Climate change divides candidates in key Northern Virginia Congressional district
First-term Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, R-VA, squared off against her Democratic opponent, LuAnn Bennett, in a debate Thursday during which each expressed starkly different views about whether clean energy and complying with the Clean Power Plan are opportunities or burdens for voters and businesses in Northern Virginia’s 10th District.
Bennett, a real estate professional who cited her work on previous Governor — now Vice Presidential candidate — Tim Kaine’s climate commission and touted a certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), said Virginia and the nation need to move away “20th-century energy sources to 21st century green power.”
Bennett cited a biomass plant by Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC), which serves part of the 10th District, as a real-world example of how government can inspire utilities to cost-effectively generate electricity increasingly from renewable sources. (See photo.)
Comstock said she supports an “all-of-the-above energy policy.” She questioned how the energy transition underway is imposing unnecessary regulations that would hurt the region’s technology businesses.
“That’s why we’ve gone to court to stop them,” Comstock said, referring to allies opposed to the President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The U.S. Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments for and against the plan; a decision is expected next Spring.
“We tried to stop (the Clean Power Plan) in Congress while still trying for a cleaner and healthier environment,” Comstock said.
After Bennett labeled Comstock as a climate denier, the Congresswoman replied: “We do understand the earth is warming. But we can’t destroy our economy while we’re at it. We need affordable energy.”
Bennett then tried tagging Comstock with views espoused by GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump. Bennett said Comstock “voted against a bill that would allow the Pentagon to use the future effects of climate change to locate military bases.”
“What that means,” Bennett continued, “is your taxpayer dollars (are) to be spent to locate military bases that are at risk for sea level rise. That’s wasteful. We should follow our own Pentagon’s advice . . . and acknowledge that climate change is also a national security risk.”
The debate was held by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.