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Environment Could Be Key Issue in Governor's Race

By: Matt Holmes Email
By: Matt Holmes Email

Friday January 23, 2009

Over the past three years, Governor Kaine's pushed several green initiatives, but environmentalists say there's still work to be done.

"One of the signature issues right now for the environmental community in Virginia is energy efficiency," says Cale Jaffe with the Charlottesville-based Southern Environmental Law Center.

Now the Democrats looking to replace Kaine as governor are picking up the environmental ball and running with it, as the Web sites for Brian Moran, Creigh Deeds and Terry McAuliffe are jam-packed with proposals on how best to go green.

That's something that has Charlottesville voters encouraged.

"It might sway me," city resident Aaron Wunsch says.

Fellow voter Mark Briggs adds that "keep[ing] the environment clean, that would help with so much in terms of breathing and maybe even living longer."

But analysts say the candidates' promises to stop coal power plants, increase renewable resources and put pressure on power companies could come back to haunt them.

"They're trying to catch people's attention with these big numbers," explains Cordel Faulk with the UVa Center for Politics. Faulk says the dozens of lofty, green proposals "in reality, [will] smack them in the face the day after inauguration."

Still, those who are keeping a close eye on the environment say cleaning up the commonwealth could solve another one of our biggest problems.

"One of the reasons I voted for the current president is that he stressed the importance of environment in restoring the economy," Wunsch says.

"You see all these folks on the Downtown Mall working on the re-bricking project. Those same folks can get work on weatherizing these buildings, on better insulation for our businesses here on the Downtown Mall," Jaffe adds.

The environment is traditionally a Democratic issue, so Faulk says voters can expect a healthy dose of green talk up until the June primary. Once the general election rolls around the discussion likely will be dominated by taxes and transportation.

To find out more about the candidates' positions on the environment and other issues, you can visit each of their official Web sites.

State Senator Creigh Deeds (D):

Fmr. DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe (D):

Fmr. Delegate Brian Moran (D):

Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R):

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