Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
Griffith working to end delays with Commonwealth Crossing
Sunday, August 19, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith said Friday his office is working to resolve permitting delays for the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre in Henry County.
Both Griffith and his opponent in the Nov. 6 election, Anthony Flaccavento, commented on the project at the Virginia Peach Festival in Stuart.
Griffith, R-Salem, said his staff is working to speed up permitting on the $16.5 million grading project at the Commonwealth Crossing that has been stalled by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The corps is overseeing the permitting process of megasite industrial parks for the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Because Commonwealth Crossing is the first megasite project to apply for permits, the corps deemed the project speculative, Henry County officials have said.
The corps also has requested additional information, including an alternative analysis of why the Commonwealth Crossing property was selected over other sites and identifying potential users of pads in the new, rail-served industrial park on the county’s southern border near North Carolina.
Flaccavento, an organic farmer and Democrat from Abingdon, said he thinks there should be a way to put projects similar to the one planned at the CCBC on a fast track to permitting.
“I don’t want to skirt around the” regulations, because it is the EPA’s job to protect water and people downstream, Flaccavento said. However, when a “community or a locality puts forth a good faith effort,” there should be a way to put the project on a fast track.
He suggested an ombudsman or some other third party could speed up the process, with “the overall goal to maintain” a system of checks and balances.
“The EPA’s job is to protect water” and the environment, “not to create jobs,” Flaccavento said. But, he noted that agencies should be able to work together to reconcile their differences.
Griffith said he recently completed his “Farm Tour,” a four-day campaign swing that included 12 farms in Grayson, Carroll, and Wythe counties. He said he heard concerns about everything from ethanol in fuel to death taxes.
Farmers are concerned that up to 40 percent of the corn crop is being used to make ethanol for fuel, and that corn is being taken out of the food supply, Griffith said. That, he added, will cause a spike in prices for food for people and livestock.
Also, the so-called death taxes (inheritance and/or estate taxes) are an issue among farmers and small business owners alike, Griffith said.
In some cases, family farms may have to be sold to pay those taxes, he said, especially if the tax returns to the levels that existed before the gradual increase in the amount exempted from the estate tax and reduction in the top estate tax rate during President George W. Bush’s administration.
Griffith said Congress must act quickly to ensure the tax does not return to the pre-Bush levels.
“It’s the same thing with small businesses,” he said.
Farmers also are concerned about federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, particularly as they relate to coal, and labor issues related to the program known as F2A, which regulates migrant farm workers, Griffith said.
Seasonal work is offered first to American workers, he said he learned from farmers, but often because of the sporadic nature of the jobs, farmers have no choice but to hire migrant workers.
“Sometimes, the cost is so high, and the regulations so extensive” that they are difficult to meet, Griffith said. For instance, housing for migrant workers must meet certain guidelines, including being on public water and sewer systems.
Griffith said wells and septic systems are not allowed, and in effect, the housing guidelines for migrant workers are more than those required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a government lending program for homes.
Flaccavento said his message that “trickle down economics doesn’t work” is being well-received by voters across the district.
He believes jobs are created by supporting small businesses, encouraging sustainable farmers, through local festivals and other community-based events, and by investing in conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste reduction and other development strategies.
“Plus bring manufacturing back ... It’s a common sense message that’s resonating with people” around the district, Flaccavento said.
He added that his campaign stresses the things that are not working, but it also includes solutions to build a better future.
Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, and his wife, Janet Poindexter, attended the festival “to eat some more peaches” and buy some to take home.
He also said he went to the festival “to listen to people. I get my best input” at such events, he said, and noted that he also planned to enjoy the music.
“I love music. I sing and play a little bit,” he said.