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Ralph Northam Faces Pressure from Protesters for Pipeline Views

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Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam talking at Albemarle County Democratic Committee Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam talking at Albemarle County Democratic Committee
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Democratic candidate for governor Ralph Northam is facing pressure from anti-pipeline groups in central Virginia to oppose Dominion's planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

They peppered him with questions at Saturday morning's monthly breakfast meeting of the Albemarle County Democratic Committee.

He fielded many questions after his speech to party members; all of them were about the pipeline.

“I have a very strong environmental record, that's one of the reasons that I got into this business, I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, it was blue in my backyard," Northam said.

Northam is running on an environmentalist platform in the race for governor. Some fellow Democrats question how he can call himself an environmentalist and support pipelines.

“You can’t just talk out of both sides of your mouth and say you’re pro-environment and pro-pipeline, those things don’t go together, at all,” Jennifer Lewis, president of Friends of Augusta, said. “Pipelines burst, they leak, they explode, if you have one leak in a water source and it’s gonna go down stream, and it’s gonna end up in the bay.”

Northam explains that as long as the pipelines are constructed correctly, they will cause no harm to the environment or to people's land.

“There are things that we can do to make sure that this is done using science, that it’s done safely, that it’s done with transparency, and that it’s done making sure we can protect peoples' property rights," Northam said.

Some Virginia Democrats are concerned that Northam has not opposed Dominion and its ACP project. They hope to change his mind.

“In a perfect world I would love to see our Democratic governor candidate return the money he's gotten from Dominion and come out against the pipelines,” Lewis said.

Northam hopes he can change the minds of protesters through round-table focus groups.

“In the next few weeks, my wife, Pam, who’s an environmentalist, and I will be traveling around Virginia, not only to Charlottesville, but to places like Nelson County, Staunton, places that are affected by the pipeline and really sit down and bring people to the table and figure out how we can move forward in the best way,” Northam said.

Lewis is also the vice chair of the Waynesboro Democratic Committee. She says she will not vote for Northam unless he has a change of heart about this issue.

Northam's Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, supporters the pipeline, calling it "an important part of Virginia's energy infrastructure".

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