HD15 - Second Interim Report of the Moss Commission on the Future of Virginia's Environment

Executive Summary:

The 1996 Session of the General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 221 creating a two-year joint legislative study committee on "the future of Virginia's environment." The resolution directed the joint study committee to examine the history of environmental and natural resources programs and the budgetary trends for resources management in the Commonwealth. In addition, the study committee was directed to develop a long-term vision and plan for the future protection, enhancement, and utilization of Virginia's natural resources. It was also authorized to consider additional issues, as it deemed appropriate, such as innovative approaches used in other states, integrated environmental strategies, and effective environmental negotiation mechanisms.

The directives of HJR 221 are based on findings by the General Assembly that the citizens of the Commonwealth support the protection of clean air and water; the conservation of natural resources; the protection of open spaces, natural areas and parks; and economic development that does not degrade the environment. HJR 221 also points out that reorganizations and proposed reorganizations of natural resource management and protection responsibilities in the Commonwealth have created uncertainty and unpredictability in the Commonwealth's approach to resource management. The resolution adds that the citizens of the Commonwealth want a more certain and definitive course for protecting and investing in the state's natural resources, and therefore it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth to articulate a vision and plan for the future of Virginia's environment.

The HJR 221 study committee, also known as the Moss Commission on the Future of Virginia's Environment after its chairman and the patron of its enabling legislation, accomplished much in its first two years of existence, including traveling the Commonwealth to hear citizens' concerns, formulating and adopting the ideas that became the Virginia Water Quality Improvement Act of 1997 and the passage of strong park planning legislation, and providing tens of millions of dollars in funding for environmental and open space protection. The Moss Commission also sought testimony from local, state, national and international environmental and natural resource experts to assist in development of a vision and plan for the future of Virginia's environment. To continue these successful efforts, the 1998 Session of the General Assembly passed HJR 136, continuing the Commission for an additional year. The 1998 General Assembly also passed SJR 177, patroned by Senator Whipple, calling on the Commission to examine issues related to "smart growth." The 1998 Session also saw passage of HJR 195, patroned by Delegate Keating, which created a study on ways to address demands for increased services and infrastructure resulting from residential growth. HJR 195 also called for coordination with this Commission.