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Westport Candidates Tackle Green Issues In Debate

WESTPORT, Conn. – With questions about labeling genetically modified foods and on Long Island Sound, Westport’s state representative candidates shared their positions on environmental issues facing Westport and the state Tuesday in a debate at Earthplace.

The debate included the four candidates running for two district seats: Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg and his Republican challenger Stephen Rubin for the 136th District, and Republican state Rep. Gail Lavielle and Democrat challenger Ted Hoffstatter in the 143rd District race.

Despite party differences, the candidates shared some opinions. For example, each candidate said he or she would support legislation requiring that genetically modified foods — foods that are unnaturally altered — be labeled.

"These things have to be labeled, and quite frankly, investigated before we go too far," said Hoffstatter, a Wilton selectman.

The candidates also agreed on the importance of preserving open space, yet said they would not support a conveyance tax that would allow the state to purchase more land to preserve.

One topic the candidates disagreed on was the Sound. Specifically, they were asked how, if at all, they think the Sound can be used as an energy source to help reduce reliance on foreign oil or foster renewable resources.

Rubin, a current member of the Representative Town Meeting since 1993, said the Sound is "a benefit to us all" and that it's important not to upset that asset. “However, if we’re able to find a clean, safe way to bring natural gas from Long Island to Connecticut, we’d be able to have a cleaner source of energy.”

Steinberg suggested finding a way to capture and use energy created by waves. "We all know the problems that erosion causes on our beaches, why don't we find a way to use that energy productively?"

Hoffstatter said he believes the state should look into the feasibility of using a portion of the Sound for a wind farm.

Lavielle, also of Wilton, said she is not in favor of using the Sound. "It would not fall in sync with any of the things we are trying to do to protect it.” Instead, she said she is in favor of exploring other methods of alternative energy elsewhere.

The candidates, as well as the candidates for the 26th and 28th state senate districts, will participate in a debate Monday at Westport Town Hall, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Parent-Teacher Association Council. That debate will begin at 7 p.m.

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