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Environmentalists applaud greener laws but see ‘long road ahead’

New legislation in Virginia will soon give some power to local governments and help environmental organizations and businesses combat plastic pollution.

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By Veronica Campbell 

New legislation in Virginia will soon give some power to local governments and help environmental organizations and businesses combat plastic pollution.

Jim Deppe is an advocacy coordinator for Lynnhaven River Now, an organization that believes in restoring and protecting Virginia’s waterways. Deppe also coordinates the Virginia Coastal Alliance, which comprises 17 organizations in Virginia that focus on off-shore drilling and single-use plastics.

“Bags, polystyrene and balloons are all significant problems in the marine environment,” Deppe said. “Two years ago, there was no option for municipalities to put laws in place locally that would allow the elimination of plastic bags, polystyrene and balloons.”

That’s because traditionally, Virginia is a Dillon Rule state. That means municipalities or cities are limited to the powers expressly granted to them by the state. Organizations such as Lynnhaven River Now and the Surfrider Foundation, another nonprofit environmental organization, successfully lobbied in Richmond in 2020 to allow local municipalities to implement ordinances against plastic bag usage by requiring a small fee.

House Bill 2159, introduced by Del. Nancy Guy, D-Virginia Beach, is one of the most important bills of the year to combat plastic pollution in Virginia, according to environmentalists. The law prohibits anyone over the age of 16 from intentionally releasing non-biodegradable balloons outdoors.

Anyone caught releasing balloons could face a civil penalty of $25 per balloon. The current law prohibits the release of 50 balloons or more within an hour. The civil penalty is currently $5 and proceeds are deposited into the Lifetime Hunting and Fishing Endowment Fund. The new law will put any penalty money into the Game Protection Fund. The bill was signed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Morgan Wilds is the vice-chair for the Virginia chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. The organization was founded 36 years ago with the mission of protecting the world’s oceans and beaches.

Wilds said the ban on balloon releases, and the ensuing penalty, will hopefully deter people from releasing them.

 “Virginia is a blue state, but it is still very much purple,” Wilds said. “Environmental issues have a long road ahead of them in the commonwealth.”

Another significant piece of environmental legislation passed by the General Assembly this year was the ban on polystyrene packaging commonly used in carryout. The ban goes into effect for larger chain restaurants in 2023 and then statewide in 2025.

Northam signed an executive order in March to help reduce single-use plastics at all executive branch state agencies and state higher education institutions. State agencies have 120 days to discontinue, with some exemptions, buying, selling, or distributing items such as disposable plastic bags, single-use plastic and polystyrene food service containers, plastic straws and cutlery, and single-use plastic water bottles.

“We’ve been fighting on it for a few years,” Wilds said about the polystyrene legislation.

Katie Register is the executive director of the Clean Virginia Waterways program of Longwood University and has worked to combat plastic pollution. She organizes the International Coastal Cleanup in Virginia and collects data on what types of litter are in the environment.

The top 10 contributors to plastic waste come from restaurants and convenience stores and include straws, lids, cups, and beverage bottles, according to the Clean Virginia Waterways website.

On the local level, some restaurants in Virginia Beach have already gotten a head start on using sustainable packaging before the polystyrene ban takes effect.

“They [the Surfrider Foundation] came to us three years ago,” said Patrick Edwards, owner of The Stockpot, an environmentally conscious restaurant located at 700 19th St. in Virginia Beach.

The Surfrider Foundation told Edwards that he would need to meet their requirements if he wanted to be a part of the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, an initiative to stop plastic from entering oceans.

Restaurant owners who want to participate follow outlined criteria that bans use of polystyrene, plastic bags and straws, and calls for reusable foodware on-site and proper recycling practices, according to the Surfrider Foundation’s website.

“We already met all of those criteria because it’s something that we felt was important to us in the first place,” Edwards said. “So that was really a win-win for us.”

Owners participating in the program are listed on the Surfrider Foundation’s national and chapter websites and get marketing collateral such as window stickers, brochures and bill inserts to show and educate customers. Members also get a tax-deductible donation opportunity.

Edwards said he stopped using plastic straws and didn’t get the feedback he wanted for being an environmentally conscious restaurant.

“People are very dependent on certain plastic things,” Edwards said. “When we made changes to our straws, we got a huge backlash. You would think everyone would be on board.”

Register hopes that her nonprofit won’t have to focus on cleaning the environment.

 “I would like to see us spend more time in the world of prevention, preventing this debris in the first place,” she said. “It’s a matter of resources, but it’s also a matter of political will.”

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Shootings on July 3rd and Early July 4th Result in a Death and Six Injuries

Two separate unrelated incidents occurred. One at City Dogs in the Fan and another near Cyber Café on Broad Street.

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West Main Street Death Investigation

Sunday, July 3, at approximately 10:26 p.m., officers were called to the 1300 block of West Main Street for the report of random gunfire. RPD officers responded and located an adult male with an apparent gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of death.

Anyone with information about this death investigation is asked to contact

Major Crimes Detective A. Coates at (804)-646-0729 or Crime Stoppers at

(804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

This RVA/Reddit thread has some unconfirmed details and first-hand reports on the City Dogs shooting.

Update July 5th:

Arrest Made, Victim Identified in West Main Street Homicide and Aggravated Assaults

The Richmond Police Department has charged the suspect in yesterday’s shootings on West Main Street. Derrick Adjei, 24, of Alexandria, Virginia, was taken into custody by Virginia State Police last night at approximately 11:01 p.m. after the vehicle Adjei had been operating was involved in a single vehicle collision on northbound I-95.

RPD detectives, investigating the West Main Street shooting, have charged Adjei with malicious wounding. Other charges are pending. A booking photo of Adjei is not yet available.

Detectives have identified the victim of the shooting as Kyle Stoner, 36, of Richmond. Sunday at approximately 10:28 p.m., officers were called to the 1300 block of West Main Street for the report of a shooting. RPD officers responded and located an adult male, Stoner, on a patio of a business, down and unresponsive suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of death.

An adult female and an adult male were also injured during the incident and have received treatment for injuries that were not considered life threatening.

Anyone with further information about this incident is asked to contact Major Crimes Detective A. Coates at (804)-646-0729 or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

West Broad Street Shooting

At approximately 3:39 a.m., Richmond Police officers responded to the report of random gunfire in the 00 block of West Broad Street. Six people were reported shot near the Cyber Café, an after-hours club including four adult males and two adult females.

Of the six who sustained gunshot wounds, two are considered life-threatening and four non-life threatening. One man was transported by ambulance, others were self-transported to the hospital for treatment.

There is no public threat at this time.

Anyone with information about this shooting investigation is asked to call Detective Reyes at (804) 646-3874 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

 

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LaDiff Now Open on Southside

Sit down, we’ve got furniture news.

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LaDiff the hip furniture store left Shockoe Bottom for the sweet, sweet Southside. Now after 8 months their new location is open. They’re calling it an extremely soft opening so walls are still getting painted, product being placed, and outdoor furniture won’t be available until next spring.

You can get all the details on their website.

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Attention River Lovers Huguenot Flatwater Work Day on Saturday

The universal access ramp is done at Huguenot Flatwater but there is still some finishing touches that need to be made to the are.

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Message from James River Outdoor Coalition

Needs plans for your Saturday? Come help out your local park system at the JROC project! We need LOTS of hands to prep the grounds at Huguenot Flatwater for the opening of the new universal access ramp!

We’ll be digging out and painting parking blocks, clearing debris, and opening up the area around the ramp. There’s more work to be done at the Western Overlook if we have enough help.
Meet at 9:00AM this Sat. 6/18 at Huguenot Flatwater in the James River Park System.

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