A Guide to the Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR) Requirements, Process, and Compliance

The Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR) plays a critical role in protecting the state's natural resources and ensuring sustainable development practices. This comprehensive guide provides a deep dive into the VAEIR, exploring its applicability and scope, compliance obligations, and enforcement mechanisms. Readers will gain a clear understanding of the regulated activities and entities, the structure and key provisions of the regulation, and the standards and limitations imposed on development projects. The guide also highlights the importance of monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements, as well as the potential enforcement actions and penalties for noncompliance. By examining recent regulatory developments and providing a curated list of additional resources, this guide equips readers with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the complex landscape of environmental impact assessment in Virginia.


Key Details of the Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR)

Issuing Agency: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)

Year Established: 1973

Last Amended: 2022

Statutory Authority: The Virginia Environmental Quality Act1

Primary Legal Reference: Title 9, Agency 15, Chapter 40 of the Virginia Administrative Code2

Overview of the Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR)

The Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR) operates within the broader framework of the Virginia Environmental Quality Act, which was enacted to protect the state's environment and natural resources. The VAEIR is administered and enforced by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and is designed to ensure that the potential environmental impacts of certain projects are thoroughly evaluated and considered before those projects are undertaken.

The VAEIR was first established in 1973 and has undergone several amendments over the years, with the most recent significant changes occurring in 2022. The regulation requires state agencies to prepare detailed Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) for proposed projects that may have significant environmental effects. These reports must analyze the potential impacts of the project, consider alternatives, and propose measures to mitigate any adverse effects.

The VAEIR applies to all state agencies and to any private projects that require state approval or funding. It covers a wide range of potential environmental impacts, including effects on air and water quality, wildlife, natural resources, and human health.

What does the Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR) protect?

The Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR) is designed to protect a wide range of environmental resources within the state of Virginia. This includes:

  1. Air Quality: The VAEIR requires an assessment of a project's potential impacts on air quality, including emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.

  2. Water Resources: The regulation mandates an evaluation of how a project may affect water quality, wetlands, groundwater, and other water resources.

  3. Wildlife and Habitats: The VAEIR necessitates an analysis of a project's potential effects on wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, and their habitats.

  4. Natural Resources: The procedure requires a consideration of impacts on natural resources such as forests, agricultural lands, and mineral resources.

  5. Human Health and Welfare: The VAEIR also aims to protect human health and welfare by requiring an assessment of a project's potential effects on factors such as noise levels, traffic, and public safety.

The VAEIR achieves this protection by ensuring that the environmental consequences of a project are thoroughly evaluated and considered before the project is approved or undertaken. This allows for the identification of potential adverse impacts and the development of measures to avoid, minimize, or mitigate those impacts.


Regulated Activities & Entities

The Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR) is a state-level environmental regulation that governs various activities and entities with the potential to significantly impact the environment. This regulation applies to a wide range of industries, including but not limited to:

  • Construction and development projects
  • Energy production and distribution
  • Manufacturing and industrial processes
  • Waste management and disposal
  • Transportation infrastructure projects

Under the VAEIR, certain activities and processes are subject to rigorous environmental impact assessments and reporting requirements. These activities may involve the emission of pollutants into the air, water, or soil, or the alteration of natural habitats and ecosystems.

Prohibited Activities and Substances:

  1. Discharge of untreated industrial wastewater into surface water bodies3
  2. Uncontrolled release of hazardous air pollutants, such as mercury, lead, and benzene4
  3. Disposal of solid waste in unauthorized or unlined landfills5
  4. Destruction or significant alteration of wetlands without proper permits and mitigation measures6
  5. Introduction of invasive species into natural habitats7

These prohibitions are in place to prevent severe and irreversible damage to the environment, human health, and wildlife. By strictly regulating these activities and substances, the VAEIR aims to maintain the ecological balance, protect public health, and ensure sustainable development practices throughout the state of Virginia.

Structure and Key Provisions

The Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR) is organized into several key sections that outline the requirements, processes, and enforcement mechanisms related to environmental impact assessments and reporting. The main sections of the VAEIR include:

Definitions (9 VAC 15-20-10)8

This section provides clear and concise definitions of key terms used throughout the regulation, ensuring a consistent understanding of the language and concepts.

Authority and Applicability (9 VAC 15-20-20)9

This section establishes the legal authority of the VAEIR and outlines the specific activities and entities to which the regulation applies.

Procedures for Preparation and Review of Environmental Impact Reports (9 VAC 15-20-30 to 9 VAC 15-20-90)10

These sections detail the step-by-step process for preparing and submitting environmental impact reports, including content requirements, timelines, and review procedures.

Public Participation and Notification (9 VAC 15-20-100 to 9 VAC 15-20-120)11

These sections outline the requirements for public participation and notification throughout the environmental impact assessment process, ensuring transparency and community involvement.

Enforcement and Penalties (9 VAC 15-20-130 to 9 VAC 15-20-150)12

These sections detail the enforcement mechanisms and penalties for non-compliance with the VAEIR, including fines, corrective actions, and potential legal consequences.

It is essential for project proponents and stakeholders to carefully review the full text of the VAEIR and consult with the relevant state agencies, such as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, for project-specific guidance and requirements. The VAEIR serves as a comprehensive framework for assessing and mitigating the environmental impacts of various activities, and compliance with its provisions is crucial for the protection of Virginia's natural resources and public health.


Regulatory Standards & Limitations

The Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR) establishes various standards and limitations to mitigate the environmental impact of development projects. These may include emissions limits for air pollutants, water quality standards, and performance standards for specific industries or activities. The VAEIR also sets forth requirements for implementing best management practices (BMPs) to minimize environmental harm.

Compliance with these standards and limitations is typically enforced through a combination of permitting requirements, regular inspections, and self-reporting by regulated entities. Developers and consultants must work closely with the relevant state agencies, such as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), to ensure that their projects adhere to the applicable standards and limitations set forth in the VAEIR.

Monitoring, Reporting & Recordkeeping Obligations

Under the VAEIR, regulated entities are subject to various monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements to demonstrate compliance with the applicable standards and limitations. These obligations may include:

  • Conducting regular monitoring of emissions, discharges, or other environmental parameters
  • Maintaining detailed records of monitoring data, operational activities, and compliance efforts
  • Submitting periodic reports to the relevant state agencies, such as the DEQ, to document compliance status and any instances of noncompliance

The specific monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements can vary depending on the nature and scale of the project, as well as the applicable sections of the VAEIR. Developers and consultants must work closely with the relevant agencies to understand and fulfill these obligations for their specific projects, as failure to comply with these requirements can result in enforcement actions and penalties.

Enforcement Actions & Penalties

The Virginia DEQ and other relevant state agencies are responsible for enforcing compliance with the VAEIR. In cases of noncompliance, these agencies may take various enforcement actions, including:

  • Issuing notices of violation (NOVs) to inform regulated entities of the specific violations and required corrective actions
  • Issuing administrative orders to compel compliance and impose penalties
  • Seeking civil or criminal penalties through judicial action, depending on the severity and nature of the violations

The specific enforcement provisions and penalty structures can vary depending on the applicable sections of the VAEIR and the nature of the violations. Civil penalties can include monetary fines, while criminal penalties may involve fines and potential imprisonment for willful or knowing violations.

To avoid enforcement actions and penalties, it is crucial for developers and consultants to prioritize proactive compliance and early engagement with the relevant agencies. By working closely with agency staff and thoroughly understanding the applicable requirements of the VAER, project proponents can minimize the risk of noncompliance and ensure the smooth execution of their development projects.


Recent Developments & Regulatory Outlook

The Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR) has undergone several significant developments in recent years. In 2019, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 2213, which amended the VAEIR to require more comprehensive analyses of potential impacts on historically disadvantaged communities and to enhance public participation opportunities 13. This amendment has led to increased scrutiny of environmental justice considerations in the environmental impact assessment process.

Another notable development was the 2020 Virginia Supreme Court decision in Friends of Buckingham v. State Air Pollution Control Board, which held that the VAEIR requires a more thorough assessment of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts than had previously been conducted for many projects. This decision has prompted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to update its guidance on climate change analysis in environmental impact reports.

Looking ahead, stakeholders should be aware of the ongoing efforts by the Virginia General Assembly to streamline the environmental permitting process, which may result in changes to the VAEIR. In particular, House Bill 2221, introduced in the 2023 legislative session, proposes to establish a new "fast-track" review process for certain types of projects that are deemed to have minimal environmental impacts 14. If enacted, this bill could significantly alter the environmental impact assessment landscape in Virginia.

To stay informed about these and other developments related to the VAEIR, stakeholders should:

  1. Regularly check the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality's website for updates and new guidance documents.
  2. Subscribe to the agency's email lists and newsletters.
  3. Attend public hearings and stakeholder meetings on proposed regulatory changes.
  4. Engage with industry associations and environmental advocacy groups that track legislative and regulatory developments.

By staying informed and engaged, developers, environmental consultants, and other stakeholders can better navigate the evolving regulatory landscape and ensure compliance with the VAEIR.

Additional Resources

Full text of the Virginia Environmental Impact Report Procedure (VAEIR): The official text of the regulation, including all amendments, as published by the Virginia Administrative Code.

Environmental Impact Assessment Online Course: A free online course offered by the University of California, San Diego, that provides an introduction to the principles and practices of environmental impact assessment, including topics relevant to the VAEIR.


  1. Code of Virginia, Title 10.1, Chapter 12

  2. 9 VAC 15-40

  3. 9 VAC 25-31-50. Prohibitions and Restrictions on Discharges. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title9/agency25/chapter31/section50/

  4. 9 VAC 5-60-60. Hazardous Air Pollutants. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title9/agency5/chapter60/section60/

  5. 9 VAC 20-81-140. Landfill Siting Requirements. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title9/agency20/chapter81/section140/

  6. 9 VAC 25-210-50. Permitted Uses in Wetlands. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title9/agency25/chapter210/section50/

  7. 4 VAC 15-30-50. Importation Requirements. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title4/agency15/chapter30/section50/

  8. 9 VAC 15-20-10. Definitions. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title9/agency15/chapter20/section10/

  9. 9 VAC 15-20-20. Authority and Applicability. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title9/agency15/chapter20/section20/

  10. 9 VAC 15-20-30 to 9 VAC 15-20-90. Procedures for Preparation and Review of Environmental Impact Reports. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title9/agency15/chapter20/

  11. 9 VAC 15-20-100 to 9 VAC 15-20-120. Public Participation and Notification. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title9/agency15/chapter20/

  12. 9 VAC 15-20-130 to 9 VAC 15-20-150. Enforcement and Penalties. Virginia Administrative Code. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title9/agency15/chapter20/

  13. 2019 Va. Acts Ch. 900 (H.B. 2213), https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?191+ful+CHAP0900

  14. H.B. 2221, 2023 Va. Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (Va. 2023), https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?231+ful+HB2221

Keep up with the latest

A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the VAEIR. However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.