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We can’t address climate change without tackling transportation

By Guest Column -January 29, 2021
Source: Virginia Mercury

Interstate 64 outside of Waynesboro. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By Michael Town

Over the past several years, Virginia has taken leaps and bounds forward in the transition to cleaner electricity sources and how we, as a commonwealth, are addressing the climate crisis.

This culminated last year in the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a blueprint to completely decarbonize the electricity sector by mid-century, and what will be the commonwealth’s guiding energy policy for years to come.

Under the new Biden Administration, we can expect climate action and clean energy to again be a federal priority, and fortunately, Virginia will be ahead of the curve as we work together as a nation to regain our footing on the national stage as a leader in addressing climate change.

But while we have made huge steps forward in Virginia in powering our daily lives with cleaner sources of electricity, these efforts have really only addressed about one-third of Virginia’s carbon pollution, those emissions that come from fossil-fuel burning power plants.

Nearly half of all of our carbon pollution comes from the transportation sector and mostly from the cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs we drive every day. And this pollution is lethal, contributing to the deaths of n estimated 750 Virginians a year, according to the Harvard School of Public Health — about the same number that die in traffic accidents each year.

And, as with most sources of pollution, communities of color and low-income regions are on the frontlines, breathing disproportionately dirtier air than White and well-off neighborhoods.

Addressing this major source of pollution — Virginia’s largest by far — is the complex but achievable task at hand before lawmakers this General Assembly and it’s paramount that we act now if we want to protect tomorrow.

House Bill 1965 from Del. Lamont Bagby would make Virginia the next state with standards in place to help ensure a cleaner transportation future by requiring car manufacturers to stock and sell more electric vehicles on their lots — starting at 8 percent for model year 2025. This legislation passed out of committee on Wednesday on a vote of 13-9 and is now before the full House of Delegates. 

Because Virginia is one of the states without what’s called a “Clean Cars Standard” in place, electric vehicle stock is hard to come by as these vehicles are being sold primarily in states that have already committed to cutting carbon and working to electrify their fleet. This is true even as demand is high for these clean cars — between one-third and half of Virginians are considering an EV as their next vehicle.

But in order to really make this work for Virginia, the Clean Cars Standard shouldn’t stand alone: We also need the right mix of incentives to spark the electric vehicle market and investment in EV charging infrastructure to make sure that EVs are accessible and practical. These are advances we’re committed to achieving.

This is why in addition to working with Del. Bagby, we’re also working with other legislative champions and the Virginia Auto Dealers Association to advance measures that will make it easier to buy, sell, own and operate EVs in Virginia. This includes an upfront rebate program as proposed in Del. David Reid’s House Bill 1979 and further expanding vehicle charging infrastructure as called for in House Bill 2282 from Del. Rip Sullivan, House Bill 2001 from Del. Dan Helmer, and Senate Bill 1223 from Sen. Jennifer Boysko.

We must also look at transportation in Virginia at a holistic level. Owning a passenger vehicle isn’t feasible for every Virginian, which is why we must also look at ways to modernize transit and public transportation, with a focus on ensuring equitable access, as called for in legislation (HJ 542) from Richmond Del. Delores McQuinn.

Addressing the climate crisis isn’t simple – there just isn’t a quick fix. Solutions to climate change revolve around changing our business-as-usual, status quo approach to how we do things both on a macro and micro level.  

Lawmakers in Virginia have already transformed how we will power our daily lives in the future, taking advantage of innovation in the clean energy sector that will create jobs and fuel our economy. It’s now time to extend this vision — and the economic opportunities that come with it — to how we get from Point A to Point B.

By moving forward now, lawmakers will have taken the action necessary to protect public health, the environment and our future, while also signaling to the rest of the nation that we take our duty and role in addressing the climate crisis seriously.

We look forward to working alongside our environmental champions at the General Assembly to get this done now, in 2021, while laying the foundation for cleaner air for years to come.

Michael Town serves as Executive Director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. You can contact him at info@valcv.org.

We have published articles previously regarding electric cars and have noted that Biden has an aggressive policy regarding electric vehicles and revitalizing the U.S. auto industry as leaders in auto manufacturing once again. Do you have an electronic vehicle? Tell us about it? Are you considering going electric for your vehicle? How can your purchase of an electric vehicle impact your health and the health of those around you in the world?

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DePaul Hospital’s Closing Presents a Unique Opportunity for Hampton Roads

Posted on January 29, 2021 by sherlockj

De Paul Medical Center Jan. 29, 2021. Photo Credit: James C. Sherlock
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

by James C. Sherlock
Source: Beacon Rebellion

Not too long ago, before the decline of the malls and COVID, the healthcare community coined what they called the Nordstrom Rule.

The meaning was that if you wished to optimize profits in your healthcare business, build it close to a Nordstrom. The theory was that Nordstrom had already done the market research to identify concentrations of wealthy customers.

I wrote yesterday about the Sisters of Charity and Bon Secours, Catholic charities both. The Sisters were not in it to serve wealthy patients. They purposely located their hospitals among the poor. So 19th and 20th century of them.

Sentara, a more sophisticated public charity, avoids locations close to the poor.

In 1991, Sentara purchased the Humana Bayside Hospital in Virginia Beach, renaming it Sentara Bayside Hospital. That cleansed Virginia Beach of a competitor. But Bayside served Virginia Beach’s largest concentration of economically disadvantaged minorities. So Sentara closed it at the first opportunity.

The Virginia Department of Health brokered the closing of Bayside in 2008 under the cover of the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) process that fatally wounded DePaul, allowing Sentara to relocate the Bayside beds to the new Sentara Princess Anne, far from the minority citizens of Bayside.

The closest hospital for many residents served by Bayside was then, you guessed it, DePaul. No longer.

More about that legendary and devastatingly unfair and anticompetitive COPN decision next time.

Today we’ll talk about the gleaming cornerstone of Sentara’s Hampton Roads monopoly, Norfolk General Hospital, and until now its only competitor in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Bon Secours DePaul Hospital, which announced this week it was closing as an inpatient hospital and emergency room.

Sentara is now unopposed in the hospital markets of Virginia’s two largest cities. I hope the sommeliers at Sentara headquarters in Norfolk were prepared for the surge in demand.

DePaul Hospital 

If you drive near DePaul hospital, either you live there or DePaul is likely your destination.

The surrounding area is mostly low cost and assisted cost apartments, very small but neat working class houses and low end strip malls. Granby High School is there, as are a few churches and a synagogue, but those do not define the area. Economically disadvantaged families and DePaul Hospital do.

It is easy to see, if you know the history of the area, what the Sisters of Charity saw at the end of the Great Depression with the coming of WW II.

They saw the mass migration of tens of thousands of people, their personal fortunes ravaged by the Depression, moving to Norfolk seeking work in the expanding shipyards, naval bases and port. They built their new DePaul hospital to serve those workers where they were settling. DePaul opened in 1944 in a section of the city then about half white and half black between the Elizabeth River and Norfolk Naval Base.

Most patients of the new DePaul in 1944 could not pay, or could only pay a little if they had found those jobs, but that is what today we would call a feature not a bug to the Sisters. There was no Medicaid, no Medicare. Just the Sisters, their mission and the Catholic church that funded their efforts.

DePaul has failed for a number of reasons including in no particular order:

  • It was built to handle 600 inpatients and thus has an enormous infrastructure. A precipitous decline in inpatients crushed revenue, but did not reduce upkeep costs;
  • There has been a sharp decline of the Catholic donations that helped fund their work;
  • Underfunded Medicare and Medicaid programs, by policy, underpay for services. That triggers  providers of all types to seek payer mixes that feature as many privately insured patients as possible (the Nordstrom Rule);
  • Physicians desire to work and practice in state-of-the-practice facilities, which DePaul, a money-loser for many years, found it difficult to fully fund;
  • Rapid development of outpatient procedures, offset partially by the Commonwealth’s near banning through COPN of outpatient surgery centers not run by a hospital, that are less financially rewarding than the inpatient procedures they replaced;
  • The costs of medical technology –– including those constantly beeping machines and million-dollar robotic surgical assistants — are rising rapidly.
  • In Virginia, the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) program picks winners and losers. By official decision in 2008, the COPN process led by Virginia’s Health Commissioner rejected Bon Secours/DePaul bids to build hospitals in Virginia Beach and Suffolk necessary to secure their financial future in favor of virtually identical bids by Sentara. Game over — it just took 12 years to fully play out;
  • Those of us who live in this area watched the painfully long coup de grace. With Bon Secours fatally wounded by the 2008 COPN decision, Sentara moved to finish it off. It lured away Bon Secours physicians. It bought more physicians’ practices. Bon Secours built a cancer center at DePaul. Sentara moved to build a bigger one at Sentara Leigh campus in Norfolk, closer to the mother load of regional cancer patients in Virginia’s largest city, Virginia Beach.

It worked. DePaul as a hospital and emergency center is dead. COPN and Sentara together (which is perhaps an unnecessary qualifier) have a kill. The physicians practices that DePaul leaves behind in Norfolk have nowhere else to go but Sentara for hospital privileges.

Stuffing and mounting DePaul on the wall is the only thing that will escape them.

Norfolk General

The cornerstone of the Sentara empire, Norfolk General Hospital, in direct contrast to DePaul is located in the exact center of the money and power in Norfolk. A drive from DePaul to Norfolk General is a ride through nearly every level of economic success, starting among the poorest citizens and arriving at the doorsteps of Norfolk’s wealthiest and most powerful people.

Norfolk General’s gleaming towers overlook the Elizabeth River, the mansions of the Hague and Ghent, the Chrysler Museum, the Harrison Opera House — you get the idea.

I wager that few who live in that area could find DePaul Hospital on a map. The right people are not interested in such places. DePaul would certainly not make for proper conversation at Ghent cocktail parties. They are only woke to a point that the consequences do not reach their doors.

And yes, Nordstrom located its Norfolk emporium near Norfolk General Hospital 20 years ago. In this case, flipping the old saying, Sentara had already done the market research for Nordstrom.

An Opportunity

I am going to try to postpone the Sentara celebration by offering for consideration a use for the massive DePaul infrastructure.

I strongly recommend the sale or gift of the DePaul complex to either Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic to serve as their mid-Atlantic campus.

A campus of a world-class health system will serve patients near DePaul but not depend upon the cash flows they generate. Such a facility, like every other Mayo and Cleveland Clinic campus, will be a huge draw for medical tourism. The property is just off I-64 and very close to the airport. The new tunnel will make access much quicker from the west.

Mayo and or/Cleveland Clinic may very well find this appealing if it is marketed and incentivized properly. It is what they do, and neither has a mid-Atlantic campus.

There are at least four distinct benefits to such a course of action for the Commonwealth and Hampton Roads:

  • It will serve both the people and the medical practitioners of Hampton Roads by raising the level of medical care here;
  • It will restore competition in the hospital industry in Hampton Roads;
  • It will revitalize the economy of Norfolk and South Hampton Roads; and
  • Sentara will hate it.

I hope the Governor, Virginia’s Health Commissioner (final decision authority on COPN), Norfolk’s Mayor and City Council and every politically-connected individual and interest group in Hampton Roads will get behind this effort.

They certainly owe us one.

We have seen the decline of patient center care and the rise of medical fraud in the pursuit of profit. What are your thoughts on DePaul Hospital closing? What do you think should happen? What is the economic impact of rising health care cost, medical fraud and declining health care outcomes on a community?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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‘Netflix for solar’: Virginia finalizing rules for solar subscription program

Solar Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth McGowan
December 17, 2020
Source: Energy News
Featured Photo Source: Unsplash, Vivint Solar

State regulators are expected to release final rules soon for a new shared solar program expected to launch in 2023.

During a summer 2019 visit to his vacation house in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Scott Surovell clicked on an ad for community solar. He signed up in five minutes. Soon after, he learned that tapping into an off-property array would about cover his entire electric bill.

“We need this in Virginia yesterday,” the Democratic state senator who represents a district near Washington, D.C. noted in a social media post that autumn. Then, he set about deploying his legislative chops to create a bill heavy on accessibility and equity.

Fast forward to today. Virginia utility regulators are on the verge of releasing their final version of a shared solar program outlined in a bill Surovell shepherded through the General Assembly earlier this year. 

The State Corporation Commission published its proposed regulations on Sept. 21. The deadline for the release of the final rules is Jan. 1.

In a nutshell, Senate Bill 629 calls for establishing a program allowing customers in Dominion Energy territory to buy solar power via subscription from a shared power facility owned by a third-party entity. It’s identical to HB 1634.

Initially, the program will be capped at 150 megawatts. Both solar and environmental justice advocates are lauding a measure requiring that at least 30% of the enrolled customers qualify as low-income. If that subscriber bar is met, the program could add 50 more megawatts.

No single project can be larger than 5 MW. That is likely a model for a series of small-scale distributed generation projects starting at roughly 1 MW and rolled out in increments.

Rachel Smucker said the new regulation — set to debut in 2023 — opens an opportunity for Virginia to lead on delivering solar to low-income communities.

She is the Virginia policy and development manager for the solar trade association that also serves Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Her group recently changed its name to the Chesapeake Solar & Storage Association.

“I think there’s a lot of interest from the industry to dig into this program,” Smucker said. “They have even said the 150-megawatt cap is too small. Solar developers are interested in taking the shackles off of the program on the capacity side. The onus is on all of us to make sure we get this set up right.”

Surovell, in his second Senate term serving Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties, discussed SB 629 as a panelist at Solar Focus, the association’s virtual conference in mid-November.

The idea of growing solar gardens in his home state had intrigued him since 2010 when, as a newly elected House delegate, he learned about such endeavors in Colorado. In a July letter to the State Corporation Commission, he said his legislation would enable people and businesses to purchase solar power and net the energy against their home meters.

Access to non-rooftop solar, he wrote, was especially crucial to people in neighborhoods with heavy tree cover, those subject to homeowner association restrictions and residents in apartments or condominiums.

In that same letter, he emphasized ensuring that shared solar didn’t solely benefit the wealthy.

“Creating a program that is easy for low and moderate income consumers to participate [in] will be essential to the success of this initial phase,” he wrote. “The legislation was intended to provide equal and equitable access to renewable energy and critical cost savings to Virginia consumers who have faced barriers to accessing the green economy.”

Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, sat on the same Solar Focus digital panel with Surovell. Last year, she spearheaded separate legislation (HB2741) designed to expand solar access to those with fewer resources. It called for the creation of a Clean Energy Advisory Board, tasked with setting up a solar financing platform for households with low to moderate incomes.

“Ultimately, this is about people,” Aird said about the crux of Surovell’s legislation. “What’s critical to me is pushing regulators to get this right.”

Advocates: ‘Like Netflix for solar’

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam revised SB 629 to define low-income customers as households whose income is no more than 80% of the median income in that particular locality. Some advocates have suggested that figure be adjusted to take into account Virginia’s broad economic differences as well as differences in housing types.

Setting income limits matters, Smucker said, but it’s equally crucial that regulators figure out how to connect poorer households to solar gardens. That requires linking with existing affordable housing programs and having continued conversations with community leaders via a stakeholder working group.

“This should be like Netflix for solar,” she said about ease of enrollment. “We want to maximize its reach to communities that could really benefit.”

Ideally, she explained, that means that households would have multiple pathways to verify their income, would be able to register online and wouldn’t be penalized for unsubscribing.

Advocates also want the State Corporation Commission to revisit two other parts of the regulation commissioners rolled out in draft form. One is the annual reset of the minimum charge solar customers would be required to pay and the other is how customers will be credited on their monthly bills for the solar energy they use. 

During the legislative session, some lawmakers threatened to withdraw support from Surovell’s measure unless he included a minimum bill charge to cover the cost of serving customers and administering the program.

“The minimum bill was a sore point,” Surovell told Solar Focus attendees about claims that solar customers are unfairly exempt from basic utility infrastructure and upkeep costs.

“They claim there’s a cost shift that happens and non-solar customers bear more of that burden than solar customers,” Smucker said. “But we haven’t seen any data for that claim, so we don’t subscribe to that notion.”

However, because the requirement is built into the legislation, she said a charge of $8 to $10 would be reasonable.

“The [State Corporation Commission] makes the final ruling,” she said. “But if it’s $40, that’s restrictive and you won’t find subscribers. Investor interest won’t be there if it’s astronomically high and that will quickly erode the potential of the program.”

The state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy didn’t counter that argument. It classified as “inappropriate” any infrastructure fee because “there will be no change in the infrastructure required to service the customer’s location.”

The department “recommends that the operational reality of the shared solar program is reflected in the regulations to prevent inappropriate costs from being included in the minimum bill,” the agency wrote in Nov. 2 testimony submitted to the commission. “The lack of detail on the content of the minimum bill combined with the intention to hold an annual proceeding wherein the amount of the minimum bill could be altered could create uncertainty for developers and consumers.”

In addition, the department joined solar advocates in prodding utility regulators to remove restrictions on bill credits for shared solar customers.

Appalachian Voices and the Southern Environmental Law Center called for customers to be permitted to roll over their bill credit, month to month, as long as the bill credits don’t exceed a customer’s average annual bill.

All backers of the shared solar program are hopeful that preliminary groundwork can begin next year so the program is ready to launch by 2023.

“Interconnection can take up to a year in Virginia and permitting can also take a long time,” Smucker said. “That’s why we’ve been pushing for projects to be allowed to attract customers to the program in 2021.” 

Other community solar program fizzled out earlier 

Industry veteran Myles Burnsed of Charlottesville said in an interview that his company, EDF Renewables Distributed Solutions, is interested in the prospect of developing, owning and operating the third-party projects envisioned in Surovell’s law. EDF would likely connect with a separate company to manage and subscribe customers. 

Burnsed, vice president of strategic development, said he’s watched similar solar programs launch in other states with varied levels of success. Like others in the industry, he noted that it can take years to smooth the kinks and unexpected challenges that arise.  

“It will be challenging, but it will attract people,” he said, adding that eventually quadrupling the size of the Virginia program to 600 MW would generate “a lot more interest and competition.”

EDF, an international company with a three-decade presence in North America, is already partnering with a Virginia rural electric cooperative to develop a 3.1 MW community solar project in Shenandoah County. That’s enough energy to power 570 homes annually.

Plans call for breaking ground for the array on 32 acres of farmland early next year and signing up customers by year’s end.

“We’re still super early on in the process,” said Morgan Messer, spokesperson for Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, a distributor for Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. “This is still a pilot, so what the subscription process looks like we don’t know yet. We haven’t yet outlined any of the qualifications.”

Other co-ops in the state also have succeeded with community solar projects — unlike Virginia’s investor-owned utilities. A program the legislature rolled out several years ago geared for customers at Dominion and Appalachian Power never gained a foothold. It required utilities, not third parties, to own the solar projects.

“On that first go-round, there weren’t any projects,” Burnsed said. “It seems to have fizzled out.”

Senior attorney Will Cleveland, who specializes in utility issues for the Southern Environmental Law Center, wants to avoid a repeat of that debacle. 

“Presumably, [shared solar] will work better than the thing that never happened at all,” Cleveland said. “Before, neither utility ever rolled out a program. By that measure, it was a complete failure.”

<a href="https://energynews.us/author/emcgowan/">ELIZABETH MCGOWAN</a>
ELIZABETH MCGOWAN

Elizabeth is a longtime energy and environment reporter who has worked for InsideClimate News, Energy Intelligence and Crain Communications. Her groundbreaking dispatches for InsideClimate News from Kalamazoo, Michigan, “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You Never Heard Of” won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2013. Elizabeth covers the state of Virginia. Her book, “Outpedaling ‘The Big C’: My Healing Cycle Across America” will be published by Bancroft Press in September 2020.

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Virginia’s average new daily COVID-19 cases topped 4,000 on Christmas Day

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Source: Inside NOVA
Featured Photo Source: Unsplash, CDC
Virginia’s seven-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases topped 4,000 for the first time on Christmas Day before falling Saturday as significantly fewer cases were reported on the holiday itself.

The Virginia Department of Health reported 4,078 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, the third straight day with more than 4,000. That brought the state’s seven-day average to a new high of 4,086.4.  On Saturday, however, just 1,584 cases were reported, lowering the average to 3,800.7.

As was seen over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a surge in testing leading up to the holiday will likely be followed by a decline in test results reported over the holiday weekend itself, before numbers pick back up again next week. Even at the lower number, the state’s current seven-day average of new cases is still up 9.2% in the past week and 46.9% in the past month. 

The trend was similar in Northern Virginia, which reported 1,145 new cases on Friday — the third straight day with more than 1,000 — before adding just 428 on Saturday. The region’s seven-day average now stands at 1,035.6, slightly below its peak of 1,124.4 on Dec. 12. 

The health department reported a total of 49 new deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday and Saturday, with seven of those in Northern Virginia: five in Fairfax County, and one apiece in Alexandria and Manassas.  

Northern Virginia data by locality (Dec. 26, 2020)

SOURCE: Virginia Department of Health

LocalityCasesHospitalizationsDeaths
Alexandria6,98542486
Arlington8,475647176
Fairfax41,7692,870671
Fairfax City2822510
Falls Church166166
Loudoun13,441629154
Manassas2,80314730
Manassas Park904628
Prince William24,2921,202249
Totals99,1176,0221,390
OTHER AREA JURISDICTIONS
County/CityCasesHospitalizationsDeaths
Fredericksburg978638
Spotsylvania4,46420867
Stafford4,88622123
Fauquier2,2058928
Culpeper2,84213318

Hospitalizations for treatment of the virus tracked by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association have fallen over the past few days from Wednesday’s record high of 2,586 to 2,454 on Saturday.  However, the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive-care units, 548, and on ventilators, 299, both set records Saturday. 

In Northern Virginia, 569 patients were hospitalized Saturday, significantly fewer than the region’s peak of 808 on April 30.

In its weekly model update, the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute projected the number of cases statewide will peak in early February at just over 47,000.  That is down from last week’s projection, but the institute noted that the surge and decline in testing around the holidays has led to abrupt shifts in data, which make modeling more difficult. 

Although the state’s seven-day average test positivity rate has topped 12% for the first time since May 26, average positivity rates are down across most of Northern Virginia, with the exception of the Prince William health district.

Seven-day average test positivity rate by health district (Dec. 26,2020)

SOURCE: Virginia Department of Health

Health DistrictPeakLowCurrentTrend
Alexandria40.1% / April 233.2% / Oct. 187.7%Down
Arlington42.8% / April 202.4% / June 265.9%Down
Fairfax38.6% / April 223.3% / Oct. 1610.2%Down
Loudoun27.9% / April 284.0% / Sept. 30 & Oct. 311.0%Down
Prince William36.7% / April 185.4% / Oct. 2016.6%Up
Rappahannock17.2% / May 83.5% / July 312.4%Down
Statewide20.6% / April 224.5% / Sept. 30, Oct. 1,2,12 & 1312.1%Up

The health department’s report of the number of COVID-19 vaccines available and administered shows that just over 43,000 Virginians have now received their first dose of the vaccine.

Did you get tested before the holidays? Did you get tested after the holidays? How is routine testing impacting our prospective on COVID 19 information?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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The New Wave of Fishless Fish Is Here

Lead Photo: Edward Addeo (fish); Iakov Kalinin/iStock (ocean)

Source: Outside
Nov 24, 2020

Food scientists and marketers are creating healthy, plant-based, imitation tuna, crab, and shrimp that look and taste like the real thing. Better yet, switching to faux seafood will help curb our reliance on an international fishing industry that has become an environmental and human-rights disaster.

The year 2020 has not been good to many things, but it has been very, very good to the tuna melt. As the world got weird and we sheltered at home, many of us hankered for the familiar, the stable, the uncool. And there was the tuna melt waiting for us, as uncool as ever. 

References to the sandwich spiked on Reddit. New recipes (more or less indistin­guishable from the old recipes) flowed onto the internet. 

I, too, felt the allure. So, during the height of the pandemic, breaking away from the monotony of the keyboard, I made myself a lunch of soaring satisfaction: crispy bread and creamy tuna under a warm security blanket of cheese. What made it especially gratifying, however, was that it was the first tuna melt of my life that involved no fish at all. It was made with a new plant-based faux tuna called Good Catch, and while I can’t exactly say it changed my life, it definitely changed my lunch.

I swore off canned tuna last year, after reading The Outlaw Ocean, Ian Urbina’s wrenching account of human-rights abuses in the global fishing industry. For years, my list of morally acceptable seafoods had been narrowing as I learned about the environmental impacts of industrial fishing. Bluefin tuna, of course, went out the window long ago. Then it was Chilean sea bass, swordfish, and farmed salmon. Cod, gone. Shrimp, toast. But I clung to canned tuna, in part because of the convenience. A highly functional shot of protein, shelf-stable and cheap, it seemed morally defensible as long as it sported the logos certifying that it was dolphin-safe and sustainably fished.

But that changed when I plunged into Urbina’s book, the result of more than three years reporting on high-seas crime across 12,000 nautical miles, all five oceans, and 20 smaller seas. He shipped out on roach-infested, barely seaworthy trawlers, chased pirates and poachers, got caught in border wars, and uncovered a grainy cell-phone video of casual assassinations at sea. After all that, Urbina asked, did we really think “that it is possible to fish sustainably, legally, and using workers with contracts, making a livable wage, and still deliver a five-ounce can of skipjack tuna for $2.50 that ends up on the grocery shelf only days after the fish was pulled from the water thousands of miles away”?

Spoiler alert: it’s not. The average can of tuna drags behind it a tangled net of wrecked ecosystems, definned sharks, debt bondage, child labor, human trafficking, physical abuse, and murder. By the time I finished The Outlaw Ocean, I couldn’t open a can of tuna without imagining a trickle of human blood oozing out. And it’s not just tuna. Swordfish, snapper, mahi mahi, mackerel, sardines, squid, and anchovies are all tainted by slavery. So are farmed salmon, farmed shrimp, and cat food, which relies on meal made out of small fish caught in fisheries rife with human suffering. 

Many fishing boats are crewed by migrants from poor countries who are desperate for work. The boats can spend years at sea, periodically off-loading their catch to refrigerated mother ships and taking on fresh supplies. Oversight is almost nonexistent. Men are forced to work brutal hours in filthy conditions. Beatings are common. So are deaths.

A typical experience is that of Lang Long, a poor Cambodian man Urbina met in Thailand. Long was smuggled to the Thai coast by a trafficker who promised to get him a construction job, but the job never materialized. Instead, Long was sold to a fishing captain for $530, to cover his trafficking debt. Once on the boat, he didn’t see land again for three years.

During that time, Long was beaten regularly, forced to work up to 23 hours a day, and given insufficent food and water. After trying to escape, he was shackled by the neck and chained to the deck whenever his boat approached another ship.

But Long was relatively lucky. He survived, and was returned to land after a Catholic charity paid the boat’s captain $750 for his freedom. Other sea slaves have described sick deckhands being thrown overboard and intransigent ones being locked in the hold, whipped, or beheaded.

All this happens on the untraceable high seas. By the time a tender comes into port, it can carry a vast mix of legally and illegally caught fish. And that’s how a can of tuna gets to your grocery shelf for $2.50.

Rowan Jacobsen is an Outside contributing editor.

Hoagies made with Good Catch imitation tunaHoagies made with Good Catch imitation tuna
(Photo: Courtesy Good Catch Foods)

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

So I kissed tuna goodbye. Lunch became a little more inconvenient, but then Good Catch showed up in the grocery aisle. Instead of a can, the product came in an upmarket pouch featuring a photo of a plate heaped with extremely tuna-like shards. Fish-Free Tuna, the label advertised. Chunk Albacore Texture. The ingredients list revealed that it was made using a blend of six legumes—soybeans, peas, chickpeas, fava beans, lentils, and navy beans—with some algal oil and seaweed powder mixed in for “Real Seafood Taste.” At $5 for a 3.3-ounce portion, it was pricier than canned tuna, but not exactly a budget buster.

I’d written a lot about the battle for burger supremacy among fauxtein peddlers like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, and I knew the pattern those trailblazers had to follow: media campaigns to convince people their fake meats weren’t bizarre, slow rollouts of product in a handful of hipster restaurants, and then years of struggle to develop the production and distribution needed to reach the mainstream. I’d assumed alternative seafood would follow the same tortuous path. Yet here was Good Catch, already stocked by mainstream supermarkets like Whole Foods and Giant. Perhaps the trail had been blazed. And that made me wonder if the world of seafood was about to get pounded by a wave of fishless fish.

Second spoiler alert: it is. Many of the most popular seafoods now suddenly face direct competition from dozens of startups offering animal-free alternatives. The industry is still tiny, but sales of plant-based foods have surged 29 percent in the past two years, compared with just 4 percent overall for U.S. retail foods, and many expect the category to follow the arc of plant-based milks, which now account for 14 percent of all retail milk sales. 

Ibought a pouch of Good Catch and a can of solid white albacore for comparison. At home, I opened the pouch and dumped out a jumble of flaky chunks that had the same pallored look as tuna. The chew was quite firm, which impressed me. Springiness is one of the main attractions of meat, and it’s hard to replicate using plants.

The albacore, stripped of support, was weirder than I remembered. Did you know tuna is canned in vegetable broth to give it flavor? Drained, it has nothing going on until you add mayonnaise, celery, and salt. Why had I been killing some of the sexiest fish in the sea for this loser lunch meat?

I preferred Good Catch in every way. It didn’t taste like much either—think seaweed-scented chicken breast—but the texture was addictive, and I found myself testing the little bouncy fibers between my teeth. I didn’t think of it as tuna so much as chew-na, and I used it liberally, sprinkled over caprese salad for extra tooth, tucked under melted cheese on a piece of toast. It made tasty fish burgers and cakes. It even held up beautifully in a pasta al tonno, simmered in garlicky tomato sauce. In other words, it passed the plug-and-play test. So long, Big Tuna.

When I called Chris Kerr, Good Catch’s cofounder and executive chair, he told me I wasn’t the only one to recently discover his product. COVID-19 had triggered a run on shelf-stable everything, and he was scrambling to keep stores stocked. His new 42,500-square-foot factory in Heath, Ohio, had come online just in time. 

Kerr asked me how his product measured up. I told him it was never going to take over Instagram, but it was good enough. He agreed, and added that this was all it needed to be. “For the love of God,” he said, “it’s just a fucking tuna melt!” 

Kerr, 53, is irreverent and savvy, and he’s got the vision thing. A longtime vegan, he worked at the Humane Society for seven years but eventually found the group’s traditional tactics frustrating. “We weren’t getting very far in terms of moving the needle on animal welfare,” he says. “Vegans are still 0.5 percent of the population.” He left in 2014 and was recruited to launch New Crop Capital, a venture firm that invests in vegan food startups. New Crop was an early backer of Beyond Meat and now has a stake in more than 40 companies.

Kerr was one of the first to see the need for a Beyond Meat of seafood. Like the founders of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, he came to the problem from the perspective of animal welfare. We’re so used to the traditions of fishing that we rarely notice that they involve the mass killing of wild animals, usually in painful ways that would never be acceptable with birds or mammals. (Try hooking a deer in the mouth and dragging it kicking and screaming for miles.)

But until the revelations of human-rights abuses in the fishing industry, the biggest knock against fishing was environmental. According to Daniel Pauly, a prominent British Columbia–based marine scientist, almost no fisheries are truly sustainable. “It’s so bad,” he says. “Sustainable is not a reliable term anymore. So many fisheries have been reduced to a small fraction of what they once were. You can ‘sustainably’ fish them at that diminished level, but they really need to be rebuilt to support the ecosystem.” According to a number of papers published by leading scientists, the agencies that certify fisheries are deeply flawed, and many fish that have the “sustainable” label applied to them are anything but.

Then there’s bycatch—other animals unintentionally caught and killed in nets. About 40 percent of the fishing industry’s combined haul is bycatch, a total of 63 billion pounds per year. That carnage includes an estimated 650,000 marine mammals, a million seabirds, 8.5 million sea turtles, and ten million sharks. In the Indian Ocean, more than 80 percent of the original dolphin population—four million animals—has been killed in tuna nets.

Good Catch, a brand of faux tuna, made tasty fish burgers and cakes. It even held up beautifully in a pasta al tonno, simmered in garlicky tomato sauce. In other words, it passed the plug-and-play test. So long, Big Tuna.

Aquaculture has not been the salvation many had hoped. Farming fish turns out to have the same problems as farming livestock in industrial settings: animal-welfare issues, disease and parasites, antibiotic overuse, and massive pollution.

For all those reasons, Kerr says, he felt a need to help jump-start the plant-based-seafood industry. “But I couldn’t find anything solid to invest in. So I just said, Fuck it, I’ll start my own.” 

Now more mainstream investors—having watched Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods take the world by storm—are scrambling to catch up. In January of this year, General Mills joined a group of companies that invested $32 million in Good Catch. Soon the celebrities rushed in: Lance Bass, Paris Hilton, Woody Harrelson, and Shailene Woodley all invested in the company.

But the biggest development came in March, when Bumble Bee Foods, the international tuna giant, announced a new partnership to distribute Good Catch’s fishless tuna in many places where Bumble Bee sells its own. “They approached us!” Kerr told me. “We were prepared to be attacked by that same company.”

“That shocked the industry,” says Monica Talbert, CEO of Van Cleve Seafood, a Virginia company that has launched a subsidiary, Plant Based Seafood, that sells a line of fish-free products. “The seafood industry sees plant-based as treasonous. They’re trying to squelch it. So for a giant, global company like Bumble Bee to take it on was huge.” Talbert thinks the writing is on the wall. “Consumers are demanding it. It would behoove the industry to jump on board.”

In Bumble Bee’s press release announcing the partnership, CEO Jan Tharp explained the thinking. “It is critically important that, as an industry, we continue to find innovative solutions to decouple growth with ­environmental impact,” she explained. “Providing great-tasting alternative ways for consumers to enjoy ocean-inspired foods is a key pillar of our long-term commitment to ocean health.”

If Good Catch is basically the Beyond Meat of seafood, Van Cleve is something possibly more significant: a traditional business eagerly transforming itself into a meatless powerhouse. “I love plant-based seafood,” ­Talbert says, “because it gives us a platform to shine light on the unsavory things going on in the seafood industry, just like plant-based meat did for the livestock industry.”

Van Cleve Seafood started in 2001 as a Virginia crab shack, launched by Shelly Van Cleve and her teenage daughters, Monica and Monica’s sister Allie. The restaurant and shop soon became a celebrated destination, and they expanded. In 2013, the company began selling its signature products in supermarkets and found that its ­supply needs outstripped local options. When ­Talbert researched international sources, she was horrified. “The lawlessness,” she says. “The mislabeling. The fish illegally soaked in chemicals. The child labor, slavery, and human trafficking. Just horrendous practices. It was so disheartening.”

Talbert had been transitioning to a plant-based diet, so they decided to do the same with the company—starting, naturally, with crab cakes. “We’ve probably made a million crab cakes in the past 20 years,” Talbert says. “There’s a weave to the texture of a crab cake that’s very specific. We went through more than a hundred versions to get it right.” 

If you want to wield your fork for food justice, however, crab is small potatoes. The average American consumes half a pound of it per year, making it only the ninth most popular seafood. The big three are canned tuna (2.1 pounds per person), salmon (2.6 pounds), and the Goliath of seafood, shrimp (4.6 pounds). 

If anything can make tuna fishing look scrupulous, it’s shrimp. Wild shrimp are caught using a massively destructive practice called bottom trawling, which John ­Hocevar, Greenpeace’s longtime oceans campaign director, describes like so: “Bottom trawlers fish with nets that weigh a couple of tons and are big enough to catch two 747s side by side, and they drag those along the bottom of the ocean. It’s insane.” For every haul of shrimp, a large amount of bycatch is brought in and tossed dead over the side.

Most shrimp is farmed, and that’s even worse. For feed, operations depend on small fish caught by boats using forced labor and relentless tools that rake the ocean clean. “Off Thailand,” Hocevar says, “the boats fish the water with very fine-meshed nets designed to strain out every last living thing. It’s endgame stuff.”

Shrimp is farmed along tropical coasts in shallow ponds made by ripping out mangroves, trees that protect shorelines and provide essential habitat for many marine species. The ponds become cesspools. After a few years, the ground is so contaminated that the site must be abandoned for a new one. “You just devastate one coastline after another,” says fisheries scientist Pauly.

Despite this mayhem, shrimp hasn’t suffered from consumer resistance the way other seafoods have. “Most people are somewhat aware that shrimp has big problems and they shouldn’t be eating it,” Hocevar says. “But they love it and there’s no real alternative, so they’re not willing to give it up.” For those reasons, he says, “a plant-based alternative would be amazing.”

Pauly was even more enthusiastic about the proposition. “The faster the better. If you can produce some gunk that can take the place of those disgusting shrimp operations, that would be wonderful.”

Well, I just happen to have some of that gunk right in front of me. It’s called konjac root, and it’s popular in Japanese and Korean cooking. Because it’s rich in soluble fiber, it can be boiled into a firmly textured gel. “It bounces back,” says Monica Talbert.

The product I’m sampling—Mind Blown Plant-Based Crunchy Coconut Shrimp—comes in the form of plump pink crescents with a coconut coating. (Paprika provides the pink.) I fried them in oil until they turned golden and served them with cocktail sauce.

And let’s be honest, any breaded product—shrimp, chicken nuggets, whatever—asks very little of its core protein. All it really needs to do is bounce back, and the plant-based shrimp aced that test. The outside was crispy, coconutty, and slightly sweet. The inside was snowy white. (If you are attached to the black vein that bisects real shrimp, you’re out of luck.) 

Most of the press on animal-free seafood focuses on what’s known as cellular aquaculture—fish in a dish, no head, gut, or tail attached. Rumors of its impending awesomeness have been circulating for a few years, goosed by venture capitalists who’ve sunk tens of millions into the California startups Wild Type (salmon), Finless Foods (bluefin), and BlueNalu (yellowtail and mahi mahi). Before diving into the world of fishless fish, I’d expected these lab-based products to be the standouts. But as is true with lab-grown meat, the hype has gotten well ahead of the science.

The theory seems solid enough. In animals, muscle cells are supplied with a stream of nutrients delivered by the circulatory ­system. But those cells can be grown in a tank if they’re bathed in a broth of the same nutrients, along with hormone-like growth factors that tell them how to develop. This is the idea behind lab-grown meat, and it’s been achieved with various species of fish as well.

You can see the appeal. Cellular seafood doesn’t have parasites. It isn’t contaminated by mercury or microplastics. It isn’t tainted by slavery or ecological damage. And it doesn’t die a horrible death.

But the industry faces multiple challenges that so far lack solutions. To grow living cells in a vat is incredibly costly and energy intensive. (One life-cycle analysis of cultured meat found that it has an even larger environmental footprint than conventional beef.) And no one has mastered culturing meat at scale. In a 20,000-liter commercial tank, cells can be crushed by the weight of water or killed by the force of the paddles that keep everything circulating. The serum that bathes the cells costs hundreds of dollars per liter, and it takes 50 liters to produce one serving of meat. Microbial contamination is a constant threat. Texture and flavor are works in progress. 

Greenpeace’s John Hocevar says most people know shrimp has big problems. “But they love it and there’s no real alternative, so they’re not willing to give it up.” For those reasons, he says, “a plant-based alternative would be amazing.”

But Jennifer Jacquet, a professor of environmental studies at New York University who has studied the fishing industry extensively, thinks progress may come surprisingly fast. “I don’t think you can judge a product’s market price by its prototypes, especially with an industry in its infancy,” she says. “There are many examples, from clocks to computers, that show us how much prices can fall.” Sure, a single serving of cellular fish or meat currently costs hundreds of dollars, but not long ago it cost hundreds of thousands.

Jacquet points out that governments can strongly influence the affordability—and success—of beneficial new technologies. “It’s a little bit like renewable energy,” she says. “Right now, the cellular animal products, including seafood, have to compete on a very uneven footing with meat, dairy, and seafood companies that receive enormous government subsidies, which makes it even more difficult to become price competitive.” Jacquet believes that if the seafood industry stopped receiving these subsidies, cellular-based seafood would quickly succeed.

None of the California startups were about to let me sample their lab creations. BlueNalu anticipates having its mahi available by late 2021 in a few select restaurants in San Diego, but experts estimate that it will be five to ten years before cellular seafood is commercially viable. And by then it may be too late. Plant-based seafood is already here, and given another decade of R&D, it’s going to be very good and very cheap. Sure, there will still be holdouts who want real fish that came from the sea. But who exactly is going to demand fish from a lab?

Not all the plant-based seafoods I tried were as successful as the ones highlighted here. I very much wanted to like Ahimi, an ahi substitute whose production is simplicity itself: a skinned, seeded tomato lightly concentrated in soy sauce, water, sugar, and sesame oil. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much what it tastes like. If you squint hard, it looks a bit like a pink slab of ahi, but there’s no getting around that what you have on your plinth of rice is limp tomato. (Apparently others felt the same; the company ceased operations this summer.)

I also wanted to try Kuleana—a bluefin replacement made from a blend of algae, pea protein, seawater, iron from fermented koji, and beetroot (for color)—but its founder told me it wasn’t ready for sashimi prime time. For now, true sushi analogs are out of reach, and we’ll have to stick to the low-hanging fruits de mer: canned tuna, crab cakes, and breaded shrimp.

But check back in a couple of years and I expect you’ll find the sushi counter transformed as well. By then I should be ready to complete the leap to plant-based. I’ll make exceptions for a couple of seafood standouts—American shellfish and Alaskan salmon, for example, are paragons of sustainability and deliciousness—but I’ll leave the rest to the ocean. Unless, of course, the seafood industry can solve its outlaw problem once and for all.

Rowan Jacobsen’s research into alternative seafood was supported by a grant from the Safina Center.

Eliot Coleman (farmer, grower and educator) would say that true organic food is a function of biology and nature not science. What do you think of plant based, science produce fish or seafood? Most dietitians would tell you a health diet includes wholefoods rather than processed foods. Is science produced food not processed foods? What do you think about the new fishless fish options? Are you veterinarian or vegan?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Ways to go Green: Recycling

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Recycling

Source: Freeway Insurance
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Paweł Czerwiński

In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times the amount of his or her adult weight in garbage. Recycling is an important part of protecting the environment and helps conserve resources and energy, preserves valuable landfill space and supports a healthy environment.

Below are 10 ways to recycle, some of which also help with reducing and reusing.

1.    Use reusable bags instead of plastic. A weekly trip to the grocery store requires an average of 10 plastic bags to carry the entire load of groceries home. That is approximately 520 plastic bags per year for a single household. Rather than recycling the plastic bags, use reusable cloth bags that you can wash and reuse throughout the year.
2.    Reuse scrap paper for crafts. Even the smallest bits of pretty fabric and paper can make a big impact. Turn them into strips of decorative tape and you’ll have beautiful trims ready to use.
3.    Repurpose glass jars and containers. You’re paying extra for these food-filled glass containers, why not reuse them for other household items that need a new container? You can look up many green living ideas on Pinterest that will show you great ways to recycle plain glass jars into pretty home-products, ranging from food containers to decorative light-hangers.
4.    Use cloth napkins and towels. Using cloth napkins and towels in the kitchen and bathrooms will help to reduce paper consumption and give you a reusable product, possibly saving you a couple hundred dollars a year.
5.    Recycle electronics. Even if you’ve tried everything you can to revive your electronic device, laptop or computer, don’t just dump it in the garbage. You can donate it to charities that can fix it up or send it back to the manufacturer that will end up recycling the body and parts for other products. Some ink cartridge manufacturers will give you a prepaid label to mail back used-cartridges to recycle. Look into the manufacturers of your devices and find out about their recycling programs.

Extreme recycling

These 5 extreme recycling tips take more work, but if you’re serious about Green Living, then continue on to these ways to recycle:

1.    Recycle water. This one is a big investment, as you’d have to reconfigure your water pipes so that bathwater and sink water can be used for either flushing the toilet or for watering your yards. You’ll be recycling the water to serve more than just a single purpose and as a result, also saving more on your water bills.
2.    Make your own compost. You’ll be leaving your organic waste in a compost bin to decompose so that you can recycle the compost for plants. Be sure that you have the right container and put only decomposable items in.
3.    Switch to using cloth diapers. Using cloth diapers for your child may seem outdated, but women have done this for centuries. Disposable diapers aren’t usually put into recycling categories, so you’re better off using cloth diapers if you truly want to go green.
4.    Collect rainwater to use for watering plants. If you’re in a state other than California, which is in a drought, you should be taking advantage of the rainy season and recycling the rainwater. Save more money on your water bill by using the natural water for watering your indoor or outdoor plants.
5.    Buy secondhand furniture. It’s one of the greatest ways to recycle furniture that is still usable and also reduces trash in the landfill.

True green living requires a lifestyle change, but there are little things you can do that will help our landfills from becoming unusable. Just follow these ways to recycle, and you’ll be on your way to having less garbage and wasted resources.

What ways can you recycle? Are you a community climate change champion? What ways do you recycle now?

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VA. CONSIDERS CLIMATE CHANGE IN NEW COASTAL RESILIENCE PLAN

Virginia’s coastal communities are vulnerable to climate change and other extreme events. Photo: Northern Virginia Regional Commission
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Source: Chesapeake Bay Magazine
October 27, 2020

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s Virginia Coastal Resilience Planning Framework is out, and it includes an unprecedented warning. In it, Gov. Northam clearly acknowledges that climate changes and coastal sinking are threatening communities and natural resources in much of Tidewater
Virginia, from the Norfolk Naval Base to Tangier Island.

It’s the first time the state has sent such a clear message. The framework begins a comprehensive, collaborative, long-term planning process to accept, adjust, and adapt.

“The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, but not the fact that our planet is warming, land is sinking, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are more frequent and more severe,” says Gov. Northam. “The science is clear: climate change is threatening our way of life, and there is no time to waste. We must act quickly and decisively—and the Coastal Master Planning Framework will be our roadmap to resilience in coastal Virginia.

The governor says the Commonwealth’s approach will use “cost-effective, nature-based, and equitable strategies” to protect peoples’ communities, infrastructure, and economy well into the future.

  • The Framework lists these guiding principles for the Master Plan and its initiatives:
  • Acknowledge climate change and its consequences; base decision making on the best available science,
  • Identify and address socioeconomic inequities; enhance equity through coastal adaptation and protection efforts,
  • Recognize the importance of protecting and enhancing green infrastructure like natural coastal barriers and fish and wildlife habitat using nature-based solutions,
  • Use community and regional scale planning to seek region-specific approaches tailored to the needs of individual communities, and
  • Focus on cost-effective solutions for protection and adaptation
  • of our communities, businesses, and critical infrastructure.

Comissions in four areas of Virginia’s coastal plain will identify priority projects: Hampton Roads; Rural Coastal Virginia, including the Middle Peninsula, Northern Neck and Eastern Shore; Fall Line North,
encompassing Northern Virginia south to the Rappahannock; and Fall Line South, including the greater Richmond and Petersburg regions.

Within these four areas, the Framework will develop accurate projections of sea level rise and land sinking. It will coordinate protection efforts with federal, state and local governments. It includes a major public outreach effort to receive input from all impacted communities, particularly those that are underserved. The Master Plan emphasizes the importance of green infrastructure and considering strategic relocation to reduce flood risk.

“Nature is often the best flood control money can buy,” said Secretary of Natural Resources and Chief Resilience Officer Matthew J. Strickler. “While we know that we must protect our most critical infrastructure where it currently exists, that approach is not fiscally realistic or sustainable everywhere. Using natural and nature-based solutions whenever possible will provide the most cost-effective resilience to climate change impacts, while also improving quality of life and protecting the environment.”

-John Page Williams

What ways can you mitigate flooding in the Hampton Roads area? Do you live in Hampton Roads? If not, what are the climate challenges where you live? Are you a community champion

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Jefferson County Doctor Convicted of Health Care Fraud Violations

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

by U.S. Attorney’s Office Tuesday, November 17th 2020 AA
Source: 6KFDM
Featured Photo Source: Unsplash, Philippe Spitalier

Beaumont — BEAUMONT, Texas — A 43-year-old physician practicing in Beaumont has been found guilty of federal health care fraud violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox today.

Grigoriy T. Rodonaia, of Port Neches, Texas, was convicted by a jury this afternoon of 12 counts of health care fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of making a false statement, and two counts of accepting kickbacks. The guilty verdict came following a four-day trial before U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone.

Rodonaia, a physician practicing in Beaumont with Rodonaia Family Medicine and Aesthetics, was indicted on March 18, 2020. According to information presented in court, beginning in January 2015, Rodonaia participated in a health care fraud scheme by issuing prescriptions for specially compounded scar creams using the names, dates of birth, and Health Insurance Claim Numbers of TRICARE beneficiaries, and caused the prescriptions to be forwarded directly to Memorial Compounding Pharmacy in Houston, Texas. These prescriptions were issued without consultation with the patient and without the patient’s knowledge. The prescriptions were billed to the military health care program, TRICARE, by the pharmacy at approximately $9,000 to $13,000 per prescription, with multiple refills authorized per prescription. Rodanaia issued over 600 prescriptions in the names of approximately 140 beneficiaries in furtherance of this scheme. Before the scheme could be detected, TRICARE paid approximately $6.7 million in TRICARE funds to Memorial Compounding Pharmacy. Further, to conceal his criminal activity, Rodonaia created fictitious patient files and records that falsely indicated that he had examined or consulted with those patients, and submitted those false records to the Defense Health Agency in response to an audit.

Rodonaia additionally violated the Anti-Kickback Statute by requiring Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries seeking opioid treatment to pay cash for an office visit in excess of the amount which would have been reimbursed by the Medicare and Medicaid programs.ADVERTISING

Rodonaia remains released on conditions under supervision of the U.S. Pretrial Services office of the U.S. District Court. He faces up to 10 years in prison for each count of health care fraud and an additional two year consecutive term of imprisonment for each count of aggravated identity theft. A sentencing date has not been set.

This case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, and the Texas Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert L. Rawls prosecuted this case.

What does health care fraud look like? Would you recognize health care fraud if you saw it? Have you been a victim of health care fraud?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Former Virginia doctor Javaid Perwaiz guilty of health-care fraud, performing unnecessary hysterectomies

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By Katie Mettler and Samantha Schmidt
November 9, 2020 at 3:51 p.m. EST
Source: The Washington Post
Featured Photo Source: Unsplash, Bofu Shaw

Javaid Perwaiz, a longtime OB/GYN in Virginia whose arrest last year shocked and confused hundreds of his patients, was convicted Monday of 52 counts related to what prosecutors called his scheme to defraud insurance companies by giving women life-altering hysterectomies and other surgeries they did not need.

Perwaiz, who practiced medicine in the Hampton Roads region for nearly four decades, faces a maximum sentence of 465 years in prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The former doctor’s sentencing is scheduled for March 31. His attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

“Doctors are in positions of authority and trust and take an oath to do no harm to their patients,” Karl Schumann, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Norfolk field office, said in a statement. “With unnecessary, invasive medical procedures, Dr. Perwaiz not only caused enduring complications, pain and anxiety to his patients, but he assaulted the most personal part of their lives and even robbed some of their future.”

A doctor is accused of years of unnecessary hysterectomies. The women who trusted him want answers.

Perwaiz, 70, was arrested last fall after an FBI investigation found that since at least 2010, the doctor had been carrying out a health-care fraud scheme that included performing diagnostic procedures with broken equipment and scaring patients into surgery by falsely claiming they had cancer.

Would you recognize health care if you saw it? What would it look like? What should one do?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Flash flooding closes roads after heavy rains soak Hampton Roads

usgs-unsplash Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By ROBYN SIDERSKY and JESSICA NOLTE
Source: THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT |NOV 12, 2020 AT 9:32 AM
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Usgs Ugr

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for much of Hampton Roads through Thursday night.

On the Peninsula, a flash flood watch was in effect until 6 p.m. in Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Isle of Wight, York County and James City County. A flood warning remained in effect until 8 p.m.

Heavy rain fell steadily Thursday morning, with 3-3.5 inches reported by 1 p.m. in Virginia Beach, according to the weather service. About 3-6 inches of rain had fallen on the Peninsula just before 4 p.m. causing road closures and flash flooding.

Hampton reported delays to trash and recycling pickup Thursday morning because vehicles had difficulty navigating flooded roads. Old Dominion University canceled in-person classes after 4 p.m.

Small creeks and streams, urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses are all affected by the flooding.

Virginia Beach announced Thursday afternoon that Bow Creek Recreation Center would be closed for the rest of the day because of flooded roads in the area.

The city reported road closures because of flooding in several areas including:

  • Dam Neck Road at Harpers Road
  • Dam Neck Road at Southcross Drive
  • Horn Point Road at Muddy Creek Road
  • Independence Blvd. South at Salem Road
  • Laskin Road at Hilltop Plaza Shopping Center
  • Potters Road at Air Station Drive
  • Princess Anne Road at Kempshire Lane
  • Red Mill Blvd. at Agecroft Road
  • S Rosemont Road at Country Club Road
  • Salem Road at Elbow Road
  • Salem Road at North Landing Road
  • Sandbridge Road
  • South Blvd. at Maidstone Circle
  • Sullivan Blvd. at Westgrove Road South
  • Wellsford Drive at Old Dam Neck Road

Virginia Beach also reported blocked roads in multiple places including:

  • 21st Street at Mediterranean Avenue
  • Barberton Drive at Old Virginia Beach Road
  • Deer Park Drive at Brookbridge Road
  • Dillon Drive at Continental Street
  • Edwin Drive at Gleneagle Drive
  • Edwin Drive at Masters Avenue
  • Gannet Run at Huntsman Drive
  • Greenwich Road between Newtown Road and Witchduck Road
  • Hannibal Street at Country Club Circle
  • Haygood Road at Perth Lane
  • Indian River Road New Bridge Road
  • Kings Lake Drive at Oxford Drive
  • Lakecrest Road at Riverbend Road
  • N Great Neck Road at Tanglewood Trail
  • Nanneys Creek Road at Charity Neck Road
  • New Bridge Road at Indian River Road
  • Oceana Blvd. at Bells Road
  • Princess Anne Road at Elson Green Avenue
  • Princess Anne Road at Holland Road
  • S Rosemont Road at Dahlia Drive
  • Sandbridge Road at Flanagans Lane
  • Sandbridge Road at Lotus Drive
  • Seaboard Road at County Place
  • Seaboard Road at Princess Anne Road
  • South Plaza Trail at Old Forge Road
  • Townfield Lane at Kerr Drive
  • Upton Drive at Nimmo Parkway
  • Upton Drive at Tennyson Road
  • Van Buren Drive at Presidential Blvd.

Portsmouth reported abandoned vehicles and flooding in several places including:

  • Frederick Boulevard from Turnpike Road to Deep Creek Boulevard
  • I-264 Ramps to Frederick Boulevard are closed in both directions
  • Airline Boulevard at the intersection with Victory Boulevard
  • Multiple locations along Elm Avenue and Effingham Street
  • Rodman Avenue at High Street
  • Rodman Avenue at King Street
  • Churchland Boulevard at Academy Avenue
  • Twin Pines Road at Towne Point Road
  • Virginia Avenue at Portland Street
  • Greenwood Drive at Deep Creek Boulevard
  • George Washington Highway at Elm Avenue

announced it would open the Middle and County street garages at 5 p.m. Thursday until 7 a.m. Friday for vehicles in low-lying areas.

Another half-inch or inch is possible across the region this afternoon, according to the weather service.

A flash flood warning means that flooding is imminent or occurring and if you’re in an area prone to flooding, it’s best to move to higher ground immediately.

The heavy rainfall is a result of an unseasonably moist air mass. The rain will taper off in the afternoon through late tonight.

This is a developing story. Check back to PilotOnline.com for updates.

Robyn Sidersky, 757-222-5117, robyn.sidersky@pilotonline.com

We have seen flooding in Norfolk before and will see it again. Rain harvesting and rain gardens are just 2 solutions to flooding. What are your solutions to flooding? What area are you in? What are the climate challenges in your area?

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