Every time I drive off my farm, I am reminded of the fragility and hardiness of our environment. Until recently, my property bordered an undeveloped wooded 50-acre lot with a floodplain stream we share. Our shared ecosystem was a natural animal habitat until our upstream neighbors decided to deforest and turn half the trees into mulch. It was sad to see the forest go. I hope that someday the great horned owl I used to see when I walked my dogs will return and the trees will grow back. But, before that happens, we have practical concerns such as coping with increased storm water runoff. Conservation of the environment is personal, even more so when you call a rural landscape your home. We need to be smart and farsighted about how our policies will affect this land we love.
District 18 is undeniably the most beautiful district in the Commonwealth. People who live here love rural living and deeply care about the land. A frequent environmental issue I am asked about is the proposed natural gas pipelines. My answer to whether I am pro- or anti-pipeline reads like this: What precedent do we want to set? Do we want to encourage land conservation, responsible environmental policy and agro-tourism? I see conflicting priorities that have landed on the pipeline battle. The pipeline may be needed and could possibly bring jobs to Virginia. However, allowing the principle of eminent domain (which the Virginia constitutional amendment in 2012 supposedly weakened but exceptions were made for utilities) to trump the 50-year history of Virginia’s conservation easement program seems misguided. So to be clear, as it stands now, I cannot support the pipelines.
This must be a tough call for my Republican opponent, Michael Webert. It may be the reason you can’t find his position anywhere on the pipelines. One of his largest donors is Dominion Power yet his family has been very involved in Virginia’s conservation efforts. His great-uncle, George L. Ohrstrom, was a founder of the Piedmont Environmental Council and early supporter of the use of conservation easements to preserve open space. Transparency is called for here and just because the pipelines don’t go through District 18 doesn’t mean we should set a precedent that conservation can be tossed aside.
Virginia needs to do its’ part to meet the Clean Power Plan standards. We need Democrats in the Statehouse to be leaders on climate change and protecting our environment. If we want to keep the Piedmont healthy, we can’t rely only on executive action, like Terry McAuliffe’s Cap and Trade program, to ensure Virginia is doing its part to protect the Earth. The environment should be a bi-partisan issue but Republicans have shown, time and again, that it’s not their priority. I promise to support and engage in state-driven conservation solutions.
It’s clear to me the energy of the future is clean. This year, the 3-party partnership between Microsoft, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Dominion Power, brought a solar farm to Fauquier County. We need more constructive partnerships like this to solve our energy needs. We must be smart about investing in clean initiatives like solar power and off-shore wind energy to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.
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