Loudoun Supervisors Adopt Environmental Plan

Following a year of work by the board-appointed Environmental Commission, the Board of Supervisors on July 27 approved the county’s new Environment and Energy Work Plan.

The wide-ranging plan aims to make Loudoun greener and more energy efficient. Priorities include ongoing work to pursue new options such as community choice aggregation, which would allow the county to buy power directly from electricity generators instead of utilities; new zoning to permit solar farms and solar panels as an accessory use; and research into waste reuse technologies, such as harvesting combustible gases from the county landfill; and the continuing work to update the County Energy Strategy.

Supervisor Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin) said solar farms should not be permitted on actual farmland, or in the rural area.

“I think it would be a huge disservice, unless it was done incredibly strategically, a disservice to our rural economy,” he said.

And there is a new possibility—a green bank, a publicly-funded financial institution that would finance clean energy projects, offering, extended loan times, reduced rates and credit access for projects that may otherwise have a difficult time finding a lender. Loudoun would be among the first Virginia localities to set up a green bank, with some other Northern Virginia counties studying the concept now. Montgomery County, MD, and Washington, DC, have already set them up.

The county also aims to preserve its remaining natural resources. That ranges from cleaning up requirements for engineering studies in floodplains, which can be cost-prohibitive, to better watershed management planning. Supervisors at the environmental summit also got a new view on protecting trees, such as how requirements to preserve some tree cover in developments can offer inadequate protections for those small clusters of trees, allowing them to die off anyway.

And building in part from the nascent Linear Parks and Trails System, the county will begin looking into establishing wildlife corridors, especially focused on offering safe ways for wildlife to cross roads. Loudoun County has the seventh-highest frequency of vehicle collisions with animals in the country, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The county also plans to develop a central hub for public access to the county’s information about environmental conditions and practices.

There also is a social equity angle to the work plans. That includes taking first steps in assessing community risks and environmental impacts with an eye toward environmental justice, and in conversation with the state’s new Office of Environmental Justice. Similarly, the plan nods toward developing a framework for action to ensure fair distribution in costs, benefits, and accessibility to affordable energy, while also addressing the needs of those most impacted by the energy system.

And supervisors hope to spark more public involvement in that environmental work, both by leading by example with greener government, and with the new Environmental Excellence Awards planned in April 2023, and an annual public forum on environment and energy, with the first planned for May 2023.

In its early stages, which largely involve planning and feasibility studies, county staff members reported that the cost of the new plan can be absorbed into their existing budgets. However, its more ambitious goals will mean future Boards of Supervisors have decisions to make when they write the annual county budget.

County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said all of those ideas are wonderful—“and if we were flush in money, we wouldn’t even be having this, we could do this tomorrow.” But, she pointed out, supervisors are looking ahead to a tough budget year.

She also said there may be more the county can do without spending money, such as on the regulatory front.

“I do think that there’s a lot more we could do even in the short term. I think Building and Development will be a department we need to talk to more, as I talked before about things like the native species and whether or not we should require those when development is happening,” she said. “I think sometimes developers may put down a plant because of how it looks, and it may not be the right plant for the area because it’s not native. I think there’s some things that may not cost a darn dime, but we should maybe look into doing anyway.”

“This is so important for our nation, for everyone, and I’m so glad that we’re, as a local body, that we’re making the steps that we can to help our environment and our community,” said Supervisor Sylvia R. Glass (D-Broad Run).

Supervisors passed the new work plan 8-0-1, with Kershner absent for the vote.

For more information about Loudoun’s efforts on the environment and the work of the Environmental Commission, go to loudoun.gov/environment.

5 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Adopt Environmental Plan

  • 2022-08-03 at 1:45 pm

    By her own words Randall considers the parking lot to her store and house as wilderness. No cred!

  • 2022-08-03 at 4:14 pm

    Our Board of Supervisors is way off the mark on this ill thought out plan. If they really want to address environmental impacts they need to stop approving the unbridled growth of housing in the county. Take a ride through the county and you can see a noticeable change in temperature between the heat generating areas along route 7 in Ashburn and Sterling and the heat sinking areas along the back road like Harmony Church, Lovetsville Rd, St Louis, and so on. Stop the development, encourage more green spaces and you make a bigger impact. Time for the BoS to focus on things they can address not the latest fad like energy equity.

  • 2022-08-03 at 4:38 pm

    This is exactly what our County government should be doing.

  • 2022-08-03 at 8:43 pm

    Best part of this is they quoted Kaleb’s objections to an item that he was actually not present to vote for. I mean really, if you can’t bother to show up and vote against something, then your words should not matter. Catoctin continues to be represented by feckless grandstanders.

  • 2022-08-07 at 11:11 am

    And yet, there’s still garbage all over Loudoun’s roadways. Start with the basics.

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