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Arlington’s Sewage Could One Day Fertilize Local Lawns and Fuel ART Buses

People tend to flush and forget, but a plan approved by the County Board yesterday (Tuesday) could eventually result in the solid waste generated by Arlingtonians being deposited right back onto their lawns.

Fifteen years ago Arlington began a massive upgrade of the liquid side of its wastewater treatment facility — work that was finally completed several years ago at a cost of over a half billion dollars. Since then the solid side of the sewage plant has continue to degrade. Solid wastes are currently trucked away from the site five to six times each day. Instead, a new Solids Master Plan could transform that waste into soil enhancement for local yards and collect methane gas to be used in Arlington’s bus network.

“The solid site is now reaching the end of its natural life,” said Sarah McKinley, the president of the Columbia Heights Civic Association, who served as a community representative on the stakeholder committee. “We could replace it with current equipment or go to new technology that would really move us into the future.”

The new treatment is a three-phase process that will gradually replace equipment at the treatment center, with a total cost of $154.8 million spread out across those phases. The plan would require additional staff, but the cost is offset by reducing the number of truck trips from the site.

The new cleaning process would create two byproducts, a fertilizer-like biosolid that the plan says could be used by the public, the county, or commercial entities for soil treatment. Further processing — such as blending with soil or a “bulking agent” — would be required if the biosolid is to be locally distributed.

The other byproduct, a biogas compound, could be converted into compressed natural gas. The plan identifies the Arlington Transit bus fleet, conveniently parked across the street from the treatment facility, as a potential customer.

McKinley noted that there were concerns from residents living near the treatment site about pollution from the methane creation process and the routine gas flares from the treatment plant. However, she said added that committee believed the environmental and community benefits outweighed the concerns.

“I think it really moves us into the future,” said McKinley. “It makes sense. It’s a clean plan.”

The county is set to implement the new solid waste handling method in 2027.

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Chemical Leak at Fairlington Dry Cleaners Prompts Neighborhood Worries

A long-term chemical leak at a dry cleaning business near Fairlington has caused an odor in some homes — and concerns among residents about their health.

State environmental regulators are wrapping up their review of the spill from Fairlington Cleaners, located in a low-slung shopping center at 1712 Fern Street in Alexandria. According to documents, toxic chemicals leaked from the business into the area’s soil and groundwater, which has affected homes across the Arlington border in Fairlington.

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has spent years working with TBR Associates, the owner of the Fairlington Shopping Center along N. Quaker Lane, to evaluate conditions at the business. With a final report in hand, they’re planning a meeting tonight (Monday) to discuss their findings at 7 p.m. at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street).

Previous managers of the cleaners used equipment that regularly leaked fluid containing tetrachloroethene, a chemical commonly used in dry cleaning that’s linked to a variety of adverse health impacts, prompting concerns among residents of the nearby Fairlington Glen and Fairlington Meadows condo communities.

The DEQ ultimately determined that most people living in the area weren’t facing any serious health risks, after testing about 50 homes in those neighborhoods. Though the chemical has impacted the area’s groundwater, the homes are hooked up to municipal water lines, meaning the chemical would only impact people if its vapors wafted into the houses.

Regulators did find that five homes were contaminated with those vapors at potentially serious levels, and the shopping center’s owner installed fan systems to address the issue. However, a review of data collected from the homes by the state health department concluded that there is a “low or extremely low” risk of cancer for anyone breathing in the fumes and determined that the chemical does not pose a health hazard to the larger community.

In a letter to the Fairlington Glen and Meadows homeowners associations, the DEQ now says it’s ready to install four new, permanent groundwater monitoring wells in the area and set up some sort of “legally binding mechanism” to ensure the owner of the shopping center continues to test the area for any potential contamination from the chemicals.

Some neighbors, however, want to see regulators get considerably more aggressive in pressing TBR to do more. Glen residents Barbara Collier and Ellen McDermott have been distributing a flier arguing that “we still do not have an active picture of the plume or chemical levels under our homes,” according to a copy of the note provided to ARLnow.

They wrote that the state testing only “gives a snapshot in time” of the contaminants, and the chemicals could continue to spread, even though the DEQ argued in its report that TPR and its contractor, Engineering Consulting Services, have managed to stem the flow of the chemicals.

Collier and McDermott are also concerned that ECS hasn’t “used the best technologies” to review contamination in the area before submitting data to DEQ, arguing that their methods are “questionable.” They note that they’re suspicious of the contractor in general, considering that the DEQ cited the company back in 2006 for improperly disposing waste water as it tried to clean up chemicals at the dry cleaning site.

“This matter has dragged on for so long that by the time there is any ‘resolution,’ we also may be well past the statute of limitations for any legal action to fix the damage done,” Collier and McDermott wrote. “This meeting is the last chance to push the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to be more aggressive.”

DEQ spokesman Greg Bilyeu told ARLnow the agency has no timetable set for any follow-up actions following the meeting, but hopes to use the gathering as a way of “sharing more information, hearing from the community and answering questions right now.”

“Information gathered from the meeting and afterwards will be included in DEQ’s future considerations and actions,” Bilyeu wrote.

Photos 1 and 2 via Google Maps

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Rep. Beyer Celebrates Pruitt’s Resignation as Head of EPA

Few members of Congress have been as outspoken against Scott Pruitt and his scandal-plagued tenure as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency as has local Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

Now, with Pruitt’s resignation today (Thursday), Beyer is taking a victory lap.

“Finally,” the Congressman said in a single-word first sentence of an otherwise adjective-filled statement celebrating the resignation.

The congressman’s office, along with the Safe Climate Caucus he co-chairs, has sent out at least 32 press releases mentioning Pruitt since his nomination to the EPA’s top position was announced in December 2016.

“We urge President Trump to mark Earth Day by firing Scott Pruitt and replacing him with someone who will return the Environmental Protection Agency to its core mission, rather than using their position for perks and schemes at Americans’ expense,” said one such press release, sent this past April.

Today’s full statement from Beyer is below.

Finally.

Scott Pruitt was able to keep his position for so long — despite astonishing megalomania and unethical behavior – only because of Donald Trump’s historic embrace of corruption. Pruitt acknowledged behavior in Congressional hearings and televised interviews that violated federal regulations and spoke to extreme levels of wasteful spending and abuse of public office. He committed dozens of offenses which would have led to immediate dismissal in any previous administration.

Pruitt now joins the growing ranks of ex-Trump officials, a testament to President Trump’s chaotic management style and poor judgment. Sadly, some of those who remain may be nearly as corrupt, as antithetical to the purposes of the agencies they lead, and as willing to besmirch their public offices with dishonest and unethical behavior.

Scott Pruitt stood out, even in Donald Trump’s uniquely corrupt administration, for his willingness to cede direct influence and control over EPA policy to industries and special interests which harm public health. His scandals were inextricably linked to his antipathy to environmental protection, and to his close association with those who value profit over clean air and water.

The only way to really turn the page on the Pruitt era will be for Trump to appoint an EPA Administrator who is committed to environmental stewardship, and willing to clean house and wrest control of the EPA back from polluters and lobbyists.

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Plans to Cut Down Massive Redwood Tree in Williamsburg Attract Stiff Opposition

Conservationists and neighbors are teaming up to push back against plans to chop down a 114-foot-tall dawn redwood tree in Northwest Arlington.

A developer is currently hoping to demolish a single-family home along the 3200 block of N. Ohio Street, subdivide the lot and build two homes in its place, according to county permit applications.

As part of that process, Richmond Custom Homes could eventually remove several trees in the area, including the large dawn redwood tree in the center of the Williamsburg property.

But an online petition to protect the tree has already garnered more than 800 signatures, and the neighborhood’s civic association is pleading with county leaders to protect the redwood. Not only is the tree recognized as one of the largest of its species by both county and state officials, but it sits within a “Resource Protection Area,” giving the county the chance to scrutinize these construction plans quite closely.

“The tree is stately, thriving and establishes a sense of place and continuity in a rapidly changing county,” Ruth Shearer, the president of the Williamsburg Civic Association, wrote in a letter to the County Board. “The loss of such a prized and recognized tree would be a tragedy, not only to this community but also to Arlington and to Virginia.”

The developer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans for the property. But Shearer points out in her letter that county and state law generally prevents the removal of large trees in Resource Protection Areas, zones near streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.

She argues that Richmond Custom Homes likely won’t be able to prove that their plans meet the narrow exceptions allowing the removal of trees in these areas, a claim echoed by the advocates with the Arlington Tree Action Group.

“Both this tree and this RPA are important for protecting the air and water quality not just of the immediate neighborhood and Arlington County at large, but of the Bay watershed,” the group wrote in a news release. “The loss of either would call into question the enforcement of the [Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance].”

The action group added that this tree is likely one of the largest dawn redwoods in the entire country, and could live to be up to 600 years old if left undisturbed.

Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, noted that the redwood is not necessarily guaranteed protection under Arlington’s tree ordinance, however. She points out that the tree would need to be designated as a “specimen or heritage tree,” a designation the county can only grant following a request from the property’s owner, and the homeowners have yet to ask for such a change.

“The county is reviewing the [developer’s permit] applications and its options for preserving the tree,” Baxter told ARLnow via email. “We’ll keep the community informed of the outcome.”

Read the entire statement on the redwood from the tree action group, after the jump.

AT RISK: STATE CHAMPION TREE IN RESOURCE PROTECTION AREA

Arlington, Virginia – June 25, 2018.  A Commonwealth of Virginia State Champion Tree – very likely one of the oldest Dawn Redwoods in the United States – is at risk of being cut down. As Arlington County acknowledges, the Dawn Redwood is located in a Resource Protection Area (RPA); the Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance (CBPO) requires RPAs to be designated near Arlington streams because those waters flow into the Bay. Thus, both this tree and this RPA are important for protecting the air and water quality not just of the immediate neighborhood and Arlington County at large, but of the Bay watershed. Other single-property homes in this RPA have observed the restrictions placed on building in a RPA.

This has the makings of a landmark case. A Champion Tree and the RPA in which it is located are at stake; the loss of either would call into question the enforcement of the CBPO, not to mention the County processes used to designate Champion Trees and RPAs.

This Dawn Redwood, given its size, is likely one of the oldest in this country. It was identified by American Forests, the Virginia Urban Forest Council, the Virginia Forestry Association, and Arlington County as both an Arlington Champion Tree and a State Champion Tree. When last measured by Arlington’s Urban Forester, it was found to be 114 feet high, with a crown of 60 feet and a circumference of 185 inches.

A Resource to Protect

Generally speaking, the removal of large trees (more than 3 inches in diameter) is not permitted in RPAs, although there are exceptions where, for example, the application of the buffer would prevent the achievement of a “minimum buildable area.” The exceptions require the submission of water quality impact assessment data, a tree preservation and protection plan, sediment and erosion control plans, and other materials. The county website describes RPAs as “…stream or wetland buffers [that] help protect water quality by: filtering out pollutants from storm water runoff; reducing the volume of storm water runoff; minimizing erosion, and; providing wildlife habitat. A fully vegetated stream buffer can help protect private property by preventing erosion along a water body. Steep slopes (25 percent or greater) that are adjacent to buffers are also part of the RPA because of the potential for erosion in these areas. In RPAs, existing trees and other vegetation are protected and building projects are regulated to protect water quality.”

The Dawn Redwood lies within the Williamsburg Civic Association (WCA); the WCA 2017 Neighborhood Conservation Plan, like that of many civic associations, identified the loss of mature trees through development as one of the biggest concerns of residents. A key goal of the Civic Association is to promote efforts to stem “the decline in the tree canopy occasioned by residential development and tear-downs.”

The Dawn Redwood is an unusual tree. Throughout most of modern history Dawn Redwoods were known only from the fossil record. The living tree was discovered in China in the early 1940s and seeds were imported into the United States in the late 1940s. The trees are considered endangered in the wild but have adapted to urban settings because of their tolerance for urban air pollution and wet sites. It’s one of the few deciduous evergreens, losing its needles in the fall and replacing them in the spring. They can live up to 600 years.

Neighborhood petition

A petition launched by neighbors recognized that this beautiful, healthy tree is on a lot large enough to keep the tree and build new homes, just set farther back on the lot. The petition quickly garnered nearly 800 signatures. An article in Arlington Connection (6/13/18) quoted a resident who reviewed the notes to the permit database in April and found building in the RPA had been rejected “…because of failure in the grading plan, the water quality impact assessment, the erosion and sediment control plan and the tree preservation and protection plan.”

Civic Association Plea

In a June 22 letter to the Arlington County Board, the President of the Williamsburg Civic Association lamented that razing the tree “will jeopardize important environmental protection goals embodied in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, Arlington’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance (Chapter 61), and Arlington’s Stormwater Manual.” Ruth Shearer added that “state and local law generally prohibit the removal of trees in Resource Protection Areas,” and concluded that the “loss of such a prized and recognized tree would be a tragedy, not only to this community, but also to Arlington and to Virginia!”

Dangerous Precedent?

The Champion Dawn Redwood and the RPA in which it stands provide benefits to all residents, including: capturing carbon and purifying the air, filtering water (ending up in the Bay), giving shade and saving energy, supporting wildlife, mitigating climate change (by removing carbon from the air), and adding to the beauty, ambiance, and history of the neighborhood and county. Both deserve protection.

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Arlington Environmental Group Adopts New Name to Attract Millennials

The conservationists with Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment are celebrating the group’s 40th anniversary by adopting a new name: EcoAction Arlington.

The group made the change official on Earth Day, April 22, but executive director Elenor Hodges says the rebranding has been in the works for the last year-and-a-half or so.

“We’ve moved a little beyond just working toward a clean environment,” Hodges told ARLnow. “1978 was a different time.”

Those behind the newly christened EcoAction Arlington have worked for decades to organize environmentally-focused community initiatives, like programs to help people save energy at home or move to solar power. But Lydia Cole, the group’s communications manager, felt the organization just wasn’t reaching younger Arlingtonians and needed a bit of a change.

“People who’ve engaged with ACE in the past were part of the baby boomer generation, or Generation X,” Cole said. “Now, there are lots of millennials, lots of young professionals in Arlington, but we’re not getting many of them. So that was our focus in how we approached our new name. They’re going to be the future.”

The group’s leaders first started mulling a name change in earnest as they worked to overhaul the organization’s strategic plan three years ago. As the group charted out a new direction, Cole says it also wanted a name that better reflects its goals.

“ACE definitely spoke to who we were and some of what we do, but it didn’t speak at all to how we go about doing it,” Cole said.

Cole worked together with a graphic designer to brainstorm possible new names and logos, and compiled a list of about 20 or 30 possibilities. She says they even convened a focus group to sort through some of those options to whittle down the list even further.

Ultimately, the group’s board of directors opted for “EcoAction” because it conveyed their desire to focus on “action-oriented events and activities” centered on the environment.

For example, in the coming months EcoAction will be launching a drive encouraging people to use less plastic in their homes. By the fall, Hodges also hopes to start working with Arlington restaurants to convince them to abandon plastic straws. With those new programs and the new name, she aims to pull in a younger crowd sooner rather than later.

“Just being able to find us more easily, I think, will help, as well as increasing opportunities to get involved,” Hodges said. “If picking up trash isn’t your thing, we’ll have options for you.”

Photo via EcoAction Arlington

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Girl Scouts Launch Campaign Against Plastic Straw Use

Though National Skip The Straw Day already passed this year, three local Girl Scouts are asking their fellow students not to use plastic straws for a week.

The Claremont Immersion School students presented their research on the effect that plastic straws have on the environment to third through fifth grade science classes last week.

The project is part of a Girl Scouts bronze award project, in which junior level scouts tackle a project that they believe will “create a long-lasting change in their community.”

The trio, all members of Arlington Troop 4594, hopes to have at least 300 students sign the pledge and use paper, silicone, bamboo or steel straws — or no straws at all.

According to one of the girls’ parents, Levi Novey, the girls also intend to approach two restaurants, pitching a plastic straw-free dining area.

According to Novey, the three girls are being advised by two mentors: Kate Ceste, the Arlington County Solid Waste Bureau’s contracts manager, and Elenor Hodges, executive director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.

Photos courtesy of Levi Novey

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Arlington Environmental Group Disputes Arlington’s Tree Canopy Study

An Arlington environmental group is claiming that Arlington’s recent tree canopy assessment is misleading.

The tree canopy study found that, from 2011-2016, the tree canopy increased one percent to 41 percent. The Arlington Tree Action Group claims that the two percent margin of error on the county’s study cancels out its findings.

A press release from the tree group also notes that the county failed “to emphasize a decrease from the 43 percent recorded in 2008.”

The press release from the Arlington Tree Action Group is below.

ATAG Challenges County’s Misleading Claims on Tree Canopy Study

Arlington, Virginia – April 12, 2018 – Arlington County is using an arsenal of its public outreach resources to present an overly optimistic picture of the health of the forest resources based on a 2017 tree canopy study according to the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG).  The study concluded that the tree canopy increased by 1% between 2011 and 2016 but the County media push fails to emphasize a decrease from the 43% recorded in 2008. More alarming for 10 civic association neighborhoods is the scant recognition of the actual loss of more than 5% of their trees over just five years, with another 14 neighborhoods losing up to 5%. The County has instead declared that the trees are “on the rebound” based on the report.

After reviewing the report, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, Director, Spatial Analysis Laboratory, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, the University of Vermont, concluded that the accuracy of the data used was only 94% making the findings publicized by the County highly questionable. In keeping with the County initiative for more open data, ATAG is concerned that the information disseminated must be accurate.

The 2004 Arlington County Urban Forest Master Plan called for an increase in the tree canopy from the estimated 41% at that time. The Plan also called for extensive programs for the preservation and planting of trees. Arlington County does not have an inventory of the trees on public lands that many jurisdictions such as the District have established. The County currently has capital projects including stream restorations, community centers, and park developments, that will remove hundreds more trees in the next few years, dwarfing the public and private tree planting programs underway.

ATAG is concerned that the County outreach mischaracterizes the study results which could delay addressing serious environmental, health and economic challenges accompanying urban tree canopy loss. The outreach has included presentations to the County Board, the Urban Forestry Commission and other County commissions and civic associations, as well as articles in “The Citizen” newsletter to all residents, pages on the County website, and posters in parks.

ATAG is a group of concerned Arlington citizens working to preserve the sustainable urban forest, promote green infrastructure, and protect the environmental ambience that makes the community economically attractive. Working with individuals and established community organizations, the group seeks to highlight important issues facing Arlington’s urban forest and bring together resources to maximize their goals.

See here for a more complete discussion and links to relevant documents.

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Employees Are Very Interested in a Particular Article About Arlington

Eagle-eyed readers of this site may have noticed something odd in this past Friday’s weekend discussion post: namely, the inclusion of an article from December among the most-viewed stories of the week.

We also found that unusual, so we did a bit of digging. It turns out, there have been more than 6,000 views of the article, “County Wins Top Environmental Award from U.S. Green Building Council,” over the past week.

Here’s an excerpt:

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.”

So from where is all this newfound interest in Arlington County’s sustainability bonafides coming? From Amazon.com, it seems.

The vast majority of the traffic to the page over the past week that can be tracked came from what appears to be an internal Amazon.com page devoted to its HQ2 search. Arlington, of course, is in the running as one of the potential landing spots for the company’s second headquarters.

Below is a chart showing traffic to the page, via Google Analytics.

No other page on ARLnow.com has a similar level of traffic coming from Amazon.

Last week a noted NYU professor who has written about the company opined that New York City and the D.C. area are among the most likely finalists for HQ2, due to a combination of being destinations for talented workers and being places that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos likes to frequent.

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Arlington’s Recycling Rate Rose In 2017

Arlington’s recycling rate rose to 48.5% in 2017, up slightly from 2016. The county credits the rise to its implementation of year-round, weekly curbside yard waste collection for homes and duplexes.

The recycling rate was 46.8% in 2016 and 44.5% in 2015, the year that year-round collection was unanimously approved by the County Board. The project was expected to divert up to 9,000 tons of compostable materials from regular trash collection. It came with a $47 per-year price tag for Arlington homeowners.

Arlington’s 2016 recycling rate was well above the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 national estimate of 34.6%.

The amount of yard waste that was thrown in the trash plummeted from 26% to 5%, according to the 2017 Arlington County Annual Report.

An Arlington County Board recommendation cited a September 2015 survey which found that 70% of single-family home Arlington residents believed that increasing the county’s recycling rate was important. There were 4,283 survey participants. The survey also asked whether or not those residents supported year-round yard waste collection despite the additional cost, to which 60% indicated that they did support the initiative.

In 2017, Virginia’s Dept. of Environmental Quality awarded Arlington a bronze medal for the year-round yard waste collection as part of the governor’s environmental excellence awards.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Dimick

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Arlington’s Salamander Patrol Goal? No Squishes

Why did the salamander cross the road? To get to the vernal pool breeding grounds, of course.

Most people wouldn’t laugh at that, but the joke might have killed at Thursday’s salamander patrol training session at Arlington’s Long Branch Nature Center.

The nature center holds yearly salamander training sessions to educate volunteers on the dangers that salamanders and other vernal-pool-dwelling amphibians face during the annual migration.

Amphibians generally live in ponds but some, like the spotted salamander or wood frog, only live in vernal pools — watering holes that dry up in the fall. These are ideal spots for the critters to thrive in, because predators like fish and other amphibians prefer year-round pools.

But because only two or three vernal pools remain in the increasingly urbanized county, hundreds of salamanders and wood frogs have no choice but to cross the pool-adjacent driveways and sidewalks, according to Jennifer Soles, an Arlington County naturalist and long-time Arlington resident.

Soles began the salamander squad program in 2013 after attending a master naturalist training the year prior. As Long Branch Nature Center volunteers were leaving the class, salamanders and frogs began their breeding ground migration — across the parking lot, and under a lot of car tires.

“They’re all there because they love nature and it’s their master naturalist training,” said Soles. “And everyone is running over the frogs and salamanders.”

Soles grabbed a flashlight and began escorting the unhurried salamanders off of the pavement, joined by other horrified naturalists.

Arlington’s naturalists have since tried to prevent further amphibian annihilation through the salamander training sessions. At the Feb. 8 training session, at least 16 community members learned how to protect their local croakers from another Arlington County naturalist, Rachael Tolman.

The session focused on frog and salamander biology and breeding habits, and taught volunteers safe handling practices. Tolman walked volunteers through filling out scientific forms that allow on-site naturalists to predict travel patterns.

“If it’s a little squish, it’s a [spring] peeper, if it’s a medium squish, it’s a wood frog,” said Tolman, explaining how to fill out the alive-or-dead count portion of the form for the rundown animals. “If it’s kind of a spotted, long squish, it’s probably a spotted salamander.”

A salamander patrolman is nothing without his or her tool kit, which includes a reflective vest, headlamps, pens — and a garden spade for scraping squished salamanders off of the road.

While the event was intended to be for ages 13 or older, few teenagers were in attendance. Most volunteers were much older with a more developed environmental interest.

Peter Hansen, a Federal Reserve Board researcher, is a 24-year-old Arlington resident and one of the county’s master naturalists.

“I saw the email blast about the salamander patrol, and it sounded really hype,” said Hansen, noting that several of his friends are nature enthusiasts that he admires for their vast knowledge of the environment.

“I can add a lot of color to my experience in nature,” said Hansen. Most likely, he’ll be returning to serve on the salamander squad.

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County Wins Top Environmental Award from U.S. Green Building Council

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:

More than a half-century of commitment to sustainability

Arlington’s sustainability story began with thoughtful Metrorail planning in the 1960s, followed by the Smart Growth strategies outlined in the General Land Use Plan. The County launched its Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) effort in 2007. AIRE set a target to reduce Arlington County government’s carbon emissions by 10 percent by 2012, compared to 2000 levels, and achieved it by improving energy efficiency in the County government’s buildings, vehicles and infrastructure and other efforts.

The County’s Community Energy Plan (CEP), adopted in 2013, established a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 75 percent by 2050. The CEP is an element of Arlington’s Comprehensive Plan, which sets forth the broad goals and policies of a sustainable community over the next 30 to 40 years. Arlington’s green building policies support the plan’s goals by encouraging the construction of buildings that are energy and water efficient while providing healthy indoor environments. Most recently, the County became the first locality in Virginia to approve an ordinance allowing a Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program – a public-private partnership to provide affordable, long-term financing for projects to improve the energy or water efficiency of commercial buildings in the County.

Open-space planning, solid-waste management, stormwater management, affordable-housing planning and public schools were evaluated by the USGBC for the LEED for Communities Platinum certification.

The Arlington County Board celebrated the Platinum certification at its December 19 meeting, which also marked the retirement of sustainability advocate and long-time County Board Member Jay Fisette.

“Whether from his bicycle or from the dais of the County Board room, Mr. Fisette has championed sustainability in Arlington for the past 20 years. This LEED certification is a tribute to Jay and his now-lasting vision for Arlington’s future,” said Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol.

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County Signs Nationwide Pledge To Uphold Paris Climate Goals

(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.”

The District of Columbia has also signed on to the pact and Virginia joined a similar state effort this week.

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.

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‘Green Streets’ Project May Be Coming To Williamsburg Blvd

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.

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APS Says It Saved More Than $2 Million With Switch Away from Paper Flyers

Arlington Public Schools says it has saved more than $2 million by moving from paper flyers to electronic messaging.

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.”

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Beyer Blasts ‘Anti-Environment’ Cabinet Picks

Rep. Don Beyer in his Capitol Hill office (file photo)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.

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