The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Monday, June 13, 2005

Targeting Pollution on Kaine Agenda; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Virginia’s economic future depends on sound environmental planning and regulation, according to one of the four men who want to be Virginia’s next governor.

“We have got to protect the Virginia environment because it’s the right thing to do,” Democratic contender Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine told reporters on a conference call Friday.

But “we have a very compelling economic need to protect the environment,” said Kaine, who will face the winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary — either Warrenton Mayor George Fitch or former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore — and state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. in the November election.

Kaine recounted the tale of a lumber mill in Surry County that folded during the 1930s to make his point.

“The reason they closed wasn’t the Depression,” he said. “They never planted a seed, and one day after they had just clear cut their entire acreage, there just wasn’t anything more to cut. You’ve got to be planting seeds along the way.”

“Planting seeds” in a Kaine administration would mean watching the federal government very closely on a number of measures.

Virginia generates millions of dollars per year through tourism and agriculture — both industries depend on an environment that hasn’t been polluted beyond use.

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving through a regulatory process under the federal clean air act which could lead to “pollution credit” trading for Virginia power plants. Under such a plan, Virginia plants could buy “credits” from plants elsewhere that were producing less than their allotment of gasses and particulate matter.

His administration would watch the regulatory process closely, Kaine said. If it could have an adverse effect on Virginia’s air quality, he would then pursue legislation at the state level, the candidate said.

Kaine also said he would lobby Congress for the authority to regulate interstate garbage transfers. Virginia is one of the top importers of garbage in the nation.

“Until Congress gives us the authority to regulate it,” there’s not much the state can do. At present “we import more than a ton of waste per year per person.”

Kaine was noncommittal on new money to fund clean up of the Chesapeake Bay. The 2004 budget had $80 million, but restoring the bay will take more money from the commonwealth over a long period of time.

The candidate said he wouldn’t earmark a source, like a “flush tax” on sewer service or other revenues, for bay cleanup.

But “I’m not ruling it out either,” he said. “It is critically important that we maintain [the commonwealth’s efforts to clean up the bay].”

Virginia’s program of conservation easements — where a land owner signs over the right to develop a property in exchange for a tax break — also needs more support, he said.

“I believe that Virginia has one of the best” easement programs in the nation, he said. A bill last year would have capped the value of easements for tax purposes.

“We need to do more [rather than less for conservation easements],” he said. He’d also work to provide more administrative support for the program.

“[Conservation easements] really helps … water quality initiatives,” he said.

“We all agree that a clean environment is a priority, we just don’t think higher taxes are necessary to get there,” said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

“We’ve been working closely with a variety of groups on point-source pollution,” he said. “We want to see market-based incentives to address non-point sources,” like run-off from farms.