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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Southwest Virginia lawmakers and coal industry representatives see hope for economic development in Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision to sign a bill reinstating a pared-down tax credit for certain coal producers, but environmental groups call the move a wasteful corporate giveaway.

The measure Northam signed earlier this month revives a tax credit that expired in 2016, after previous legislative attempts to bring it back were vetoed by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

This year’s bill is different in that it whittles down the recipients and expected cost to the state – only producers of metallurgical coal, used in steel production, are eligible. Before the credit expired, producers of steam coal, used to produce electricity, also qualified.

Northam said in a statement provided by his spokesman that he signed the legislation because he believes it will help metallurgical coal stay competitive and boost southwest Virginia’s economy.

“At the same time, because of its targeted nature, this legislation acknowledges the reality that we must continue to diversify our Commonwealth’s energy economy and make Virginia a leader in renewables and energy conservation,” Northam said.

The General Assembly’s watchdog agency, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, reviewed the effectiveness of the state’s tax credits in 2012. Its report covered the tax credit reinstated this year, which is meant to incentivize coal mine operators, and another meant to incentivize power producers to buy Virginia coal. The audit found that the credits significantly reduced the tax liability for producers, but that declines in Virginia coal mining activity “appear unaffected.”

Environmental groups pointed to that report’s findings as they expressed dismay Northam didn’t veto the bill.

“The industry has decreased despite these credits. … They’ve failed to do their stated purpose,” said Corrina Beall, legislative and political director for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club.

Opponents also argued that even though the tax credit won’t apply to coal being used to produce electricity – a process that contributes to global warming – all types of coal mining have negative environmental impacts.

“The environmental groups, they’re going to say anything negative they can against coal,” said Harry Childress, president of the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance. “But I say people need to look back and see what this country was built on.”

The tax credit opens up the potential for existing mining operations to hire workers and replace aging equipment, or possibly for companies to open up new mines if market conditions are right, Childress said. Most metallurgical coal is exportable, and there’s a strong market for it overseas, he said.

The tax credit will also help Virginia, where it’s costly to produce coal because of thin seams and hard rock overlaying them, compete with other states, he added.

“Will we ever be back to where we were several years ago? No, we won’t, but we can come back some,” Childress said.

Northam initially declined to sign the bill, instead amending it so that the General Assembly would have had to pass it again next year before it could take effect. But a number of Democrats in both chambers joined with Republicans to reject the governor’s move.

“This is a big win for southwest Virginia and I am thankful for the cooperation with the governor’s administration,” Republican Del. Terry Kilgore, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement after Northam signed the legislation.

Northam said his office negotiated amendments to the measure that will save the state $1.8 million over six years compared with the original bill, while directing $2.7 million over six years to the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority for economic diversification efforts.

Overall, the state will be on the hook for less money than it has been in the past. A fiscal impact review of the bill estimates that 60 percent of credits claimed under the previously law were for metallurgical coal.

Lee Francis, a spokesman for the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, suggested that negotiations over Medicaid expansion – a priority of Northam’s that Kilgore has backed – likely played a role in the tax credit’s revival this year.

His organization thinks the governor made the wrong call and believes the money would be better spent subsidizing clean energy, perhaps in the form of a solar panel tax break, Francis said.

“At the end of the day, I think the big question is, do we give out tax subsidies to prop up industries of the past, or do we try to boost industries of the future?” he said.

A warning to boaters on Smith Mountain Lake just as the summer boating season is set to begin — our recent heavy rains have created some potentially dangerous hazards on the water. River and creek levels rose dramatically in the last ten days, sweeping down debris like logs and tree trunks into busy Smith Mountain Lake navigation channels. Crews are working to clear the debris, but the job will take weeks to complete. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

05-23 SML Debris Wrap2-WEB

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to Virginia’s decades-old ban on uranium mining. The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear the challenge to the ban, which has been in place in 1982. The ban’s challengers are the owners of a massive uranium deposit in the state’s Pittsylvania County. It is the largest known deposit of uranium in the United States. The deposit’s owners had attempted to get state lawmakers to overturn the ban between 2008 and 2013. When that failed, they challenged the ban in federal court. But lower courts sided with the state. The federal government had urged the Supreme Court to take the case. Virginia asked it not to.

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) _ Following heavy rains, construction at a Mountain Valley Pipeline site in Virginia has been suspended until erosion control measures are established. The Roanoke Times reports the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is investigating how dams and other measures failed to stop last week’s rains from sweeping away soil unearthed by heavy equipment in Franklin County. Both lanes of a nearby road were covered by up to 8 inches of mud. Department spokeswoman Ann Regn called the mudflow “clearly unacceptable.” She says the pipeline’s concrete barriers had “completely disappeared.” Pipeline spokeswoman Natalie Cox asserted the controls were installed properly but were affected by “unusual circumstances.” State regulators and the company say the mudflow didn’t reach streams. The 300-mile pipeline was cited for erosion control problems in  West Virginia last month.

From Roanoke County Fire & Rescue – UPDATE: Fire investigators have determined the house fire on Puckett Circle was accidental in nature; however the specific cause is considered undetermined. Damage estimates are $160,000.

PREVIOUS: Roanoke County Fire and Rescue responded at about 3:10 a.m., on Monday, May 21, 2018 to the 2600 block of Puckett Circle in the Fort Lewis area of Roanoke County for the report of a residential structure fire. First arriving crews did find flames showing from the back corner window of a split-level, vinyl sided house. Two adults and one juvenile were in the house at the time of the fire but all of them made it out safely. The fire was contained to the bedroom, however, there is smoke and water damage to the rest of the house. The family has been displaced by the fire and will be staying with family in the area. One dog was safe outside the home and one cat was rescued from inside the home. There were smoke alarms present in the house but the homeowners are unsure if they were working. There were no injuries. Crews from Fort Lewis, Masons Cove, Cave Spring, and Salem responded to the fire. The fire was marked under control in about 30 minutes. The fire marshal’s office is on scene to investigate a cause.

Roanoke County Fire and Rescue would like to remind everyone to please test your smoke alarms monthly. Also, have a fire escape plan and practice that plan.

Appalachian Power is urging shoreline residents along Smith Mountain Lake to remain aware of potentially high water – the result of our recent heavy rains. Lake levels may rise above full pond, and if that occurs, unsecured watercraft and other loose items could drift away and into navigation channels. Apco operates the Smith Mountain Lake hydro-electric project.

News release: ROANOKE, Va., May 18, 2018 – Appalachian Power, operator of the Smith Mountain Project hydroelectric facility in southwest Virginia, is cautioning shoreline property owners and boaters because  of recent and continuing rainfall in the project’s watershed.  Currently, Smith Mountain Lake has not reached its full pond level of 795 feet elevation. The project’s lower reservoir, Leesville Lake, is also below its full level. However, flow levels above and below the project are high and scattered heavy rain remains in the forecast through today.

Shoreline property owners are urged by the company to be attentive to local and National Weather Service reports and to make sure that property around the lakes is secure. While the lakes rarely are affected by water levels above full pond, an increase of only inches could make walking on docks unsafe,  cause unsecure water craft to float away into navigation channels, and wash loose items from the shore. Lake residents, local boaters and visitors can view current lake levels and in-flow/discharge information anytime at .  The project website is .

Smith Mountain Project is a 636-megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric facility on the Roanoke River that utilizes an upper reservoir (Smith Mountain Lake) and a lower reservoir (Leesville Lake).  Water stored in Smith Mountain Lake first passes through turbine-generators in the powerhouse to produce electricity and is discharged into Leesville Lake.  From there some water is released through the Leesville Dam or pumped back into Smith Mountain. The project is operated by Appalachian Power.

From News Release: Roanoke County Fire and Rescue responded at about 4:45 a.m., on Friday, May 18, 2018 to the 4300 block of Toddsbury Drive in the Vinton area for the report of a building collapse. First arriving crews found a home that had been completely moved off its foundation due to a landslide. Crews from Vinton Fire and EMS and Roanoke County Fire and Rescue responded to the incident. There were no injuries. A family of three was in the home at the time of the landslide and building collapse but were able to evacuate unharmed. There is one cat missing. The displaced family will be staying with nearby relatives. It appears that the landslide was caused by some excavation being done behind the house. Therefore, building officials do not believe that any other homes are in danger. A county engineer is coming to the scene to investigate.

It’s now official: the International Mountain Bicycling Association has named the Roanoke Valley as a preferred destination for mountain bikers. WFIR’s Lillian Boyd has more on the decision making process.

5-18 Mountain Bike WEB Wrap 1

From Press Release: Virginia’s Blue Ridge has been awarded a Silver-Level Ride Center™ designation by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) elevating this region to a whole new level as a mountain biking destination. David Wiens, Executive Director of IMBA, made a special trip from Colorado to officially announce the Ride Center™ designation. Wiens stated, “Virginia’s Blue Ridge IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center status solidifies the enthusiasm for mountain biking along the East Coast and puts Virginia on par with some of the greatest mountain bike destinations. We look forward to the many ways Virginia’s Blue Ridge will thrive with its new Ride Center designation.”

The designation did not happen overnight. “It took nearly two years of hard work by many people throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge to get to this point.  This announcement is a real game changer.” stated Lee Wilhelm, Chair of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. The Ride Center application criteria served as a blueprint for achieving and improving the trail systems. “We see it as a catalyst for increased investment in our current trail systems and it will help develop new trail projects similar to those at Explore Park as well as throughout Virginia’s Blue Ridge.” said Kristine McCormick, President of Roanoke IMBA.

With only fifteen Silver-Level Ride Centers in the world and the only Ride Center on the East Coast, we are ready to stake our claim as “America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital.”  The growth and expansion of mountain biking in Virginia’s Blue Ridge will attract biking enthusiasts of all levels to experience a Metro-Mountain Adventure through the variety of trails and destination amenities.

VBR Mountain Biking Website – and video –

Contact information
Catherine Fox, Vice-President of Public Affairs & Destination Development, Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge or (540) 342-6025 Ext. 114 (o) or (540) 494-0514 (c)


Announcing Virginia’s Blue Ridge IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center™

May 17, 2018

The IMBA Ride Center designation recognizes the pinnacle of mountain biking communities. These are communities with something for every rider, from a variety of mountain biking experiences for locals and visitors alike, to robust local accommodations for visiting mountain bikers. 

 IMBA Ride Centers will be extensive trail networks, masterfully designed for mountain bikers of every skill level and built by professional trail builders and local volunteers. From backcountry adventures to shuttle-served gravity trails, and from expert-only trails to family-friendly riding, mountain bikers can expect the best the sport has to offer at an IMBA Ride Center.

What it means to be a Ride Center: The Ride Center designation recognizes progressive trail communities that value mountain biking and have a trail-forward approach that serves their community members alongside recreational tourism. A Ride Center designation will bring major economic benefits to a community. Helena, a Silver-Level IMBA Ride Center, saw 63,000 visitors in the summer of 2017, who generated $4.3 million in economic activity and supported 60 jobs.

What it takes to be a Ride Center: This designation is just as much about the process as the award itself. The application criteria serves as the blueprint for achieving and improving a trail system and is comprised of multiple factors with both trail experience and surrounding community amenities being measured. This designation is designed to support local stakeholders and land managers in their effort to create the ultimate mountain biking destination trail system.

Quick stats on IMBA Ride Centers:
There are currently 39 IMBA Ride Centers—30 in the U.S. and 9 international. For a full list of individual Ride Centers, see the bottom of this document.

6 Gold-Level Ride Centers

  • 15 Silver-Level Ride Centers
  • 18 Bronze-Level Ride Centers
  • 9 of those are international Ride Centers (two gold, three silver, four bronze)
  • The Teton Ride Center spans Wyoming and Idaho. With this, Idaho has four Ride Centers.
  • Four U.S. states now have three Ride Centers: Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota and Virginia.
  • Arizona and Michigan have two Ride Centers.
  • Internationally, New Zealand has three Ride Centers. British Columbia (Canada), and Czech Republic have two Ride Centers. 

Current IMBA Ride Centers, by level and alphabetical order by state/country:

Gold-Level Ride Centers:

  • Boise-Eagle: Boise, Idaho, USA
  • Duluth: Duluth, Minnesota, USA
  • Oakridge: Oakridge, Oregon, USA
  • Park City: Park City, Utah, USA
  • Nelson: Nelson, New Zealand
  • Rotorua: Rotorua, New Zealand

Silver-Level IMBA Ride Centers:

  • Bentonville: Bentonville, Arkansas, USA
  • Tucson: Tucson, Arizona, USA
  • Steamboat Bike Town: Steamboat Springs, Colorado, USA
  • Vail Valley: Eagle County, Colorado, USA
  • McCall: McCall, Idaho, USA
  • Sun Valley: Sun Valley, Idaho, USA
  • Bike Taupo: Taupo, New Zealand
  • Livingo: Livingo, Italy
  • Silver Star Resort: Silver Star, British Columbia, Canada
  • Copper Harbor: Copper Harbor, Michigan, USA
  • Cuyuna Lakes: Crosby, Minnesota, USA
  • Helena: Helena, Montana, USA
  • Santa Fe: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
  • Virginia’s Blue Ridge: Roanoke, Virginia, USA
  • Teton Region: Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Driggs, Idaho, USA

 Bronze-Level IMBA Ride Centers:

  • Coldwater Mountain: Anniston, Alabama, USA
  • Fayetteville: Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
  • Hot Springs: Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA
  • Valley of the Sun: Phoenix, Arizona, USA
  • Roaring Fork/Aspen Snowmass: Aspen, Colorado, USA
  • Santos: Ocala, Florida, USA
  • Central Savannah River Area: Central Savannah River Area, Georgia/South Carolina, USA
  • Brown County: Nashville, Indiana, USA
  • Burns Lake: Burns Lake, British Columbia, Canada
  • Rychlebské Stezky, Černá Voda: Černá Voda, Czech Republic
  • Singltrek pod Smrkem: Singltrek pod Smrkem, Czech Republic/Poland
  • Mt. Buller: Mt. Buller, Victoria, Australia
  • Marquette: Marquette, Michigan, USA
  • Twin Cities: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  • Reading: Reading, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Harrisonburg: Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA
  • Richmond: Richmond, Virginia, USA
  • Chequamegon Area: Cable, Wisconsin, USA

How to reference the Ride Center designation in materials:

Always include “IMBA” and “Ride Center.” Hyphenate the designation level. Ride Centers can be attributed to locations such as the city, local region, or state if referencing multiple Ride Centers. Here are examples of how the designation can be written, using Roanoke as an example:

IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center™ or Silver-Level IMBA Ride Center™

Virginia’s Blue Ridge IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center™

Virginia’s Blue Ridge IMBA Ride Center™


IMBA and Ride Center should always be capitalized. On the first instance of the designation in any written material (press release, web page, etc.), Ride Center should appear with the trademark symbol (Ride Center™.) After the first reference, the symbol is not needed.

About IMBA – The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational association established in 1988. Its mission is to create, enhance and protect great places to ride mountain bikes. IMBA believes mountain biking changes lives and improves communities, and works to influence more places to ride mountain bikes close to home. 

The International Mountain Bicycling Association is the leader in mountain bike advocacy, education, promotion and trail creation. Since 1988, IMBA has taught and encouraged low-impact riding, grassroots advocacy, sustainable trail design, innovative land management practices and cooperation among trail user groups.

IMBA is led by Executive Director Dave Wiens, six-time Leadville 100 champion, a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, Founder of the Mountain Sports program at Western State Colorado University and legendary mountain bike advocate and race promoter in Gunnison, Colorado.

 About Roanoke IMBA – The local chapter was chartered in 2012 by a group of dedicated and passionate volunteers with the mission to create, enhance and preserve trail opportunities for mountain bikers in the valley and the surrounding areas.  Current President – Kristine McCormick – or

Contact information

For more information about the destination contact Catherine Fox, VP of Public Affairs & Destination Development at Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge –

For further IMBA questions on media and announcements, please contact Eleanor Blick, IMBA Communications Manager,

For further questions on IMBA Ride Center designations, please contact Shane Wilson, IMBA Trail Solutions Project Manager,

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) – The Mountain Valley Pipeline project has been cited for failing to control erosion at two work sites just two months after construction started on the more than 300-mile (483-kilometer) pipeline through Virginia and West Virginia.
The Roanoke Times reported Wednesday that an inspection found flaws in erosion and sediment control measures last month at two sites in Wetzel County. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation April 25, saying work crews failed to prevent sediment-laden water from leaving a site where a compressor station is under construction before first passing through a control device.
At another site, erosion wasn’t properly channeled down a hillside, causing a portion of the slope to give way.
Sediment released from the areas didn’t impact nearby streams.