Oct. 16–VIRGINIA BEACH — U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor and Democratic challenger Elaine Luria had some disagreements at an environmental issues forum Monday night, but were on the same page with several major issues facing southeast Virginia.
The two, who are vying in the 2nd Congressional District election on Nov. 6, stated their opposition to drilling for gas and oil off Virginia’s coast, saying it was a threat to the region’s ecosystem and interfered with Navy operations.
They said rising seas and sinking land are real threats, acknowledging that Hampton Roads is second only to New Orleans in United States in urban areas facing a crisis from climate change. The two took the stage separately to answer questions before an audience of about 200 at the Brock Environmental Center.
Luria and Taylor also were supportive of efforts to develop off-shore wind turbines and increasing federal investment in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. They disagreed with moves by the Trump Administration to roll back auto emission standards.
Luria, a Norfolk businesswoman and first-time congressional candidate, said she also opposed efforts to conduct seismic test in the coastal waters to determine possible locations of oil or gas deposits.
“There’s no need,” she said. “Seismic testing obviously is a precursor to offshore drilling.”
Taylor said he won’t support offshore drilling but the seismic test are important. “I think it’s responsible to take inventory of what you have,” he said.
The two also agreed that runoff from poultry businesses — the largest employer on Virginia’sEastern Shore — can be a threat to preservation of the bay and drinking water. But acknowledged they had to be sensitive to a major employer in the region.
Luria said she wanted “more stringent requirements” for monitoring the industries. Taylor said studies now underway need to be completed to come up with a “reasonable, responsible measure” of what coming from the poultry farms.
Luria used the forum to level some criticisms at Taylor, contending the freshman congressman voted for a Republican tax overhaul plan last year that added almost $2 trillion to the deficit and limits the governments ability to spend money protecting the environment.
Taylor, who has said the tax plan was popular with his constituents, said he’s been able to use his position on the House Appropriations Committee to put money in the Pentagon annual budget to invest more money in dealing with potential flooding on access roads to the region’s military bases.
When asked to name their “boldest idea” to address the environmental concerns, Luria said she wanted “to use legislation as a reflection of our values…We need to boldly use legislation in a way that incentivizes leaner, clean energy.”
“It has to be a priority for this district,” she said. “It has to be a priority for our whole country.”
Taylor said he wants the government explore developing safer nuclear power by replacing the use of highly radioactive uranium with less dangerous thorium. Thorium, a weaker radioactive element, was discarded in favor of uranium because it can’t be used to build bombs, he said.
“We should work to build safer thorium plants,” he said.
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