Arlington County is the first community in the country to win a top award for its environmentally-friendly policies from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The county was named a Platinum level community by USGBC under its new LEED for Communities program.
USGBC said the certification recognizes the county’s creation of a “sustainable and resilient urban environment that has long-proven success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, managing stormwater, ensuring economic prosperity and focusing on education, affordable housing, health and safety for residents and businesses.”
LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — is a rating system by USGBC that evaluates how environmentally-friendly buildings are.
“It is truly an honor, and a validation of Arlington’s commitment to sustainability, to be the first to earn LEED for Communities Platinum certification,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “This has been a community effort, achieved by having a vision of combating climate change and promoting energy efficiency on a local level, and putting in place innovative policies and practices to achieve it. Now, more than ever, the responsibility for progress on climate change rests with local and state governments and with the private sector.”
The award honors communities that have set goals for environmental sustainability and then met them. It tracks energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience (education, prosperity, equitability and health and safety) before awarding certification.
“Arlington County understands the value of LEED and its ability to help set goals and deploy strategies that can improve the quality of life for residents across the community,” Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC, said in a statement. “Arlington’s LEED for Communities Platinum certification demonstrates a commitment to improving performance and creating a more resilient and sustainable future.”
More details from a press release after the jump:
(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington County just announced that it has joined other counties, cities, businesses and colleges in signing an open letter pledging to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
President Trump announced last week he will withdraw the United States from the pact to help preserve American jobs and avoid placing heavy burdens on the country’s taxpayers. The decision brought swift condemnation from local elected officials.
County leaders joined on Monday (June 5) an open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement entitled, “We Are Still In.” The letter promises that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will continue, regardless of federal policy.
“Arlington stands with communities across our nation and around the globe who recognize that climate change is real and that we must, both on the local and on the global level, meet its adverse effects with strong, effective action,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette in a statement. “Just as we joined the Compact of Mayors in 2015 and agreed to set goals for reductions in greenhouse gases, so do we join the effort today of local communities that are pledging to uphold the Paris Agreement, even if the federal government does not.”
In light of President Trump’s decision, the County Board will consider a resolution at its June 17 meeting reaffirming Arlington’s commitment to combating climate change.
In a press release, the county touted its efforts already in the fight against climate change:
Arlington County adopted a forward-thinking Community Energy Plan (CEP) in June 2013, as an element of our Comprehensive Plan. The award-winning plan is a long-term vision for transforming how Arlington generates, uses and distributes energy. Its goal-setting and methods of achievement are consistent with the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda and the Paris Accord. Arlington’s CEP aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050, and greenhouse gas emissions already have fallen 18 percent in Arlington between 2007 and 2015.
In 2015, Arlington signed the Global Covenant of Mayors for Energy and Climate, sponsored by the Compact of Mayors – open to any city or town in the world willing to meet a series of requirements culminating in the creation of a full climate action and adaptation plan.
In 2012, Arlington exceeded our goal of reducing government-wide energy usage by 10 percent, using the year 2000 as a baseline. Currently, we’re competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge to reduce municipal building energy usage by 20 percent by 2020.
Our Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) helps our community make smart decisions about energy and supports individual actions that improve and sustain Arlington’s quality of life. County government buys more than 30 percent of its electricity as certified green power and buys carbon offsets against 100 percent of its natural gas use. Arlington is home to Discovery Elementary, the largest “net zero energy” elementary school east of the Mississippi River.
At its meeting in June, the County Board will consider a resolution reaffirming Arlington’s commitment to combating climate change and to the goals of our Community Energy Plan.
Arlington will continue to work to make our County more prosperous, healthful, safe and secure through its efforts to rethink energy and protect the environment.
For more information about Arlington’s environmental initiatives and efforts to reduce energy usage and energy costs, visit the County website.
The Arlington County Board will consider a plan to make a stretch of Williamsburg Blvd a so-called “Green Street” at its meeting Saturday.
The section of Williamsburg Blvd, between 33rd Road N. and 35th Street N., would have new trees added as well as two 1,000-square-foot rain gardens in the median. The project is intended to improve local water quality and address permit requirements as part of the county’s Green Streets project for stormwater management.
County staff estimated that installing the trees and rain gardens will treat runoff from 2.2 acres of impervious surfaces that do not allow rainwater to soak in. That water then runs off into the Little Pimmit Run watershed, which leads to the Chesapeake Bay, with Arlington under instructions along with other jurisdictions to reduce pollution in the bay.
If the County Board approves the plan, a contract worth an initial $1.23 million would be awarded, with $246,000 in contingency.
County staff recommends approval of the project, which is being coordinated with the second phase of improvements to Old Dominion Drive. Construction is set to start in June or July.
APS implemented a system called Peachjar last year, replacing paper-based “backpack mail” with email that’s sent directly to the inboxes of elementary and middle school parents.
With a click, families can also use Peachjar to register their children for school events, after-school programs and other activities.
In a statement issued just prior to Earth Day, APS said the switch has saved $2.1 million in paper costs and staff time, while saving 475 trees from being cut down.
APS said the switch has been part of an “effort to reduce waste, promote sustainability, and save valuable time and money.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is unhappy with the environmental implications of president-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks.
In a statement last night, Beyer blasted Trump’s picks for EPA administrator, Secretary of State and Secretary of Energy.
The full statement is below.
The trio of Scott Pruitt for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, and Gov. Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy confirms our worst fears about President-elect Trump’s intentions on climate change and the environment.
As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Scott Pruitt organized and led a national push to oppose the EPA. He made himself the mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry as it fought protections of air and water quality. As a denier of climate science, he is unqualified to run the nation’s premiere agency on the environment and the fight against climate change.
At the helm of Exxon-Mobil, Rex Tillerson continued the corporation’s efforts to undermine climate science as well as its unyielding insistence that fossil fuels remain the dominant, if not sole, energy source for the immediate future. Exxon-Mobil’s regard for shareholders alone, and its refusal to acknowledge that stock value could be married with a wiser and more sustainable long-term world energy portfolio caused untold harm. It is appalling that the Secretary of State who negotiated the Paris Agreement, perhaps the most ambitious step towards fighting climate change in history, could be followed by this nominee.
Rick Perry impressed almost no one during his presidential run, and his most famous statement was his call to abolish the very agency he has been tapped to lead, once he remembered that it is called the ‘Department of Energy.’ The notion that he will succeed the Obama-era Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winner, and incumbent Ernest Moniz, an MIT nuclear physicist, is at once saddening and frightening, as was his call to close the agency tasked with developing clean energy technologies.
Climate change remains the world’s greatest threat. Delaying or reversing our efforts to fight climate change will have potentially catastrophic effects on the planet.
There’s a renewed push for action on the decades-old plan to build a boathouse in the Rosslyn area.
County and federal officials want the public to know that although the project has stopped and restarted several times, it definitely hasn’t been scrapped.
Arlington County has been working on various forms of the boathouse project since the 1990s. It has collaborated with the National Park Service because the county’s shoreline along the Potomac River technically is NPS property.
In October, the county requested that the Commonwealth of Virginia quitclaim any interest it has in the street that fronts the property at 1101 Lee Highway. The county had purchased the Lee Highway land parcel in 2014 for $2.4 million with the listed intent of using the land for possible boathouse-related purposes.
The county requested the quitclaim because it’s unclear exactly who owns and maintains this small portion of the land along the former Lee Highway right of way. VDOT now has to approve the quitclaim — which has no fiscal impact to either party — and the county believes that should happen by or shortly after the new year.
The county points out that this section of land also is the only service vehicle access point if a boathouse is built. Public parking and drop-offs would be located in a safer area further away from the busy intersection with N. Lynn Street and the I-66 off-ramp.
Any progress on the boathouse plan is theoretical until NPS completes an environmental study — as required by law — showing how such a project would impact the area’s natural and cultural resources.
NPS launched an environmental impact statement (EIS) in 2012, with funding secured by former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). The study involved getting community feedback on locations for a potential boathouse.
But the EIS was put on hold and NPS is investigating whether it can instead do an environmental assessment, which is a similar but less intensive study that takes less time to produce. The EA would incorporate the information already gathered during the now-stalled EIS.
NPS launched a transportation study last year to determine what impact a boathouse would have on the area’s existing transportation network. The agency has been collaborating with Arlington County and VDOT for that study and in compiling a final report on the transportation impacts.
Although 1101 Lee Highway was intended to be a location for a boathouse facility, that’s actually not set in stone. That parcel of land is called an “upper site” and cannot effectively host a boathouse on its own without a nearby “lower site” near Theodore Roosevelt Island where boats could be stored and launched. If NPS deems another site better suited for a boathouse, Arlington County could use the Lee Highway land for something else.
“In addition, or as an alternative use, the county may put other passive or recreational uses on the parcel,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “We need to wait until a final determination is made by the National Park Service on the parcel, so other uses aren’t actively being pursued.”
A study for another hot project — the Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola — in relatively the same area was released last month, but Baxter says it’s far too early to consider that an option for the land parcel. In fact, she said it’s premature to even comment on the feasibility of a possible gondola project because the study hasn’t even been reviewed or vetted by county staff.
As far as the next steps for moving forward with the boathouse, NPS hopes to announce a decision about the environmental study and its possible transition to an environmental assessment by early 2017.
If the agency announces it is able to go forward with an EA instead of an EIS, it could potentially reveal a preferred boathouse site at that time as well, although the location decision is not required until the final environmental study results are released.
Volunteers with Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE) will help pick up trash from the stream during the organization’s annual cleanup at Barcroft Park on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Those who sign up for the event will be tasked with removing debris from Barcroft Park and along the banks of Four Mile Run.
The cleanup is being held in conjunction with Clean Virginia Waterways Day and the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. As part of its collaborative efforts, ACE will collect data on the garbage its volunteers remove from the stream.
“We will submit the data to both groups to contribute to an understanding of how litter is impacting our waterways and the wildlife that depends on our waterways,” said Elenor Hodges, executive director at ACE.
Those interested in helping out should bring along sturdy shoes they don’t mind getting wet, work gloves and a water bottle and wear long pants and sleeves to protect against poison ivy, Hodges said.
(Updated at 9:15 a.m. Friday) A residential and retail development on Lee Highway has received national recognition for its energy, water and waste sustainability.
The U.S. Green Building Council honored Verde Pointe (1947 N. Uhle Street) this afternoon for achieving “LEED Gold,” the second highest rating for environmentally friendly buildings. The organization has given more than 32,500 commercial projects around the world certified, silver, gold and platinum ratings, said council chief operating officer Mahesh Ramanujam.
At Verde Pointe, green features include high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, energy efficient equipment and occupancy sensors for lights, according to a news release.
“By incorporating sustainable building practices into projects like this, we will see a stream of environmental, economic and community benefits for decades to come,” Ramanujam said.
Peter Bergmann, president of Bergmann’s Inc., which helped develop the building with McCaffery Interests, said the site’s transformation from a dry cleaner to Verde Pointe “looks like night and day.”
“We couldn’t be more honored and happy with what happened and what we have here,” he said.
Students at Yorktown High School have released a petition seeking integrated recycling bins for the school’s hallways and classrooms.
Right now, the school uses a system of regular trash cans and blue recycling bins to sort its garbage.
“One would think that we already have an effective system as there are blue recycling bins in every single classroom,” said the petition. “However, these recycling bins are just treated as normal trash cans by a majority of students. This eliminates the whole purpose of the recycling bins and teaches students that the environment is not that important and can be overlooked or put aside.”
The new integrated recycling bins would streamline the recycling process into one large bin. One side is marked for recyclables such as paper, glass and plastic. The other side is labeled for landfill trash.
The petition has a goal of 1,000 signatures. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had received just over 150 signatures.
The organization announced today that it is launching its Ready for 100 energy awareness campaign in Arlington and Alexandria. Fifteen U.S. cities including San Diego have already committed to 100 percent clean energy and Arlington has already vowed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
“We strongly support a goal of 100% clean energy,” said Elenor Hodges, Executive Director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, in a press release. “Arlington County has already set a high bar for Virginia, but we can do even better. I think this is an effort many residents will get behind.”
The price of clean energy has dropped significantly over the past few years, with solar energy costs alone dropping by 80 percent, according to the Sierra Club. The solar industry has expanded as well, with over 200,000 people working with solar energy, nearly twice as many as the coal mining industry.
“By transitioning to 100 percent clean energy, our city could prevent thousands of asthma attacks and dozens of premature deaths every year,” said Dr. Samantha Ahdoot, an Alexandria-based pediatrician. “This would be a big step in the right direction toward allowing our kids to breathe easier.”
According to a study by scientists from Stanford, transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy would save the average American family $260 per year in energy costs and an additional $1,500 in health care costs.
The Sierra Club is rallying local residents — including students — to urge local officials “to boost the local economy and save families money by leading the way to 100 percent clean energy.” From the press release:
The electricity sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift from its high-pollution, dirty-fueled past to a safer, cleaner-powered future. The stay issued by the Supreme Court on the Clean Power Plan cannot reverse that trend. Nor can it dampen the overwhelming public support for action on climate change and clean energy.
“Our current dependence on fossil fuels means that my generation will be dealing with the impact of climate change for our entire lives,” said Helene Turvene a junior at Washington-Lee High School. “A commitment now to 100% renewable energy not only will help to begin reversing those impacts, but it will position our community for a more sustainable future. Students want to know that local leaders are acting with us, and future generations, in mind.”
Photo courtesy Sierra Club
A program called RAPIDPASS Virginia has launched, allowing drivers to get the required test for their vehicle during their daily commute.
The on-road testing is being conducted in various parts of Arlington and other Northern Virginia localities.
From a press release:
Motorists simply drive through conveniently located on-road testing equipment positioned throughout Northern Virginia to have their vehicle emissions measured. Owners of well-maintained, clean-running vehicles will receive notification of a passing emissions inspection via mail, or motorists can go online to www.RAPIDPASS.org and enter their license plate number to check if their vehicle has been processed as clean. For vehicles identified as clean, owners can conveniently pay their inspection fee on-line or through the mail and proceed with their vehicle registration renewal. Taking advantage of RAPIDPASS® allows a motorist to skip the trip to a traditional testing station for the biennial emissions test.
Fifteen RAPIDPASS® on-road emissions testing systems are being conveniently distributed across more than 150 roadside mobile inspection locations in the Northern Virginia inspection area counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park. The locations are positioned on frequently used thoroughfares and will be rotated throughout the month.
Testing locations are being posted on the RAPIDPASS website. Today through Thursday, the testing is being done on Lee Highway in Rosslyn.
Arlington County is preparing to make its list of 265 designated “notable trees” a bit longer.
The Department of Parks and Recreation is accepting nominations for its Notable Tree Program through Nov. 15. The program has identified the county’s most notable trees for nearly 30 years.
Last year, 16 trees were deemed worthy of the designation.
According to the nomination form, the purpose of the program is to “recognize and thank the citizens who maintain and care for the County’s most noteworthy trees.” It also hopes encourage other residents to appreciate and take better care of greenery on their property.
What exactly, then, makes a tree notable?
Size, age, historical interest, species uniqueness and special significance to a neighborhood are all factors that can earn a tree a spot on the county’s registry and a certificate or plaque.
The process to get there, though, can be complicated. First, nominators are encouraged to get consent from the tree’s owner before filling out the one-page application. A team of County staff and volunteers will then visit each tree to measure it and evaluate its condition.
That team will make a recommendation to the Urban Forestry Commission, who will decide whether or not to designate and register the tree.
The winners will receive their award at the County’s Arbor Day ceremony, which falls on April 29, 2016.
Photo via Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation
Residents in Arlington’s Penrose neighborhood are claiming that recent trimming by Dominion Power contractors injured trees that line the streets.
They are especially concerned with a White Oak tree on the corner of 8th Street S. and S. Veitch Street, which dates back to before the Civil War, said Terri Armao, chair of the Penrose Neighborhood Association’s Environmental Committee.
“They brutally attacked it yesterday,” Armao said. “I can’t even tell you what they did to it.”
Limbs were cut from the middle where the power line ran though, leaving a gap and causing the tree to look like a giant “V.” Residents had previously asked Dominion not to touch the tree because of its old age.
“I mean it is ridiculous. For a tree they weren’t supposed to touch, they touch a V out of it,” Armao said.
Margaret Alvord, a Penrose resident, attempted to stop the contractors from cutting into the tree, after receiving a call from a neighbor. The tree had been pruned three weeks ago and was still recovering, Alvord said.
“So I jumped up and went up the street in my car,” Alvord said. “I parked my car and they had already begun… and I asked them to stop. I said, ‘this tree is a very old tree.'”
The workers told her to go talk to the supervisor, and when she talked to him, he told her it was the workers’ job to clear the trees from the lines.
“He basically said its our job to clear the lines. And they have to go 10 feet from lines,” Alvord said.
Dominion workers trim trees in order to keep them off of the power lines, said Chuck Penn, a media specialist with Dominion. The trimmings help to keep the power on during storms.
“Our mandate is to provide safe and reliable service to our customers,” he said.
The company respects the resident’s love for the trees and try to balance keeping the trees and providing service, Penn said.
“I cannot overemphasize enough the empathy we bring to our pruning,” he said. “People love their trees and we respect that.”
All Dominion foresters are certified arborists, Penn said. Trees are trimmed every three to four years to maintain the power lines.
“It’s a delicate balance we don’t take lightly,” Penn said. “We respect our customers and our trees.”
The White Oak is important to the neighborhood for its environmental impacts as well as its age, Armao said. For instance, the tree provides shade for the elderly resident that lives in the house next to it.
White Oaks are also known for their support of different species. A White Oak produces acorns, which can be used by 180 other species, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.
“They’re one of those keystone trees,” Armao said.
Dominion does not have a policy for trees that have historic value, Penn said. The company does use the foresters when determining when a tree is a “danger” tree and needs to be trimmed.
Neighbors looked through the tree branches for squirrel and bird nests. They found squirrel nests but did not find any traces of live animals in the tree limbs.
Trees were also trimmed on S. Veitch Street and between S. Wayne and S. Adams, Alvord said.
“Our concern is that they are overly trimming trees we’d really like to save,” she said.
AWLA Cats Star in Movie Trailers — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is releasing a mock movie trailer each week this month starring their very own cats. The adoptable felines will then be given the star treatment at the shelter. “Guests who visit AWLA each Friday in June will be invited to walk the ‘Paw of Fame,’ enjoy some popcorn and take a photo with one of the starring ‘caters’ or ‘catresses’ or to take one home for free,” The first trailer is set to a “Jurassic World” theme. [Facebook]
Arlington Sells $77 Million in Bonds — Arlington County issued $77 million worth of bonds Tuesday, at an average interest rate of 2.8 percent. “Our Triple-AAA rating has helped ensure the lowest interest rates possible, ensuring taxpayer dollars for bond funded projects are used as effectively as possible,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. [Arlington County]
Sierra Club Endorses Fallon — Peter Fallon has picked up a key environmental endorsement ahead of the June 9 Democratic County Board primary. The Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed Fallon, saying he has “a long history of community activism,” is “well versed in the environmental issues facing the County” and is “a strong supporter of [Arlington’s] Community Energy Plan.” Though there are two open County Board seats, the group said it “opted to only endorse one candidate.”
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Tomorrow is Earth Day, and in honor of the 45th anniversary of the holiday dedicated to the environment, Arlington residents and workers can take part in several events around the county this week.
On the eve of Earth Day, this afternoon at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street), the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting an Earth Day scavenger hunt. From 3:00-5:00 p.m., teams will form to take pictures, find clues and solve puzzles, all with a goal of promoting sustainability. Registration is required for the event, and those interested can email to sign up.
Tomorrow, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District is providing its annual planting clinic. At the Plaza on 19th — the small public space at the corner of N. Moore and 19th Streets — from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the BID’s landscaping contractor will give demonstrations on how to plant your own garden and maintain it. Attendees will be able to take home a potted plant of their own, and one of Rosslyn’s food trucks will be on hand for the hungry planters.
On Saturday, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., George Mason University’s Arlington campus is throwing a “Go Gaga for Green” event. There will be a silent auction for rain barrels decorated by Arlington Public Schools students, a lip-sync battle, green-themed food and drink and a raffle. Tickets are $25 and free for APS families and staff. Proceeds will benefit the Arlington County Council of PTAs’ scholarship fund, GMU’s Early Identification Program, which funds first-generation college students and Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment’s Energy Masters Program.
For more environmentally themed events this week and in the future, you can visit Arlington’s website.