15 Mar 2016

Can governments and businesses collaborate on a more Resilient Virginia?

Written by Jim Pierobon

With its collective brainpower and at least some lawmakers and regulators willing to proactively mitigate rising sea levels and other disruptive impacts of climate change, one would think the Commonwealth of Virginia would be well on its way to crafting a prudent strategy that engages the public and private sectors.

One would think.

That could change starting next Tuesday and Wednesday, March 22 and 23, 2016 when leading building design, emergency preparedness and energy policy and business leaders are among the professionals gathering for the first-ever Resilient Virginia conference at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

This is how vulnerable the Hampton Roads - Virginia Beach region and the Norfolk Naval Air Base is to rising sea levels. Red areas are most at risk followed by the yellow and green regions. CREDIT: CoreLogic Inc. via The Virginian-Pilot.

This is how vulnerable the Hampton Roads – Virginia Beach region and the Norfolk Naval Air Base are to rising sea levels. Red areas are most at risk followed by the yellow and green regions. CREDIT: CoreLogic Inc. via The Virginian-Pilot.

With the Virginia Beach – Hampton Roads region and the Norfolk Naval Base at ground-zero for rising sea levels, the other challenges and myriad  opportunities facing Virginia businesses, the state and communities are too many to count on two hands.  One has to wonder what is taking the state especially so long to grapple with them?

“The water crises in Flint, Michigan and Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio are just a few examples of the types of challenges Virginia governments and business leaders face in protecting local economies and public health,” said Annette Osso, Managing Director of Resilient Virginia.

Osso and colleagues launched Resilient Virginia as a non-profit in 2014 to encourage the state, local governments and the private sector to collaborate on solutions that are sustainable economically, create more enduring communities, and support the state;s environmental resources. Her vision is to develop resiliency initiatives throughout the Commonwealth that will enable communities to adapt and thrive in the face of ever-changing environmental, social, and economic conditions.

Speakers scheduled for Tuesday, March 22 include:

  • Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran (invited) ;
  • The U.S. EPA’s Director of Sustainability in its Office of Research and Development Alan Hecht, Ph.D.;
  • The Director of the National Integration Center at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Donald Lumpkins;
  • The U.S. HUD Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Harriet Tregoning.

Scheduled throughout the rest of the Conference and its 14 breakout sessions, experts are to address:

  • how the Hampton Roads – Norfolk region should deploy its $120 million share of a federal grant to fund innovative options to mitigate rising sea levels (see accompanying map);
  • the business case for resiliency planning;
  • how resiliency planning strengthens national security;
  • solutions to the growing risks of communities’ water, energy and other infrastructure breakdowns;
  • developments in emergency preparedness;
  • specific tools for resiliency planning;
  • outstanding examples of community resiliency; and
  • strategies for adapting the built environment.

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“The state and local governments need to be thinking how best to reduce risks posed by hurricanes and other extreme weather events along with opportunities for creating a healthier, safer and more vibrant state economy,” said Jerry Walker, CEM, LEED AP, Resilient Virginia Chairman who is also the lead Energy Manager for Henrico County, which includes Richmond.

The Conference will provide a forum for highlighting progress in implementing the Virginia Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission’s recommendations, the outlook for complying with the now-stalled Clean Power Plan, as well as, a review of this year’s related General Assembly actions.

A panel during Tuesday’s lunch break will feature fresh perspectives about emerging state and federal energy policies, including Virginia’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan, from:

  • Virginia Assistant Secretary of Natural Resources Angela Navarro;
  • Dominion Virginia Power’s Director of Public Policy Katherine Bond;
  • SolUnesco President Francis Hodsoll; and
  • Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Attorney Walton Shepherd.

Persons interested in attending should move fast to register here to secure a discount which expires at midnight Thursday, March 17.

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