About 250 people showed up at a wind energy forum sponsored by Shenandoah Forum to learn more about a proposal to put 130 turbines in the George Washington National Forest along the VA-WV line in Shenandoah, Rockingham, and Hardy counties. Opponents cite harm to bird and bat populations from the 400 foot tall structures and contend this site is not optimal for year-around electric generation. Supporters contend this is one of the better sites in the mid-Atlantic and that it can boost local economic activity through tourism. Last winter the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club held a similar forum in Harrisonburg on the Highland County wind farm. CCC supports the development of properly sited wind turbines when environmental impacts are minimized. It is a small part of a national energy solution using renewable sources. We must avoid the NIMBY syndrome and keep an open mind when considering alternative energy sources.
Speaking of the local Sierra Club, they sponsored a forum on railroads at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton last night. The speaker, from Rail Solution, presented a detailed and interesting overview of rail options in Virginia, the entire I-81 corridor, and nationwide. Rail offers an efficient, safe, environmentally-friendly, and economically viable option to widening the interstate. Lots of facts and figures - almost too much to take in at once. Unfortunately, there were only about a dozen people present and no media coverage. Sam Rasoul, the Democratic candidate for House of Representatives, attended and asked probing questions about costs, public-private funding, and the European experience with high-speed rail.
And more on the transportation issue - Governor Kaine has called a special session of the General Assembly to deal with transportation funding. Kaine seems to be saying "Yes, we can" while the Republican House leadership says "No, we can't." The governor has proposed raising various taxes to raise funds for roads. CCC says raise the gas tax and dedicate it totally to road maintenance and construction. The Virginia gas tax is below the national average. Would an additional 5 or 10 cents even be noticed with $4/gallon gas? Plus, unlike the governor's tax hikes, the gas tax hits those who use the roads, including out-of-state motorists.