Champions of Us All

Daily News-Record, April 1, 2019

Open Forum: Irvin Peckham

I read Michael Meredith’s open forum, (“Tony Wilt A Champion for Business,” March 14) in which he promoted Tony Wilt’s 26th District voting record, calling him “a champion for business.” Certainly, our representatives should support local business owners; but they should also support other citizens, education, community infrastructure and environmental preservation. At times, these elements may seem in conflict with one another; how a candidate negotiates these conflicts influences how many of us will vote.

Like Wilt and Meredith, I am not a fan of big government; but I do support government that works in the interest of all citizens, protecting consumers against fraudulent business practices, prioritizing public education, supporting community development and protecting the environment.

Wilt says he supports a “balanced approach to environmental and water quality issues.” A “balanced” approach implies that he might tolerate some degree of water pollution and environmental destruction if government regulations would hamper business profits. To suggest that we should balance current benefits at the expense of environmental preservation takes one down the infamous slippery slope. At what point is environmental destruction less important than business profit? Are we not concerned about preserving our environment for our children? Or is it: After us, the storm?

Because concrete contributes to CO2 production, global warming and water run-off, it should go without saying that Wilt, the owner of a concrete company, has an interest in voting against bills protecting our environment. Although loosely related through energy consumption, Delegate Wilt’s adherence to a “balanced” approach might explain his recent votes restricting solar development in Virginia, siding with Dominion and Appalachian Power over organizations promoting renewable energy.

Wilt’s vote is one example of how he might resolve issues when different interests, including his own, are in conflict. I am equally concerned about his positions on public education, the minimum wage, and Medicaid expansion. Although I applaud his position on testing, his attempts to divert monies from public education will undermine local schools, accounting for his low rating of 50 percent from the Virginia Education Association.

In support of Wilt’s positions on the minimum wage and Medicaid expansion, Meredith says that a wage of $15 an hour is “ridiculously high,” a claim that makes me shiver, and that Medicaid expansion would increase health cost, a claim not supported by the Kaiser Foundation research and the experience of other states in spite of recent efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. But even if Medicaid expansion increases costs, I believe that in the interest of the whole community, such an expansion would be worth supporting.

Although I respect champions of small business, I am looking for a representative who will be champions of us all. Mr. Meredith suggests that these priorities are socialist; I see them as caring for others, including our children and their children.

Irvin Peckham lives in Harrisonburg.

Irvin serves on the Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.

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Common Sense Vs. Partisan Nonsense

Daily News-Record, March 23, 2019

Open Forum: Dave Pruett

On Feb. 13, 26th-District Sen. Mark Obenshain voted for an extraordinarily shortsighted bill. House Bill 2611 “prohibits the governor or any state agency from adopting any regulation establishing a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program … ”

The bill intentionally hamstrings Virginia from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It passed narrowly on party- line vote.

What is RGGI? It is a market-based consortium of 10 Northeastern states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont— organized to reduce greenhouse gases by capping overall emissions and trading “allowances.” Since 2005, carbon emissions in RGGI states have fallen by 40 percent while their economies have grown by eight.

What’s so disagreeable about RGGI? Carbon reduction? Economic growth and new jobs? Health benefits? Were no climate catastrophe looming, RGGI would still make sense in terms of energy efficiency, economic impacts, and health. But in the wake of two recent and terrifying climate studies — the National Climate Assessment and the 2018 Report of the International Panel on Climate Change — not to commit to a proven program of carbon reduction borders on indefensible.

Yet, at national and state levels, the GOP seems firmly committed to the fantasy that climate change is a hoax. Never mind that 73 percent of Americans think global warming is happening now, and most are worried, according to a national survey called Climate Change in the American Mind.

Never mind the consensus of America’s premier scientific bodies that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause. Among these agencies: The National Academy of Sciences, American Physical Society, American Geophysical Union, NASA, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Never mind as four decades of predictions by climate scientists materialize before our very eyes. Seasons are shifting, ice caps melting, hurricanes stronger and wetter, wildfires larger and more devastating and tides are inundating Miami and Norfolk.

Never mind the assessment of our armed forces that changing climate is a global “threat multiplier” and rising sea level puts Norfolk Naval Base at risk, according to a Pentagon report from 2014.

Why then deny? Because denial pays handsomely. According to the watchdog agency vpap.org, eight of Obenshain’s top 25 campaign contributors are linked to fossil fuels, including Koch Industries, Dominion Energy and Consol Energy.

And so Obenshain and GOP colleagues: Heed former Virginia Air Quality Board member Rebecca Rubin: “If you cannot lead from a position of environmental justice in this day and age, then you cannot lead.”

Come November, I will cast my vote for a senatorial candidate of integrity who refuses the fossil-fuel lobby’s 30 pieces of silver, blood money for selling out the futures of our children and grandchildren. I will vote for April Moore, a candidate of common sense, not partisan nonsense.

Dave Pruett lives in Harrisonburg.

Delegate Wilt Votes Against Jobs

The Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – February 22, 2019

On Jan. 24, I went to Richmond for Solar Lobby Day, together with several Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents. We sat through seven hours of the House of Delegates’ Commerce and Labor Subcommittee for consideration of over 40 bills related to energy efficiency and renewable energy, broadband and other matters related to Virginia’s utilities. The subcommittee members’ votes would determine what bills would be passed on for consideration by the full committee and, if passed there, eventually would be voted on by all Delegates. Del. Tony Wilt is a member.

I was interested in about a dozen bills that were introduced to help Virginia’s distributed solar industry continue to grow by removing existing barriers. Energy and solar kept being pushed back to late into the day. Finally, after 6 p. m., they were introduced, and then advocated for by businesses ( Google and Microsoft, and installers), environmental groups, and political groups ( Conservatives for Renewable Energy, Earth Stewardship Alliance, and the Green Party of Arlington, to name a few). Dominion and Appalachian Power voiced consistent opposition to bills designed to remove barriers to solar.

One example: Virginia law now sets a 1 percent cap on distributed solar ( rooftop) that can be “ net- metered” in a utility service area. Under net metering, utility customers who produce their own energy from solar or wind can receive credit for that production against electricity usage, thus lowering their bills. The catch is that, if one lives in a service area in which the 1 percent cap has been reached, the utility can deny net metering. Another example: There are limits in Virginia’s law on third- party financing using power purchase agreements that hamper efforts by nonprofit and municipal institutions to reduce their energy costs.

Advocates for these and other bills considered that day made the clear points that these barriers represent unnecessary and market- unfriendly rules that discourage growth of solar companies and, by extension, jobs. Solar and wind industry jobs can’t be outsourced and local installers who employ these workers can boost their local economies because the wages earned will be spent locally.

Needless to say, all these bills were voted down along party lines, most Republicans voting nay, including our local delegate, Wilt. Let me make this clear: With his vote, Mr. Wilt opposed jobs, job creators, schools, nonprofits, lower- and middle-income folks who could benefit from lower electricity bills — in other words, many of his constituents. Instead, he voted in favor of government regulations and the for- profit monopoly for- profit utilities ( that put investor interests first).

My question for Mr. Wilt: How he would have grown his business if the state slapped a cap on how much concrete he could pour? I would also challenge the voters to look at what your representative stands for before you cast your ballot. It seems like just because Tony Wilt has an “ R” after his name doesn’t mean he is for growing our local economy, and antigovernment regulations, because in this case, he didn’t.

Sally Newkirk lives in Mount Crawford.

Sally serves on the Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley