Governor Northam stops in Staunton; discusses I-81, pipeline and renewable energy

STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) -- Staunton welcomed Governor Ralph Northam Tuesday morning. He was in town for the 2018 Governor's Summit on Rural Prosperity.

Governor Northam touched on tourism during his speech, highlighting Virginia's breweries and vineyards.

The event, which was held at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, focused on innovation in rural parts of the commonwealth. Among other topics, the governor talked about renewable energy. When asked about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline affecting the Shenandoah Valley, he said the Commonwealth still needs time before it can go without traditional energy sources.

"Renewable energy is very important to me," Northam said. "I have a commitment from Dominion that by the end of our administration, 3,000 megawatts of electricity will be generated by wind and solar. So we're moving in that direction. But it can't happen overnight."

During the summit, a few protesters stood outside the hotel expressing their opposition to the pipeline, which Dominion insists will have environmental protections in place.

On Sunday, one person who opposes the pipeline said Northam's visit to Staunton to discuss rural prosperity immediately following another step forward for the ACP felt like "a slap in the face" because of fears the ACP could negatively affect the environment.

Aside from the pipeline, a main topic of Northam's keynote speech at the summit was developing Virginia's workforce. He said he wants to make sure students are properly trained for jobs.

"Really with the theme of bringing skills to jobs. And then again working with our community colleges and apprenticeships," Northam said. "I think if we do that, if we're able to train the workforce, then businesses will be able to grow in Virginia."

The governor also touched on a topic that is always relevant for those in the Valley: Interstate 81.

"I really think over the next couple months, we'll have some good answers, good options on the table," Northam said. "We know what it's going to cost, we have the plans to do the widening and really the upgrading of Interstate 81."