RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – On Thursday, Virginia Senator Todd Pillion and Deputy Majority Leader Delegate Israel O’Quinn laid out their plan to continue addressing the Bristol, Virginia Landfill issue.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: The Bristol, Va. Landfill
According to the release, officials have introduced a budget amendment that will give the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality the proper tools to implement a long-term plan and immediate access to engage in emergency assistance to the landfill.
Pillion and O’Quinn also released a joint statement, saying that the Bristol, Va. Landfill needs further attention if the problem is going to be solved.
“We are committed to working with the City of Bristol to implement effective and efficient solutions at the city-owned landfill. Everyone can agree that, despite ongoing efforts to address the problems, more assistance is needed.”
News Channel 11 asked the Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin about the budget amendments.
A spokesperson for Youngkin responded saying, “Governor Youngkin is aware of the issue and has asked the Department of Environmental Quality leadership and staff to review the proposed language. In the meantime, the Governor has asked DEQ Director Mike Rolband to remain personally actively engaged as federal, state, and local officials collaborate on possible solutions.”
O’Quinn told News Channel 11 Thursday that his budget amendment eventually means the closure of the landfill.
“Closure is ultimately where it’s headed,” O’Quinn said. “All landfills have a finite life. In this particular case, I think everyone involved agrees that moving toward closure sooner rather than later is the right path.”
Several Bristol residents have called for the landfill’s closure since smells started intensifying last Summer.
HOPE for Bristol co-founder Joel Kellogg said the actions taken by O’Quinn and Pillion are a welcome sight.
“These people have been suffering for a long time,” Kellogg said. “It’s refreshing. It’s a nice change. We are ready for this to happen tonight.”
Kellogg led several rallies that demanded Environmental Protection Agency or DEQ assistance with the landfill. Bristol, Va. City Manager Randall Eads called for DEQ assistance in a letter earlier in January.
Eads responded to the budget amendments in a statement to News Channel 11 saying the lawmakers have the city’s full support.
“The City of Bristol, Virginia commends them for recognizing the significant impact on the quality of life for all Bristolians due to this unfortunate, yet critical circumstance,” Eads said. “The city will continue to evaluate and implement any and all environmentally sound avenues to resolve the odor issue in our community.”
O’Quinn said fixing the landfill, even with state assistance, could be a complicated process. He said it might even need federal intervention.
“This is not a traditional landfill closure by any stretch,” O’Quinn said. “We’re going to need DEQ to be thinking outside the box and ultimately reaching out to the EPA.”
The budget amendments are still in their early stages and do not have hard numbers yet.
O’Quinn said he expects the amendments to pass at the end of the legislative session in March, if they remain on the amended current budget. If that happens, work could begin quickly.
“We think it’s important that it be in the current budget so that they can essentially begin immediately,” O’Quinn said.
O’Quinn also introduced the Virginia Energy Innovation Act, which would allow the capture of methane to be logged and tracked inside of a natural gas company’s portfolio. O’Quinn believes this addition will incentivize the capture of biogas emitted from the landfill.
The two officially met with the Director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Michael Rolband, briefing the newly hired director on just his third day on the job.
“We wanted to immediately brief him on the matter and express our desire for the Commonwealth to provide as much assistance as possible, in coordination and cooperation with the City of Bristol and any federal, state or local agency,” the two stated.