Articles by Cody Dennis

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Articles by Cody Dennis

House votes yes on infrastructure bill

RICHMOND, VA- On July 1st, the of this year the U.S. House of Representative voted to pass,  an infrastructure bill that totals over $500 billion dollars. The infrastructure portion of this bill would cover public transport, walking travel, bike travel, and be used to help promote renewable or green solutions to these projects.

The president of Environment America, Wendy Wendlandt said the following in a release regarding these funs being allocated. “It’s 2021, but much of our infrastructure is stuck in the 1950s. The INVEST in America Act is the approach we need to tackle today’s problems, including the greatest challenge of our time: climate change. This bill’s investments in clean, electric and zero-carbon transportation options such as walking and biking are good news for people and the planet.”

In addition to this statement, Environment America put out a press release detailing exactly what they believed would be needed in this bill last year. The plan they put out highlights specific areas that they believe need the most attention such as repairing America’s bridges and roads or repairing our water infrastructure. Many of the things Environment America seeks as solutions are proposed in some form in this recent bill.

In addition to working on these projects, the bill would also allocate money to support America’s “natural infrastructure.” This would be defined as our wetlands, forests, rivers or any naturally found in America’s environment.

This sentiment is echoed by the Campaigns director of PIRG, Matt Casale. who said the following in a press release on the subject, “The transportation status quo in the U.S. is inefficient and unsustainable. The INVEST in America Act breaks the mold and takes a new fix-it-first and more carbon-conscious approach to support a safer, cleaner and greener transportation network. If signed into law, this bill will drastically improve our options for getting around while making Americans healthier and tackling the climate crisis.”

Environment America has polled the general public on their opinions regarding green climate plans and they found that 70% of voters support addressing climate change through shifting the use of carbon and making their homes more efficient. Specifically, the bills seeks to protect the country’s waterways, watersheds, restore coastlines and increase climate resilience.

Wendlandt went on to clarify just how vital she feels this issue is in a later quote stating, “Climate change is making extreme weather more frequent and severe. We’re already witnessing tropical storms devastate communities in the Southeast and scorching heatwaves causing severe droughts across the Western part of the country. Now is not the time to water down President Biden’s bold and transformational American Jobs Plan, This infrastructure plan is our opportunity to put the U.S. on the path toward a more sustainable, healthier future – and we cannot miss it.”

Aside from a climate focus on many of the infrastructure projects listed in the bill, other projects in the bill are taking aim at lead water pipes allocating $45 billion dollars to replace any existing lead piping in the country.

The bill will now move to the Senate to be debated and ultimately voted on again. The bill is expected to be voted on some time this week or early next week.

Richmond says yes to casino resort

RICHMOND, Va. – Richmond has not been known historically as a gambling city, but that could begin to change after Richmond’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel has decided to allow a casino resort to be voted on in a referendum this year.

This has been a lengthy process that begun with six proposals for the resort but ultimately the plan put forth by Urban One was the plan Richmond decided to move forward with.

The resort itself is not yet fully approved, however. Richmond ultimately decided to have their voters decide on the project via referendum and that is scheduled for the upcoming election day on November 2.

This resort would cost around $560 million dollars according to the Department of Economic Development for Richmond and is projected bring in roughly $500 million dollars in revenue over the course of the next five years.

In addition to the revenue generated by this resort, Urban One is projecting that this project will employ up to 5,400 people in construction or permanent positions.

In terms of what taxpayer money will be used to build the resort, there is no money being directed to the project by the government and rather the owner of the resort would be solely responsible for funding the project as well as a clause in the agreement with the city that states “In  addition  to  and  separate  from  any  Public  and  Private Infrastructure  improvements,  the  Owner  and  the  City  shall mutually  agree  on  physical  improvements to  enhance  the appearance in the public right of way of Walmsley Boulevard adjacent  to  the  Project  and  within a  quarter  mile of  the intersection of Walmsley Boulevard and Commerce Road and equally share the cost of such improvements…”

The Department of Economic Development estimates that this facility will receive up to 2.6 million “gaming visits” to this location a year and that it will generate roughly $48 million dollars outside the resort but within Richmond.

The plan also includes room allocated for parking, “green space” or a nature area and sustainable development that Urban One defines as “pervious pavement, where appropriate.  Owner shall attempt to reduce the heat island effect by planting shade trees along sidewalks and in other  outdoor  landscaping  and use  other  appropriate methods to reduce urban heat.”

In terms of public opinion on the issue it is hard to tell what voters are thinking but before Urban One was selected as the proposal to move forward with Devin O’Connor with casino.org reported that there were flyers being posted around Richmond urging individuals to vote no on the project. Only time will tell if some of the same people who opposed the other plans will remain as vocally opposed to this one considering it is in a different location.

If this plan was voted yes by constituents then it would start financing the project in March of 2022 and development would be required to start within 30 days of that financing.

Plastic foam container Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Virginia Bans Use of Styrofoam in Restaurants, Non-profits, and Schools

The use of polystyrene, or plastic foam, has had a long history in Virginia of being used to package food in restaurants and even churches. This trend will be coming to an end due to a bill that has passed the General Assembly. Originally, this bill passed in 2020 but was required by Senate reenactment clause to be voted on again to go into effect. The law goes into effect in 2025 and effectively bans the use of plastic foam in restaurants and those that continue to use it in their business will face a fine of up to $50 a day.

Chick-fil-A, a national chain known for their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries is an example of just one business that would be directly impacted by this bill. Chains of over 20 stores would be forced to adhere to this regulation by 2023 whereas smaller businesses would have two more years to make that change.

“This bill does make a difference for us because we do use [polystyrene] for our drinks,” said the general manager of the Chick-fil-A on Midlothian Turnpike. “What’s up in the air is if the special blend of foam that we use will still be considered part of the ban. If it is then we will likely switch to a paper-based cup.”

Chick-fil-A uses a special blend of foams that can be recycled as well as recycling the foam that is used in stores according to their manager. Businesses that take steps to mitigate the use of their foams will not be exempt from the fine at this time as the ban applies to any use of polystyrene.

Restaurants such as Qdoba do not use any polystyrene in their daily use to begin with; When asked about how this bill would affect their business, the manager of one Qdoba location said that this ban is not a concern for them.

This bill was originally set to only affect private businesses but recent negotiations in the Senate have expanded include nonprofits and schools as well. The original author of this bill, Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, explained the negotiations by stating, “We’re just leveling the playing field so not only restaurants, but nonprofits and schools will be subject to this ban in 2025,” to David Tran with Capitol News Service. Carr that this bill is a step in the right direction for Virginia to be more environmentally conscious and that there is still a lot more that can be done to impact our carbon footprint.

The fine will cost businesses as much as $50 a day if restaurants, nonprofits, or schools fail to comply with the restriction and the money gathered from these fines will be used in part to fund campaigns that warn against the dangers of using polystyrene. The only obstacle to this becoming law now is the governor signing the bill itself which he is expected to do in the next coming weeks.

With this law, Virginia would become one of the few southern states in America to ban the use of polystyrene altogether.

Plastic foam container

Plastic foam container Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

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