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Emissions bill is hot issue at 9th debate

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

The three candidates in the 9th District House race offered their views Tuesday on issues ranging from Afghanistan to what they admire about each other.

But the nearly hour-long debate on WDBJ-7 in Roanoke frequently returned to the issue of cap-and-trade emissions legislation.

Incumbent Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon, explained that he was asked by the coal industry to write the legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. He added that official government analysis of the legislation found that it would have virtually no effect on electricity prices and coal sales, and it was endorsed by American Electric, Dominion and Duke power companies, he said.

His Republican opponent, Del. Morgan Griffith of Salem, countered that every study has said the bill will cost jobs in the coalfields and cause electric rates to rises. That will encourage manufacturers to expand outside the country, he added.

Independent candidate Jeremiah Heaton of Washington County said he understands the position Boucher was in on the bill, but he should not have voted for it. The bill will cause a mass exodus of jobs from America, Heaton added.

Boucher said Griffith "blocked a bill (in the General Assembly) that would have offered meaningful relief" from electric rates that rose 73 percent. He was referring to the bill introduced last winter by Del. Ward Armstrong that would have let the State Corporation Commission consider a utility's total financial condition when judging a rate hike request. That bill did not pass, and Griffith "turned his back on Southwest Virginia," Boucher said.

Griffith responded that he had nothing to do with making electric rates rise and said he voted against deregulation of utilities.

To help ease the burden of rising electric rates, Griffith said Congress should "take regulations off the backs of businesses and people trying to make energy. ... As they add restrictions on coal, our costs are going up."�

Heaton said last winter was the first time he had ever seen a comma on his electric bill when it totaled $1,300 for his home. He claimed that both Boucher and Griffith have taken money from large power groups, but he has not.

On other issues, all three criticized some or all parts of the health care reform legislation; Heaton said he favors term limits and would not serve more than three terms; Griffith and Heaton said they support reform of the tax code.

On the war in Afghanistan, Griffith said it is important to fight until a stable government is established and that the U.S. must give its troops all the supplies needed. Heaton questioned the high cost of fighting the war and terrorism, and Boucher said he supports President Obama's timetable for transitioning out of the country.

Boucher stressed his record in bringing 5,000 jobs to the district through his Showcasing Southwest Virginia initiative. He also said the district has had a net gain of 28,000 jobs since he first was elected in 1983, but that does not include areas such as Patrick County and parts of Henry County that were not in his district then. Griffith criticized that, saying Boucher omitted areas with high unemployment and job losses.

When asked what they admire in each other, the legislators mentioned each other's records of service and that Heaton runs a small business.

But Griffith reacted sharply when Heaton said Griffith had gotten married in a cemetery. "I don't appreciate" the attack on his wife, Griffith said. "We picked that spot to get married. It's a beautiful spot."�

In the end, Boucher said he hopes to be re-elected because he is proud of his success in creating jobs and wants to continue to work on economic development.

Griffith said if elected, he will fight cap and trade, the deficit, health care takeover and other issues, and "go to Washington and shake things up."�

Heaton said as an independent, if elected he would work with both parties to represent the district's interests.


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