s national smog pollution standards until at least 2013.
“We must make every day a safe day to breathe,” Hyman said. “Unfortunately, rather than acting decisively to protect our kids from dangerous air pollution, President Obama chose to kick the can down the road. Virginia’s kids, senior citizens and those suffering from respiratory problems will suffer as a consequence and certainly deserve better.”
An American Lung Association study released in April said the D.C. area has the 14th worst smog levels in the country.
Photo courtesy Anne Hughes/Office of Rep. Jim Moran
Arlington is launching a ‘Retail Doors Campaign’ as part of its ongoing Green Games business sustainability competition. The campaign encourages individual shops and restaurants to save energy by closing their doors.
“The Campaign is a voluntary effort through which retailers pledge to keep their doors closed if the air conditioning or heat is running,” said county spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel. “Arlington is asking retailers to make this commitment to close their doors, which will help save them money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create a more comfortable indoor environment for staff and customers.”
It’s “a win-win situation all around,” Whalen McDaniel said.
Businesses that want to join the campaign can sign up on the Arlington Green Games website.
(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) The GenOn power plant along the Potomac River in Alexandria will be retired next year, in a victory for local environmental advocates who railed against the coal-fired plant’s carbon emissions.
The 62-year-old plant is expected to close by Oct. 1, 2012, according to a City of Alexandria press release. Alexandria will release $32 million that was being held in escrow to pay for environmental controls at the plant, in order to facilitate its closure.
“Today’s announcement is a path forward for both Alexandria and the power company that works for everybody, and truly reflects the interest of both parties,” Alexandria Mayor William Euille said in a statement. “Both the Alexandria City Council and community have worked extremely hard toward this goal, and we are very proud of the final result. This news strengthens Alexandria’s future and opens the door to an enhanced quality of life for our residents.”
No word yet on what might eventually happen to the prime waterfront property on which the plant is located. The land is owned by Pepco, according to the Washington Business Journal, but there has been talk of using the land for a nearly half-billion dollar mixed-use project.
Rep. Jim Moran, meanwhile, released a statement praising today’s announcement.
This was a long fought but well won victory for the citizens of Alexandria and the nation’s capital. What once was the largest stationary source of air pollution will be no more. Through citizen involvement and committed city officials, the Potomac River Generating Station and its 1949 coal-fired boilers will finally be shuttered.
Forced to reduce its emissions and scale back its operations to comply with the Clean Air Act as a result of a lawsuit and enforcement actions, Mirant and GenOn were ultimately unable to compete with cheaper and cleaner natural gas powered electricity. Tougher federal regulations now in development may have also convinced GenOn’s management that the $28 million in settlement funds that had been set aside to meet the cleanup terms of the settlement were better than the losses their shareholders were taking trying to keep the outdated plant in operation.
Northern Virginia stands as an example of a prosperous and environmentally-conscious community. Today’s action maintains our commitment to a better, cleaner environment for our region’s next generation. The extinction of this dinosaur of a facility is heartily welcomed.
Del. David Englin, who represents parts of Alexandria and Arlington, also released a statement.
“Every human being has a basic and fundamental right to breathe clean air, which is why so many of us have fought for so long to shut down this dirty, old coal-fired power plant in our midst. This is a major victory for the people of Alexandria that will strengthen our quality of life, and I congratulate all of the officials involved.”
“Our community owes a great deal to the citizen activists who have worked with such unfailing dedication and perseverance to get us to this point. While there is reason to celebrate, the agreement does allow some wiggle room on the closing date, which means we must continue to be vigilant until the day the plant finally and permanently closes its doors.”
Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief
Since holiday weekends are excluded, July’s paper shredding event will take place this Saturday. Residents — not businesses — can take their sensitive documents to the county’s Solid Waste Bureau (4300 29th Street S.) to be shredded, for free, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“A County employee will process the materials while you observe,” according to the Arlington County web site. “100% of shredded material is recycled.”
Residents are limited to two boxes or paper bags of documents each month. Stapled and paper-clipped documents are okay, as are checkbooks, but magazines, catalogs, binders, phone books and credit cards are prohibited.
The three-month old restaurant will soon be launching delivery service, and co-owner Joel Mehr says the newly-purchased Segway will allow his delivery staff to serve residents of Arlington’s dense urban core faster than traditional delivery methods.
The Segway — once it’s outfitted with a custom pizza-holding basket — will be able to transport multiple pies at a time, unlike deliveries by foot, and will be able to park anywhere, unlike deliveries by car. Plus, Mehr said, it’s cheap and eco-friendly — only requiring a $0.20 overnight charge for eight hours of operation.
“We just thought this would be an extremely efficient way to deliver to urban residents within a mile radius,” said Mehr, who noted that the original idea for Segway deliveries came from an offhand suggestion from a customer.
The personal transportation device will not be the only vehicle in the delivery fleet, however. While the Segway will handle deliveries within a mile of the store, a gas-powered scooter will handle deliveries within two miles. Cars will be used for more distant deliveries and during bad weather.
Segways can travel up to 12 miles per hour. Expect to see the Pete’s Segway, decked out with stickers and other decorations, out and about in Clarendon in a couple of weeks.
Can-Scrubbers LLC recently started operating in Arlington, Falls Church and McLean. The company has a small, oddly-shaped blue truck that uses “high pressure hot water and highly effective degreasing cleaners” in an automated process to clean out filthy trash cans.
Can-Scrubbers says their process is “eco-friendly” since cleaning your own cans will likely “send contaminated waste material into the street and ultimately down storm drains and into our precious streams and rivers.” The company says it stores waste water in the truck, then filters it and sends it through the sanitary sewer. Also, the company says that its cleaning agents are biodegradable.
The service starts at $10 per month.
Board Approves Energy Plan Framework – Last night the County Board approved an ambitious set of goals to dramatically reduce energy usage and cut carbon emissions in Arlington over the next 40 years. With the goals set, a new county panel will now set out to figure out how to implement them. Speakers at last night’s board meeting — including members of the local business community — were generally supportive of the energy plan, although a few individuals criticized the additional regulations it will likely impose. [Sun Gazette, Arlington County]
Local Green Group Criticized — Arlington-based Conservation International is being criticized by environmental activists for helping to “greenwash” large corporations in exchange for donations. [Huffington Post]
The Concrete ‘Jungle’ of Clarendon — Are the roads tricky and drivers impatient in the Clarendon/Courthouse area? One writer thinks so. [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by BriankMKA
We don’t usually report on minor accidents that have no traffic impact, but it’s not every day you see an accident involving an electric car.
A Global Electric Motorcars GEM e4 and an SUV were involved in an apparent rear-end collision at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Quinn Street this afternoon.
The electric vehicle suffered some cracked plastic body components as a result of the accident. There were no significant injuries reported. Police arrived on the scene to help the drivers exchange information.
The GEM e4 is a $10,000, 1,300 lb. electric vehicle with a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour and a range of up to 30 miles.
Mixed Signals During Fire Alarms at Senior Facility — During fire alarms at The Jefferson senior living facility in Ballston, a recorded voice tells residents to evacuate the 21-story building via the stairwell. Except, for safety reasons, most residents are supposed to remain in their condo with the door shut. This has confused some elderly residents, who risked injury by attempting to walk down long flights of stairs during fire alarms. While acknowledging the inconsistency, both building management and the fire department say they can’t change the recorded message due to “liability” reasons. [Washington Post]
Politico Reporters to Speak at Rosslyn Lecture Series — Politico White House reporter Julie Mason and congressional reporter Jonathan Allen will be the speakers at Rosslyn’s “Rooms with a View” lecture series next week. Mason and Allen will discuss “Washington’s divided political landscape” and take questions from the audience. The event is free (RSVP required). It will be held on Thursday, May 19, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Boeing conference center at 1200 Wilson Boulevard. [Rosslyn BID]
Papery Closing Rumors — There’s more evidence that Clarendon stationery store The Papery may be closing, despite employees’ insistence that they’re preparing to add new stock to the largely empty shelves. The Papery’s space is listed as “for lease” on a commercial real estate firm’s web site. And The Papery’s own web site no longer exists. [Clarendon Culture]
Sign Needed at Rosslyn Safeway? — Is a one-way sign needed across from the Rosslyn Safeway to prevent confused drivers from heading the wrong way on Wilson Boulevard? [Ode Street Tribune]
In a report released this morning, the association said the Washington region has the 14th highest ozone (smog) levels in the country. Arlington itself was slightly less polluted than the District, with an average of 9.8 ‘high ozone’ days compared to 10.7 days in the District.
The average number of high ozone days in Arlington has been been falling steadily since reaching a high of 32 from 1997 to 1999 (see chart, left).
“The progress we have made here in the District is due to the Clean Air Act; it has proven that cleaning up pollution results in healthier air to breathe,” said Dennis Alexander, Regional Executive Director for the local office of the American Lung Association. “Unfortunately, the D.C. metro area is still one of the most polluted areas in the nation and we still have a long way to go to achieve healthy air. This is exactly why we cannot stop now.”
Arlington received a grade of ‘C’ for particle pollution, also known as soot, while the District received a grade of ‘D.’ The Lung Association says there are more than 17,000 people with asthma and 7,000 people with chronic bronchitis in Arlington. Those groups are at greater risk from pollution, the association said.