Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 72.78
Liaison Dennis Cochrane
Submission Date Feb. 18, 2021

STARS v2.2

Virginia Tech
EN-14: Participation in Public Policy

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Dennis Cochrane
Director, Office of Sustainability
Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure and Facilities
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the municipal/local level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the municipal/local level:

The following information was provided by Jon Clark Teglas, Chief Of Staff to the Vice President for Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities, jcteglas@vt.edu, 540-231-6291

EN-14: Participation in Public Policy: University Partnerships in Local Municipal Services

The Board of Visitors also approves university appointments to the Blacksburg-Virginia Polytechnic Institute Sanitation Authority, the Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority, and the New River Valley Water Authority. These authorities position the institution to engage in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the municipal/local level, including the issues, legislation, and ordinances for or against which the institution has advocated.

Blacksburg-Virginia Polytechnic Institute Sanitation Authority

The Blacksburg-Virginia Polytechnic Institute Sanitation Authority was created January 30, 1962, pursuant to the Virginia Water and Sewer Authorities Act, Code of Virginia (1950, as amended) for the purpose of constructing and maintaining a sewer disposal system for the participating entities, which include the Town of Blacksburg and Virginia Tech. The Authority’s Board consists of five members. The Town of Blacksburg and the Board of Visitors of Virginia Tech each appoint one member to the Board; the remaining three members are jointly appointed by the two entities.

Key Developments
- Decommissioning of a late 1970 Fluid Bed Incinerator used for the sewage solid disposal and the construction of the first Autothermal Thermophilic Aerobic Digestion (ATAD) Biosolids Treatment Process in the state of Virginia.
- The development of a Hydraulic Sanitary Sewer model for the Sanitation Authority’s owned sewers which consists of approximately 13 miles of line and 225 manholes. Monitoring data from this program will address future volume capacity.
- Development of a twenty (20) year Capital Plan and Financial Forecast. This Financial Forecast will provide management and the Board of Directors with tools to regularly evaluate the fiscal impact of operational and capital decisions, as well as the necessary rates for sewage treatment.

Current Initiatives
- Replace the facility’s aging main power electrical distribution controls and equipment.
- Replacement of the aging biological aeration control system.
- Replacement of two Arkemedia influent pumps (15 million gallon capacity each).
- Interceptor rehabilitation for the reduction of inflow & infiltration.
- Improvements to the administration building, which includes replacement of the aging heating and cooling system.

Current Virginia Tech Representative
Christopher H. Kiwus, Vice President for Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities

Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority

The Montgomery Regional Solid Waste Authority (MRSWA) was formed in July 1995 to handle integrated solid waste management for Montgomery County, the Towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg, and Virginia Tech. MRSWA’s mission is to progressively manage solid waste and recyclable materials in an environmentally safe, reliable, and efficient manner. Current services provided to the member entities include: closed landfill management, operation of a transfer station, and recycling. MRSWA works closely with the New River Resource Authority (NRRA), which serves as the regional, state permitted landfill facility. Other NRRA member entities include the counties of Giles and Pulaski and the City of Radford.

Key Recent Developments
- Landfill-gas-to-energy facility contract extension
- Household hazardous waste permit/facility
- Construction of pH/chloride building at pretreatment facility
- Single stream recycling roll-out
o Single stream tonnage increase of 33% / Recycling tonnage increase of 15%

Current Initiatives
- Add green energy project at closed landfill (solar panels)
- Ensure compliance with facility permits
- Market existing dual stream recycling equipment
- Move single stream trans-loading from transfer station to recycling facility
- Renovate transfer station
- Renovate education / training room

Current Virginia Tech Representative
Christopher H. Kiwus, Vice President for Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities

New River Valley Regional Water Authority

In the late 1920’s, the water supply for Blacksburg and Virginia Tech became a matter of grave concern, as the water demands of both entities continued to rise. In 1950, the Virginia legislature passed the Water and Waste Authorities Act (§15.2-5100), enabling Blacksburg, Virginia Tech, and Christiansburg to cooperate in securing the needed water supply for all constituents. After several engineering investigations into nearby springs and wells, it was determined that the New River was the most practical water source for the area. The Blacksburg-Christiansburg-V.P.I. Water Authority was chartered by the State Corporation Commission on September 15, 1954. Since that time, many improvements have been made to the Authority’s water treatment and distribution system, including expansion of the filtration plant, addition of transmission lines, and plant modernization and efficiency efforts. Montgomery County joined the Authority on July 1, 2013, following an extensive joinder study and review process by the County and current participants. During these membership revisions, the entity was renamed to the NRV Regional Water Authority. The current Board of Directors is composed of one representative from each participating entity and one at-large member, jointly appointed by all participating entities.

Key Recent Developments
- The development and ratification of the Authority’s procurement policy manual.
- The development and ratification of the Regional Mutual Aid Agreement, which details how Authority members assist the Authority in times of emergency and compensation for those services.
- Cooperative effort to educate the Authority member political bodies of the long-range needs of the Authority, which have resulted in approximately $40 million dollars of capital improvement projects, enabling the Authority sustain adequate water supply to the region.

Current Initiatives
- Upgrade the Authority’s water treatment plant (approx. $45 million project).
- Design and construct the Prices Fork and Plum Creek Transmission Mains, projects recommended by the Joinder study to provide redundant service to Blacksburg, Virginia Tech, and Christiansburg and connect county water systems to those of the Authority.
- Long-range planning for repair and replacement of the Authority’s existing transmission lines.
- Continue development of the system’s water model to evaluate distribution, assess water quality, and identify actions to continue supply of high quality water in the region.

Current Virginia Tech Representative

Christopher H. Kiwus, Vice President for Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities

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The following information was provided by Carol Davis, Sustainability Manager for the Town of Blacksburg, CDavis@blacksburg.gov, 540-443-1617

- Town of Blacksburg Climate Vulnerability Assessment: The Town of Blacksburg’s Sustainability Manager convened an advisory team made up of topic-area experts in an array of disciplines at the university. This all-volunteer team of experts, fourteen of whom were Virginia Tech faculty, lent their expertise and time to the development of Blacksburg’s recently completed Climate Vulnerability Assessment. The advisory team specifically helped the Town evaluate how anticipated changes to the local climate are likely to impact the following critical community systems: food security, human health & wellbeing, population displacement, public safety, agriculture & farming, ecosystem services, forestlands, hydrology & watersheds, species shift and invasive species, emergency services, energy access and delivery, Stormwater infrastructure, transportation systems, water supply, and water/wastewater infrastructure. Key findings from the Climate Vulnerability Assessment are now being integrated into Blacksburg’s Comprehensive Plan, which guides all future land use development, infrastructure investments, as well as community programs and municipal services. When forming the Climate Vulnerability Assessment advisory team, the Town of Blacksburg Sustainability Manager, Carol Davis, set up a meeting with the leadership of the VT Global Change Center to explore if there were faculty affiliated with the Center who would be available and willing to lend their expertise to the effort. Ultimately, well over half of the VT faculty that subsequently joined the CVA advisory team came through the VT Global Change Center with the Center's support. The partnership between Carol Davis and the VT Global Change Center began in June of 2019 and extended throughout the following year, with advisory meetings being held consistently during that time. The Director of the VT Global Change Center expressed his support for the effort that members of the Center were putting towards this collaborative Climate Vulnerability Assessment.

The Blacksburg Climate Vulnerability is currently being referenced by the Regional Hazard Mitigation Planner who is updating their current comprehensive plan to include climate vulnerability as a regional hazard for the first time.

The Town of Blacksburg is redeveloping the Draper Road Corridor and is adjusting stormwater design to accommodate changes in precipitation due to climate change, outlined in the Blacksburg Climate Vulnerability Assessment.

The Climate Vulnerability Assessment is also used for educational purposes. Carol Davis, the Sustainability Manager for the Town of Blacksburg, presents the Climate Vulnerability Assessment to student groups, VT classes, and local community groups. Most recently, Carol presented the Assessment to the Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP's Environmental and Climate Justice Committee.

Blacksburg’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment Report can be viewed here:
https://www.blacksburg.gov/home/showpublisheddocument?id=9911 On the acknowledgements page (page 41) you will find the members of the Advisory Team. Their respective areas of expertise are listed next to their name. Many of these members can be cross listed with affiliated faculty from the VT Global Change Center: https://www.globalchange.vt.edu/affiliated-faculty/

More information on the VT Global Change Center is available here: https://www.globalchange.vt.edu/

The Town of Blacksburg Climate Vulnerability Assessment served and continues to serve as guiding documents for policy decisions and is frequently referenced by the Town for planning and development purposes. The effort put forth by both members of the Town and members of the Virginia Tech community will benefit the local community and help the Town of Blacksburg grow in an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable way.

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Additional Efforts and Other Notes:

- Brush Mountain Forestland Concept Plan: Virginia Tech faculty assisted the Town of Blacksburg in development of a Concept Plan for two large properties, totaling more than 500 acres, which were donated to the Town in 2018. These two steeply sloped and forested properties provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Blacksburg to more than double its parkland, however, the Town had no prior experience managing large swaths of forests. Two VT faculty members generously lent their expertise in forest ecosystems and public engagement on natural resource management, specifically to help develop content for the chapter on Environmental Stewardship, Management, and Nature-Based Education & Research in the Brush Mountain Forestland Concept Plan. These policy recommendations provide a roadmap for the Town to responsibly develop a network of natural-surface trails for public recreational use while preserving and restoring the ecological value of these forest landscapes.

The Concept Plan for Brush Mountain can be viewed here: https://letstalkblacksburg.org/7979/widgets/25383/documents/15638/download

Virginia Tech is in the process of planning for the development of a significant campus in Alexandria, Virginia, that will redevelop part of this important community. The university’s presence will serve as the foundation of the redevelopment, and we are leading by example in ensuring that the design and components of the building are leading in the area of sustainability. As part of this project, we purposefully chose a location close to a future stop of the Metro (mass transit rail) to reduce the need for people to travel in cars. We are working with the City and others to have the university’s name be included in the name of the Metro station.

The Virginia Tech Office of Sustainability participated in the design review process for this new campus. Additionally, substantial efforts are being made to meet not only Virginia Tech's strict requirements for sustainability in regards to new buildings, but the City of Alexandria's codes and standards are being met as well. The Innovation Campus is a LEED project and it has required extensive cooperation with the City of Alexandria to meet all sustainability and efficiency requirements.

More information on the Innovation Campus can be found here: https://vt.edu/innovationcampus/about.html

This article highlights the central focus of sustainability in building design on the Innovation Campus: https://vt.edu/innovationcampus/News/2020/04/campus-design-rendering.html

Chris Yianilos, chrisyianilos@vt.edu, Executive Director, Government Relations, Office of the President, 571-858-3005

Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and student have assisted the Town of Blacksburg with an array of community sustainability programs and public policy initiatives over the years. Since the last STARS submission in 2017, Virginia Tech has continued and deepened its sustainability partnership in the following arenas:

- Water Quality Public Arts (Storm Drain Murals and 16 Frogs Project): Starting in 2018, the Town of Blacksburg was interested in using public art to engage the community on the health and history of the Town's local waterways, specifically to adorn storm drains around the community with murals that touch upon critical themes of watershed ecology, healthy riparian and aquatic ecosystems, and public education to identify and select four design concepts and local artists to paint these murals and since its inception, Virginia Tech students and faculty have stepped up to submit their design concepts. Now in its third year, the storm drain mural project has highlighted the work of several Virginia Tech undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty who were selected to execute their designs. In addition to the Storm Drain Mural project, Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students have been heavily involved in the development of historical and ecological content for the project website and engagement materials. More recently, Virginia Tech School of Visual Arts students and faculty assisted the 16 Frogs project by designing a FrogFinder Guide. This guide enables residents and visitors to embark on a self-guided tour to find all of the 16 bronze frog statuettes, each of which has been strategically placed to call attention to the fresh water flowing under and around the streets and buildings of Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech campus.

Details and videos related to the Storm Drain Mural Project can be viewed here: https://www.blacksburg.gov/departments/departments-l-z/sustainability/water-quality-public-arts-projects
Additional detail on the 16 Frogs Project can be viewed here: https://16frogs.org/

The 16 Frogs FrogFinder Guide can be viewed here: https://16frogs.org/assets/16Frogs-FrogFinder.pdf

- Brush Mountain Forestland Concept Plan: Virginia Tech faculty assisted the Town of Blacksburg in development of a Concept Plan for two large properties, totaling more than 500 acres, which were donated to the Town in 2018. These two steeply sloped and forested properties provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Blacksburg to more than double its parkland, however, the Town had no prior experience managing large swaths of forests. Two VT faculty members generously lent their expertise in forest ecosystems and public engagement on natural resource management, specifically to help develop content for the chapter on Environmental Stewardship, Management, and Nature-Based Education & Research in the Brush Mountain Forestland Concept Plan. These policy recommendations provide a roadmap for the Town to responsibly develop a network of natural-surface trails for public recreational use while preserving and restoring the ecological value of these forest landscapes.

The slate of 2020 Sustainability Week events can be viewed here: https://sustainableblacksburgva.org/sustainability-week-2020/
The slate of current Sustainability through the Seasons events can be viewed here:
https://sustainableblacksburgva.org/sustainability-through-the-seasons/

Carol Davis, Town of Blacksburg, CDavis@blacksburg.gov


Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level:

Regional Advocacy Efforts:

Under legislation that passed (and was supported by Virginia Tech) during the 2019 General Assembly Session, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University are responsible for co-leading the operation of the Potomac Aquifer Recharge Monitoring Laboratory. The Laboratory is responsible for the following:
1. Monitor the impact of the SWIFT Project on the Potomac Aquifer by reviewing and synthesizing relevant water quality data;
2. Identify needs and recommend options for filling gaps in the monitoring of the Potomac Aquifer, such as by recommending changes to monitoring locations and protocols;
3. Conduct sampling and analysis of SWIFT Project water and groundwater on a local scale near SWIFT Project injections to verify monitoring data reported by HRSD, and transmit the results of such analyses to the Director of the Department, the State Health Commissioner, and HRSD;
4. Generate, assimilate, interpret, manage, and consolidate data to help inform decision making related to the impact of the SWIFT Project on the Potomac Aquifer. These actions may include the creation of a clearinghouse for aquifer and SWIFT Project data and the synthesis and dissemination of information to various audiences, including the public and the scientific community; and
5. Advance understanding of the Potomac Aquifer, aquifer science, managed aquifer recharge, water reuse treatment technology, and advanced water treatment, through research, analysis, or modeling.

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Additional Efforts and Other Notes:

SWIFT is the Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow - SWIFT is an innovative water treatment project in eastern Virginia designed to further protect the region's environment, enhance the sustainability of the region's long-term groundwater supply and help address environmental pressures such as Chesapeake Bay restoration, sea level rise, and saltwater intrusion. More information can be found here: https://www.hrsd.com/swift
HRSD is the Hampton Roads Sanitation District

Virginia Tech advocated for capital funding to support and replace the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center (AREC) in Hampton, VA. This AREC supports research in the following areas: food and seafood safety, microbiology, process validation, engineering, green energy, aquaculture, economics, business and marketing.

Elizabeth G. Hooper, Director of State Government Relations, Office of the President, Virginia Tech-VPI & SU, 11 South 12th Street, Suite 302, Richmond, Virginia 23219, telephone (804)-786-1604 office, ehooper@vt.edu.


Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the national level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the national level:

National Advocacy Efforts:

The National Energy Technology Lab – the University advocates for funding for research on rare earth elements from coal. Rare earth elements are critical to clean energy technology development.

The University supports energy efficiency research programs at the Department of Energy.

The University supports transportation research dollars, and advocate for research on autonomous vehicles research which can reduce traffic, congestion, pollution. This Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) annual report gives some background. Fewer crashes, fewer cars sitting in traffic. 
https://issuu.com/vtti/docs/annual_report_2016_final

The University supports drone delivery research funding, which may be able to reduce the number of commercial vehicles on the roadway, thus reducing traffic, congestion and
pollution. 
http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2016/09/ictas-maapprojectwing.html

The University is supportive of research funding for renewable energy research, research that helps reduce the energy used in power-electronic devices, and the university performs research that is funded federally for carbon capture, storage, and utilization.

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Additional Efforts and Other Notes:

The University advocates for increased federal research funding on a variety of programs. Many of these programs have a sustainability component. For example:

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which the University advocates for, includes money for renewable energy and environmental stewardship: 
https://nifa.usda.gov/program/agriculture-and-food-research-initiative-afri

Smith Lever – we advocate for, is our cooperative extension program. The program has many
components some of which include raising awareness of composting and pasture management and environmental food science 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith%E2%80%93Lever_Act_of_1914

Grazing program: 
http://ext.vt.edu/agriculture/graze-300.html

Composting: 
http://ext.vt.edu/natural-resources/composting.html

Chris Yianilos, chrisyianilos@vt.edu, Executive Director, Government Relations, Office of the President, 571-858-3005


Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the international level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the international level:

International Advocacy Efforts:

- A delegation of Virginia Tech faculty and students attended the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid in December 2019. The annual meeting of UN's Conference of the Parties is a global effort to bring together governments, scientists, activists, and nongovernmental organizations to assess progress in dealing with climate change. A central aim of this year's conference was to clarify articles of the Paris Climate Agreement. This was the third year Virginia Tech has participated as an observer organization, a designation that allows delegation members to attend open sessions and present at side events. "The goal of being an observer organization is that it allows our professors to showcase the work we are doing in terms of climate change and make submissions based on science." explained Carol Franco, senior research associate in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. "But the most important goal is having the chance to allow our students to go and experience firsthand high level policy development around the subject of climate change." Franco had multiple roles at the recent conference. In addition to leading the Virginia Tech delegation, she participated as a member of the Dominican Republic delegation and as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the science related to climate change. Franco and VT Assistant Professor Stella Schons coordinated and presented a side session on collaborative research across academic institutions throughout the Americas. "Our aim was to discuss how governments and academic sectors across countries in Latin America can cooperate to come up with solutions to address climate change in the region," noted Schons, who is helping to spearhead a partnership between Virginia Tech and two universities in Brazil. Franco and the other faculty members noted that their participation at the conference was significantly supported by both department heads - Jay Sullivan of the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation and Tom Crawford of the Department of Geography - and by Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

More information on VT's participation in the United Nations Climate Change Conference can be found here: https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2020/06/cnre-cop25-conference.html and here: https://frec.vt.edu/content/dam/frec_vt_edu/documents/2017FRECAnnualReport.pdf (p. 10-11).

- For many years, Virginia Tech was the recipient of funds from USAID that support teaching farmers in developing countries about sustainable agriculture practices. The program is called the Feed the Future Innovation Lab Program. While Virginia Tech no longer is the recipient of this innovation lab, the University continues to support the Feed the Future Innovation Lab program and we advocate for increased funding. 
https://www.feedthefuture.gov/
Virginia Tech does continue to hold one of the Feed the Future labs, and its focus is on international pest management.

Chris Yianilos, chrisyianilos@vt.edu, Executive Director, Government Relations, Office of the President, 571-858-3005


A brief description of other political positions the institution has taken during the previous three years (if applicable):
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A brief description of political donations the institution made during the previous three years (if applicable):
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Website URL where information about the institution’s sustainability advocacy efforts is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:

Local level: Jon Clark Teglas, Chief Of Staff to the Vice President for Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities, jcteglas@vt.edu, 540-231-6291 AND
Carol Davis, Sustainability Manager, Town of Blacksburg, (540) 558-0786, CDavis@blacksburg.gov

State level: Elizabeth G. Hooper, Director of State Government Relations, Office of the President, Virginia Tech-VPI & SU, 11 South 12th Street, Suite 302, Richmond, Virginia 23219, telephone (804)-786-1604 office, ehooper@vt.edu.

National and International levels: Christopher Yianilos, Executive Director Government Relations, telephone (571) 858-3005, chrisyianilos@vt.edu.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.