by Tom Perriello
When I ran for governor of Virginia this spring, I announced my opposition to the building of Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. At the time, I challenged Dominion Power and other stakeholders to present a better strategy to meet our energy needs – one focused on investing in clean technologies that would create sustainable jobs building a renewable infrastructure in Virginia.
I believed then, as I do now, that the billions of dollars being spent on two proposed fracked gas pipelines could be better spent in weatherizing building stock, investing in solar or wind, and decentralizing power production for our farmers and small business owners. This is a nearly $7 billion pro-monopoly bet that creates a 50-year hurdle not just to clean energy but to small business owners who would flourish in Virginia if we allowed distributed energy production. And it furthers a dangerous trend of the government using eminent domain for corporate profits rather than public needs.
I also believe that electing Ralph Northam as Virginia’s next governor is an urgent moral imperative not just for our environment but for the integrity of our democracy in the Commonwealth.
My first question for those fighting these two pipelines is: how would our shared agenda be advanced if Ed Gillespie were elected? I continue to support all legal avenues to block the pipelines, and am working to elect pipeline opponents as lieutenant governor and House of Delegates members, but electing Ed Gillespie will only accelerate these monopolistic boondoggles and skip any state environmental reviews. Gillespie, a career corporate lobbyist and nemesis of both the environment and property rights for the little guy, has gone out of his way to be a full-throated advocate for both pipelines without any additional state reviews. Further, he used the first gubernatorial debate to proactively endorse fracking and offshore drilling, and touts his close relationship with Donald Trump as evidence that he could accelerate projects with the federal government.
Second, Ralph has an excellent environmental record, fighting for clean energy, clean water and a clean Chesapeake Bay. Coming from Hampton Roads, the region second most vulnerable to sea-level rise in America, Ralph is going to continue demanding serious action on climate change. He can build on the new carbon rule announced by Governor McAuliffe and work with progressive Governors to ensure states fill the gaping hole in leadership left by Trump by exiting the Paris climate accord. Ralph fought as a state senator to prepare Virginia’s coastal communities from rising sea levels and devastating storms, and he has long led on restricting offshore drilling. Ralph also cares deeply about cleaning the Chesapeake Bay, an effort that Trump’s proposed budget cuts 93%. Ralph will retain state funding for the cleanup program, ensuring that the Bay remains an ecological treasure and an economic engine for thousands of local jobs. The day after President Trump withdrew from the Paris accord, Ralph said he would have Virginia join the states’ climate alliance.
This is not just any moment. What were once bedrock bipartisan commitments to clean air and clean water protections are under daily assault from the Trump Administration. Led by long-time corporate apologist Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, these rollbacks will only exacerbate the vulnerability of so many Virginians. And it is Governors who will need to stand against these efforts. Ed Gillespie is a mercenary who has carried the polluted water for whichever corporate interest pays him enough, right up to his infamous association with Enron.
Voters must recognize that this election will determine the fate of gerrymandering in Virginia for a generation. The next Governor will not just shape the next four years. He will have sign-off authority on the district and Congressional lines after the next census. Ed Gillespie literally wrote the playbook on how to destroy American democracy, and his lobbying firm wrote the lines to protect his lobbying clients instead of Virginia voters. The radically gerrymandered legislature dominated by increasingly extreme Republicans has become an albatross around the neck of middle class growth in Virginia. From the cost of higher education to the under-investment in infrastructure to costly outdated criminal justice codes, the gerrymandering of our Commonwealth has been a legacy of Gillespie’s disastrous impact on Virginia as his economic plans that brought the country to the verge of a Great Depression in 2008. Gillespie is a wrecking ball to our economy but also to our democracy.
Northam, by contrast, has pledged to veto any partisan maps produced by the Virginia legislature and hand the democratic process back to Virginia voters. We only get this chance once a decade to fix one of the most broken aspects of our democracy. This is the lynchpin for making sure a state as forward leaning as Virginia stops being choked back by a rigged system. Electing Ralph Northam is our best and perhaps only chance to have a champion who can break the stronghold of radical gerrymandering that Gillespie helped to create.
This is the year state leadership matters more than ever, from pushing back on Trump to overseeing the next round of reforms. Ralph knows Richmond. He knows the vulnerability of our coastline. He’s seen how Republicans have rigged the system in their favor. And that is why I’m enthusiastically fighting to make sure he is my next governor.