Across Virginia

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VT Concept Drawing

It has been one week since Amazon announced it will build a new headquarters complex in Alexandria — and the major role Virginia Tech played in Amazon’s decision became clear. The decision is seen by many as significantly elevating Tech’s global stature and role into the next century. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has removed two members of the State Air Pollution Control Board after the citizen review board delayed a key vote on whether to allow a natural gas compressor station in a historic African-American community.

News outlets report that Northam’s move has angered minority groups and environmentalists, who say the governor is trying to improperly influence the board in order to help Dominion Energy build a new natural gas pipeline.

Northam’s office said the board members’ terms had expired this summer and their removal was unrelated to the pipeline.

Earlier this month the board issued a surprising delay on a vote to approve a permit for a natural gas compressor station in Buckingham County. The new vote is set for Dec. 10.

The Winter Storm Warning has expired, but the National Weather Service has issued a special weather statement saying additional glazing of ice is possible on trees, power lines and other elevated surfaces. And ice on trees may remain heavy enough to cause additional power outages.

From the National Weather Service: Bulk of the heavy rain has moved north of the area this afternoon. However, light rain and drizzle will likely persist into this evening. Majority of the area has seen temperatures warm into the mid 30s, while a few locations are still experiencing temperatures near 30F. Additional glazing of ice is possible on elevated surfaces such as trees and decks. Ice on trees may remain heavy enough to cause limbs to snap resulting in additional power outages.

Floyd County is among the areas hardest-hit by icing-related power outages. Appalachian Power reports that as of early afternoon, close to 8,000 Floyd County customers were in the dark. More than 37,000 are without service in Apco’s Virginia service area.

From Appalachian Power: Ice, sleet and snow are sweeping through Appalachian Power’s Virginia and southeastern West Virginia service areas today, knocking out power to more than 58,000 customers. Much of the damage is caused by trees that have fallen under the weight of the ice and sleet mix. This has also caused many downed power lines in these areas. As the storm continues throughout the day, more outages could occur.

 The greatest ice accumulations are occurring in the counties of Grayson, Carroll and Floyd in Virginia as temperatures will remain near to just below 32 degrees for much of today. Moderate ice (1/4-1/2” with some heavier pockets up to 3/4”) is expected in these areas. By sunset tonight, temperatures are expected to gradually rise above freezing in all areas, allowing for melting and the end of the icing threat.

Contract crews moved into place yesterday have joined local crews and are restoring power where it is safe to do so. These areas include Christiansburg, Woodlawn, Independence, Floyd, Wytheville and Roanoke in Virginia and Princeton, Bluefield and Beckley in West Virginia.

This morning, additional Appalachian Power assessment teams are moving in from areas that were not impacted, including Huntington, Charleston and Wheeling in West Virginia, as well as Kingsport, Tenn. Neighboring crews from Kentucky Power are also assisting  in restoration efforts.

VT Concept Drawing

Virginia Tech plans to create a $1 billion campus in Alexandria to accompany Amazon’s construction of a Virginia headquarters a few miles away in Arlington. Tech’s “Innovation Campus”, as it will be called, will focus on graduate degrees. The first 100 students will begin their studies in temporary buildings next year. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

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NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon, which has grown too big for its Seattle hometown, said it will split its much-anticipated second headquarters between New York and northern Virginia.Each will get 25,000 jobs. In addition, the online retailer said it will open an operations hub in Nashville, creating 5,000 jobs.Its New York location will be in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, while its Virginia offices will be in a part of Arlington that Amazon is calling National Landing, a made-up moniker for an area around Reagan National Airport that encompasses Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

The decision ends intense competition between North American cities to win Amazon and its promise of 50,000 new jobs. Some locations tried to stand out with stunts, but Amazon made clear that it really wanted incentives, like tax breaks and grants. The company received 238 proposals before narrowing the list to 20 in January. With Long Island City and National Landing, the company is choosing two waterfront communities away from overcrowded business districts, giving Amazon space to grow. New York, already a financial and media powerhouse, has been trying to attract more tech workers. And northern Virginia has been looking to fill its 1980s-era buildings after thousands of federal employees moved elsewhere.

Amazon is referring to the two new locations as headquarters even though with 25,000 jobs each, they would have fewer workers than its Seattle hometown that houses more than 40,000 employees. Amazon said Seattle will remain as one of Amazon’s three headquarters. The extra space will help the rapidly growing company. Launched in 1995 as an online bookstore, Amazon now produces movies, makes voice-activated Echo devices, runs the Whole Foods grocery chain, offers online services to businesses and designs its own brands of furniture, clothing and diapers. There were early signs that Amazon had its sights set on New York and northern Virginia. Among its 20 finalists, the company had selected two locations in the New York metro area and three in the D.C. area.

Being near the nation’s capital could help Amazon with lobbying efforts as the company, and other fast-growing tech giants, face rising scrutiny from politicians. Plus, CEO and founder Jeff Bezos has a home in Washington D.C., and he personally owns The Washington Post. Amazon’s workforce has ballooned to more than 610,000 worldwide, and that’s expected to increase as it builds more warehouses across the country to keep up with online orders. The company recently announced that it would pay all its workers at least $15 an hour, but the employees at its second headquarters will be paid a lot more.

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court will hear an appeal by Virginia Republicans who are trying to preserve state legislative districts that have been struck down by a lower court as racially discriminatory. The court’s action Tuesday comes in a case involving 11 districts in the Virginia House of Delegates. Democratic voters accused majority Republicans of packing black voters into certain districts to make surrounding districts whiter and more Republican. A three-judge federal court in Virginia ruled 2-1 in June in favor of the Democratic voters and has appointed a redistricting expert to draw a new legislative map. The Supreme Court already has ruled once in the case. Last year, the justices voted 7-1 to throw out an earlier ruling that had upheld the challenged districts.

A law center that represents low-income Virginians is challenging a state law that suspends the drivers’ licenses of residents who haven’t paid court costs for any court cases — not just driving offenses. The case goes before a federal judge this week. Attorneys filing the suit say close to one million Virginians have licenses suspended in whole or in part over failure to pay court costs. WFIR’s Evan Jones has the story:

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LOUISA, Va. (AP) — A defense lawyer in Virginia made oral arguments seeking removal of a portrait of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee for his African-American client’s upcoming trial on a murder charge. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports defense attorney Douglas Ramseur argued before a Louisa County judge on Thursday that his client shouldn’t be tried in the courtroom unless the painting is taken down. A motion over the portrait was filed in October. The trial is scheduled for May. Darcel Nathaniel Murphy is charged with the 2016 killing of another man who was black.

Ramseur argued the painting of Lee was meant to venerate Confederates who fought to uphold slavery and white supremacy. He said the painting could have a prejudicial effect. The prosecutor’s office said it doesn’t have a position on the matter.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Regulators in Virginia have delayed voting on a permit for a natural gas pumping station in a historic African-American community after raising questions about environmental justice issues.

The Washington Post reports the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board on Friday delayed its vote until Dec. 10.

The pumping station is part of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline being built in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina by a coalition led by Dominion Energy.

Board members questioned environmental officials about whether race and income in the Union Hill community were considered in their recommendation to approve the permit. State law requires that such facilities not have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities.

Officials said they believe stringent air pollution controls would keep the station from emitting harmful levels of gases.

This is election day in Virginia and nationwide as Americans decide which party will control the House of Representatives for the next two years. Several Virginia seats are considered among those as candidates for “flips” to Democrats. While polls continue to project a Democratic majority come January, our political analyst says things may end up closer than those polls predict. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

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Voters in the Roanoke area will select candidates in one of three Congressional districts in the region: the 5th, 6th and 9th Districts. Voters living in the House of Delegates 8th District will also take part in a special election to fill the seat left vacant when Greg Habeeb left his position in August. Senator Tim Kaine is seeking a second term, facing a challenge from Republican Corey Stewart.  There are also two proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution on the statewide ballot.

 

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