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9th Congressional District Debate

On Monday night, the first of three debates for Virginia’s Ninth Congressional seat kicked off at WVVA TV in Bluefield.

Throughout the evening incumbent, Morgan Griffith underscored his support for coal mining and coal miners.  Challenger Anthony Flaccavento, did the same and said it must to also include training for new industries.

The the two disagreed on several ‘party line issues,’ like the income tax cut –Griffith supports it, saying it’s beginning to bring jobs to the region, while Flaccavento says the cuts should have gone to the middle class. But they shared concern about some controversial issues unique to this region, namely, the Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline.

First, we hear from Morgan Griffith:

‘I think there are some legitimate concerns in Giles county, in Montgomery county and on top of Bent Mountain with what may happen to the water there, and each concern is slightly different.  You’ve got Karst formations in Montgomery county, you have what I call mountain bogs on top of Bent mountain. The park study says there’s one depth to the soil.  The Mountain Valley says there’s a different depth to the soil.  When I asked FERC to explain, they said ‘oh we’re satisfied.’ I’m concerned that when they start blowing up rock there, on Bent Mt. they’re going to create a huge problem for that entire eco-system.  And I know that some people are thinking, ‘eco-system,’ he’s a Republican who likes coal, look, you can love coal and love nature too, and I’m one of those people.  And when I see something that is a problem that we can’t fix down the road, because if we crack that rock the wrong way and it drains out of that mountain bog system, we have forever, not for a year or two, not for 5 years, we have forever changed Bent mountain.  Unfortunately the die is cast but will continue to fight that we do it right and do it the best way we can and that’s going to require bi-partisan legislation, which is why (Democratic Senator from Virginia) Tim Kaine and I that we need to bring that power back to Congress and not leave it in the hands of unelected bureaucrats.” 

And here is Democratic Challenger, organic farmer and small businessman, Anthony Flaccavento, on the same issue:


“I’m opposed to the Mountain Valley Pipeline and there’s’ 3 basic reasons for that: the first is, that ‘eminent domain’ is out of control and not just around pipelines, but certainly in terms of pipelines.  We have conservative farmers and land owners and liberals in Bent Mountain and Roanoke county and Giles county who are fighting this pipeline because they, the public, are seeing no benefit from this pipeline that is going through their land, ruining their land in many cases and carrying gas through this state to overseas terminals.  We need to make sure that eminent domain only takes private land when in fact there’s clear and strong public benefit. And then there’s FERC, I agree with the congressman, that we need as serious reform of FERC.  Two things come out to me, one is, 80% of those who’ve served as a commissioner have gone off FERC to take a job with a pipeline, gas, or energy company.  We must stop that revolving door there and elsewhere and the last thing we can do is eliminate or at least greatly reduce the guaranteed rate of return, a nearly 15% guaranteed rate of return when they go to their investors for the pipeline.”

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.
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