Two of Virginia’s candidates for Governor were in Richmond Wednesday at an environmental forum hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam talked rising oceans, energy and oysters.
Lieutenant Governor Northam started with a bit of humor.
“You get some oysters, some good oysters, and a little bit of good brewed beer or wine. You add those two things together, good things happen," he said. "This is why they say Virginia is for lovers."
Jokes aside, Northam says protecting Virginia’s environment and what it produces is critical to the state’s economy. Part of that is addressing sea level rise by promoting renewable energy, stopping big development along the coast, and acknowledging climate change.
“I think there are a lot of things we can do, first is to accept it. That it’s happening. That it’s real,” said Northam.
Although Republican Ed Gillespie never actually said the double c-word, he has released policy papers on sea level rise. He said he’ll appoint a cabinet member to deal with recurring flooding.
“We in Virginia can be leaders in coming up with the solutions, the technologies, the practices, that we can then also market, frankly,” said Gillespie.
Time and again, Gillespie made the point that economic growth and environmental preservation shouldn’t be at odds. A well-preserved environment, he pointed out, is an economic asset.
“It is not just a huge asset, from my perspective God has entrusted us with this beauty and this gem and this resource.”
Both candidates say they would support the construction of two controversial natural gas pipelines, if approved by state regulators.
“If they deem this to be environmentally responsible and safe I will support that," Northam said. "If they say though ‘I don’t like the way this is affecting our streams, our rivers, we’re not going to give those permits out.’ I will certainly support that as well.”
Gillespie said his priorities are economic development and diversifying energy sources, which includes natural gas pipelines.
“I believe we can build that infrastructure in a way that is environmentally sensitive and protective of private property rights," he said.
Both the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline are currently under federal and state review.