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Virginia Economic Roundup: State Sierra Club Calls for Strong Regulations on Fracking

The Virginia Sierra Club (VSC) is urging Virginia to put strong regulations in place before granting permits for fracking in the Commonwealth.

The VSC said that natural-gas drilling companies hope to extract natural gas from Virginia locations such as the Marcellus Shale and the Taylorsville Basin using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) and horizontal drilling. The group said that such drilling could potentially do lasting harm to rural and residential areas, including water supplies.

“Millions of gallons of wastewater comes up with the gas and is so contaminated that it cannot be treated by any Virginia wastewater treatment plant but must be trucked offsite and stored,” the VSC said in a statement.

“It’s crazy to grant permits before the regulations are updated,” Linda Burchfiel, fracking issues chair for the VSC, told Virginia Business. “Virginia is not ready yet.”

TJIPP: Ocean Drilling Could Lead to Windfall for Virginia

The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy (TJIPP), a nonpartisan think tank, says in a new study that drilling for oil and natural gas off the Atlantic coast could lead to huge economic benefits for Virginia.

Assuming that medium to high estimates for gas and oil production could be achieved, the report estimates that between 16,500 and 32,100 jobs could be created. The report stated that drilling would produce between $270 million and $526 million a year in royalty payments and between $61 million and $119 million in new state and local taxes.

“The economic benefits … far exceed the cost of possible environmental impacts,” TJIPP Chairman and President Michael Thompson said in a statement.

Cigna Will Launch 2 Collaborative-Care Programs

Health insurer Cigna will unveil two collaborative care programs in Virginia aimed at lowering health-care costs and improving the coordination of health care.

Cigna’s partners will be Richmond-based Virginia Quality Care Partners (VQPC) and North Carolina-based ChoiceHealth, which owns hospitals in Virginia. The programs are intended to target 43,000 Virginia residents.

Cigna has launched five such programs in Virginia and 105 nationwide and says the programs have helped close gaps in care, avoid unnecessary emergency-room visits, increase preventive appointments and improve follow-up care.

Virginia Wine Sales Hit Record High

Virginia sales set a new record in fiscal year 2014, with wineries moving more than 521,000 cases of wine, a 2 percent increase from fiscal 2013.

The sales, which amount to about 6.25 million bottles, improved despite off-site sales remaining flat due to lower-than-expected grape production. Virginia wine contributed more than $1.7 million in wine liter tax collections.

“Our biggest challenge at this time is to get more grape vines planted to meet the increased demand for our products both at home and abroad,” Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore said in a statement.

Virginia ranks fifth nationally in number of wineries and grape production.

Duke Energy Allocates $1.5 Million for Dan River Basin Region

North Carolina-based Duke Energy has set aside $1.5 million in Water Resources Funds for projects in the Dan River Basin, including an area of southern Virginia that was affected by the company’s coal ash spill in February.

A stormwater pipe beneath an ash basin broke at Duke’s closed power plant on the Dan River in Eden, N.C., causing an estimated 39,000 tons of coal ash spillage, one of the largest such spills in U.S. history.

"Since the accident at our Dan River site, we've worked hard to strengthen our operations and to make things right — fixing the leak, cleaning the river and making sure the water quality remains safe,” Duke Energy President and CEO Lynn Good said in a statement.  "We have a long history of protecting the environment and doing the right thing for the customers and communities we serve. Our ongoing work and support of the Water Resources Fund are demonstrations of our commitment." 

Northern Virginia Localities Rank High on Forbes’ ‘Most Computer Science Jobs’ List

According to a Forbes.com ranking, Alexandria and Herndon rank in the top 10 localities nationally in computer science jobs.

Nearby Washington, D.C., tops the list, while Alexandria and Herndon were Nos. 6 and 8, respectively.

The rankings were based on job postings from Indeed.com, a job aggregation website. Alexandria had 2,000 computer science job listings and Herndon had 1,700.

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