HB 1766 and SB 1110: The Drama Continues…
Coalition Press Release:
Virginia House and Senate Amend Legislation; Stopping Short-Circuit of Local Voice in Infrastructure Zoning
Executive director says: “PWC Local officials came up big; Delegate Habeeb compromised; Senator Stanley looked small.”
Haymarket, Virginia (February 17, 2017) – Local state and county-elected officials joined with the Coalition to Protect Prince William County to contain damage from a “Trojan Horse” bill designed to short circuit local participation in utility-related zoning and land use regulation.
Coalition executive director Elena Schlossberg stated, “As always, I stand in awe of what our community can do when we speak with one voice. This was high drama in the General Assembly. Thanks to Senator Richard Stuart’s amendment, the Senate version of the bill, which passed on Thursday, February 16, excludes Prince William County. On Friday, February 17, Delegate Habeeb agreed to and gained passage of an identical amendment to the House bill. And the desire to properly limit the bill is so widespread that voting on the final bill has been held over until Monday, February 20, so that other Delegates may consider exempting their relevant planning district. We believe every district should take this opportunity to add this additional layer of protection for themselves to the proposed legislation.”
Senator Stuart told his constituents and Coalition supporters, “Over the course of my nine years in the Virginia Senate, I have never received as many emails on one single issue as I did on SB 1110 and HB 1766. This legislation was unsettling to me because it could have opened a door to a part of my district that has been battling a certain utilities group for years. I am glad that the Senate accepted my floor amendment and ultimately passed the bill that completely exempts Prince William County.”
“This controversy is not over until identical bills sit on the governor’s desk and receive his signature,” Schlossberg continued. “But thanks to Senator Stuart and Delegate Habeeb, it looks like – at a minimum – citizens of Prince William County can breathe a little easier. It’s up to the full House of Delegates now.”
“None of this would have happened without the tireless – and tough – hours put in by our own state and local leaders, including Delegate Bob Marshall and County Board of Supervisors vice chairman Jeanine Lawson, as well as volunteers from the Coalition. These dedicated individuals worked against intense time pressure and sometimes virulent opposition to serve their constituents and neighbors.”
Schlossberg added, “It’s clear to me that many Virginia legislators are starting to realize what the Coalition and others have known for a long time – that no piece of legislation which exempts regulated utilities with deep pockets from reasonable regulation can be regarded neutrally. That’s not being cynical. It’s common sense.”
“I must exclude Senator Stanley from that group, however,” Schlossberg went on. “His outbursts – and frankly tantrums – during testimony and voting on the Senate floor, were beneath the dignity of his office. He may not agree with the majority of his colleagues that the original bill left doors open which needed to be closed. That’s his right. But the way in which he expressed his opinion suggests doors aren’t the only thing sometimes better left shut.”
Schlossberg concluded, “Still, we are close to securing a win for our community. We urge the House of Delegates to join their Senate colleagues and pass the amended SB 1110. You know what’s right.”
# # #
2/17/17: BREAKING NEWS: Through a lot of maneuvering both legislatively and by the Coalition, SB 1110 was successfully amended this morning by the full House. It now includes the same amendment excluding Prince William County which was accepted yesterday by the Senate. The amended SB 1110 will be considered for vote on Monday, Feb. 20 by the full Senate. Watch for a press release from the Coalition coming out shortly.
HB 1766 was amended to exclude Prince William County (thanks to a floor amendment put forward by Senator Stuart, Senate 28th District) and passed by the Senate yesterday. The passage was not without venomous protestations from Senator Stanley (see link below).
This write-up from The Derecho gives a good synopsis of the activity on the Senate floor yesterday:
“Now Let Us Have Our Way And Be Gone”, a quote from Senator Stanley (R-Brylcreem) largely sums the problems many have with the Imperial Clown Show. Me thinks Senator Stanley doth protest too much.
Senator Stanley’s petulant rant on the Senate Floor during debate of HB1766 (Habeeb) ultimately underscored the concerns of many residents of the Commonwealth (not merely those in Prince William County) and furthered the impression that many in the upper house of the Imperial Clown Show are nothing more than self absorbed stooges of their largest political donors. I would note however that although I took Senator Wagner to task earlier in the week, I will give credit when credit is due and he was one of the few adults in the room yesterday when he expressed his support of Senator Stuart’s amendment. Senator Wagner thus gets a “Derecho Gold Star” for his handling of HB1766, albeit probably his first and last.
I should point out a few things to the tone-deaf Senator from Appalachia. First, nobody is questioning the need or intent of the bill as applied to the APCO service area. What is in question is the potential for future amendment and unforeseen consequences elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Most have an expectation that such concerns regarding legislative impacts are a consideration in the drafting of legislation and subsequent debate. NOVA isn’t pushing ROVA around on this issue, its residents are simply asserting that this particular piece of one-size-fits-all legislation only fits Southwestern Virginia. I guess its pretty easy to pick on NOVA when a large part of your Senate District’s educational and tax funding is derived from NOVA residents’ tax receipts; residents to whom you have no direct connection or accountability. I don’t know about his part of the Commonwealth but across the rest of the state, I suspect most expect the Legislature to craft responsible legislation that considers impacts across the Commonwealth. I will remind you of your focus on localized impacts next time the Imperial Clown Show entertains bills designed to squeeze more tax dollars solely out of the residents of NOVA and Tidewater.
If, as you have repeatedly stated, HB1766 and SB1110 are Southern Virginia bills, then you should have no problem accepting amendments which restrict their application to Southern Virginia. Your repeated resistance to such amendments both in Committee and on the Senate floor merely furthers the impression that the purpose is not simply to address problems in Southern Virginia but also to set the stage for Dominion Power elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Unless your resistance is simply a manifestation of an overbearing ego, me thinks you doth protest too much.
To that end, your repeated assertions that this is simply to address the approval of transfer stations and will not strip localities of their existing authority over zoning review and approval, is simply untrue. Did you not read the text of your legislation before and after you submitted it? To review it provides as follows:
Provides that the issuance by the State Corporation Commission of a certificate of public convenience and necessity for construction of an electrical transmission line of 138 kilovolts and any associated facilities shall be deemed to satisfy local comprehensive plan requirements and all local zoning ordinances with respect to the transmission line and associated facilities. The measure defines “associated facilities” as including any station, substation, transition station, and switchyard facilities to be constructed in association with the 138 kilovolt transmission line.
Let me be clear, under the existing statutes,”associated facilities” namely stations, substations, transition stations, and switchyard facilities are under the purview of the localities and not the SCC. You said as much yourself in noting that the legislation is in response to the Skiffs Creek decision. While your constituent residents and localities may have a wonderful and trustworthy relationship with APCO, many of us in the remainder of the Commonwealth do not have such a relationship with Dominion Virginia Power, rather, we have one that can at best be described as adversarial. Beating up on Dominion is not so much a blood sport in these parts but rather a necessary response to their often questionable tactics and less than forthcoming disclosures. Before you next blast the residents and elected officials of Prince William County, perhaps you should walk a few miles in our shoes.
Which takes us to Senator Stanley’s Voodoo Doll analogy. Senator Stanley, you sure do know how to dig your holes deeper with your mouth. Riddle me this Senator, if the Senator Stuart’s amendment is simply a voodoo doll and more particularly a voodoo doll that can’t protect us, pray tell what is it that the voodoo doll can’t protect us from? I think we know the answer and your statement strongly underscores our concern that HB1766 and SB1110 are merely the first step in legislative strategy designed to strip all localities of their existing authority over zoning review and approval allowing to Dominion and other utilities to venue shop and circumvent local opposition. You see Senator Stanley, this isn’t our first rodeo and we are quite versed in how the sausage is made at the local, state and Federal levels, largely because many of us have long term professional experience with the process.
SB1110 is scheduled for its third reading in the House today and in all likelihood a similar amendment will be offered. It is my hope that the amendment is accepted and that the behavior of the Delegates is more mature than that of their counterparts in the Senate. Delegate Habeeb, it would be nice if you got out in front of the matter in a fashion similar to Senator Wagner. Look at it as an opportunity to be an adult in the room.
2/16/17: Link to video of Senate:
Debate on HB1766 begins at 2:27:20, Sen. Stanley’s rant begins at 2:30:00 and the bill passes at 2:34:30
Citizens, who went to Richmond, were denied the opportunity to speak before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on February 13th regarding the legislation in HB 1766 and SB 1110. So we sent our testimony via emails to all delegates and senators – See below (after the news article).
Here is the most recent news coverage in the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding this legislation (see bolded section in article below):
Dominion underground line bill, Appalachian bill bypassing local zoning, clear committee
By ROBERT ZULLO Richmond Times-Dispatch February 14, 2017
The House of Delegates’ Commerce and Labor Committee advanced legislation Tuesday that would direct the State Corporation Commission to view Dominion Virginia Power’s pricey plans to bury some of its outage-prone lines in a more favorable light.
The committee also moved forward a controversial bill that would allow utilities to bypass local zoning for certain “associated facilities” of 138-kilovolt transmission lines such as switching stations. Appalachian Power is currently the only utility with such lines, according to the commission.
Senate Bill 1473 by Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, comes about a year and a half after the commission rejected the initial phase of a Dominion plan to put about 4,000 miles of lines prone to storm outages underground at a cost to ratepayers of about $6 billion over the life of the new underground lines. The commission later approved a scaled-back pilot version.
Saslaw’s bill, which has passed the Senate and breezed through the committee Tuesday on a 21-0 vote, directs the SCC to consider moving underground tap lines that have had nine or more unplanned outages in the past 10 years “in the public interest” and also to presume the expense billed to ratepayers to be “reasonably and prudently incurred.” That presumption, however, is “rebuttable.”
Before the committee Tuesday, Saslaw retold a story that the bill had won him a standing ovation from an audience of constituents, who he said were more than willing to shell out more money for quicker restoration of power after outages.
“When you don’t have electricity for three or four days, you’re not going to sit there and negotiate rates,” Saslaw said.
Though moving the lines underground will happen only in certain areas, all Dominion ratepayers will share the cost, culminating at about $4 a month on the average bill by 2027, Dominion says.
The company said the project will make restoration of service after storms about 50 percent faster.
The committee also advanced Senate Bill 1110 by Sen. William M. Stanley Jr., R-Franklin County, which allows utilities to avoid local planning and zoning approval for substations and other facilities that accompany 138-kilovolt transmission lines.
The bill, which passed the Senate earlier this month and cleared the committee on an 18-3 vote, has been opposed by municipal and county groups as well as some lawmakers who say it strips localities of the power to make land-use decisions.
A companion bill, House Bill 1766 by Del. Gregory D. Habeeb, R-Salem, has passed the House and made it out of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on Monday.
The Coalition to Protect Prince William County, a group opposed to a 230-kilovolt Dominion transmission line and associated infrastructure that will run through Haymarket, has called the legislation “a Trojan horse aimed at stopping local elected officials and regulatory bodies from exercising their duties.”
Dominion has said it does not oppose or support the legislation.
Citizen testimony – 2/15/17 emails to senators and delegates:
Having been procedurally denied the opportunity to speak regarding HB1766 at Monday’s Commerce Committee meeting, I am forced to express my views electronically.
I have been characterized as one of the cynical and purportedly misinformed residents of the Commonwealth. While it is without argument that I am cynical, perhaps to a fault, I am by no means misinformed. Too informed, possibly, misinformed, not a chance.
I have considerable experience with legislative matters at both the State and Federal levels, making me all too well aware of how the sausage is made. SB1110 and HB1766 are examples of poorly made sausage, bills that create new precedents and portend a host of unintended consequences.
Although both bills appear to be solutions in search of a problem, I don’t question Del. Habeeb’s and Sen. Stanley’s intent to address perceived issues in Southwest Virginia. That being said, both Del. Habeeb and Sen. Stanley have rejected amendments to the bills despite repeatedly asserting that the bills are directed solely to APCO’s 138kv service and have nothing to do with Dominion or the remainder of the Commonwealth.
Although I would prefer that HB1766 be rejected by the Senate, I understand that both Del. Habeeb and Sen. Stanley need to address the needs of their constituents. Thus I would simply ask that HB1766 be amended by limiting its application to the APCO service district. Such an amendment would allay some of the fears expressed throughout the Commonwealth and restore some faith in the legislature, particularly among those more cynical residents of the Commonwealth.
My name is Karen Sheehan. I came to Richmond to speak in opposition to the legislation which Delegate Habeeb (and Senator Stanley) have put forward in HB 1766 and SB 1110.
Virginia has been my home since I was three years old. I am a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. I am also a professional, with over twenty-five years’ experience in the communications industry, and ten years as a public servant before that. I have lived in many parts of Virginia, and have now settled in Prince William County, with my husband, in our forever home. My daughter and son-in-law live in Roanoke. And I own property in Roanoke. So I am also a constituent of Delegate Habeeb.
Delegate Habeeb would like to diminish the significance of the intent of his House Bill 1766. He would have you believe that this bill, which he has failed at shrouding in obscurity, serves solely to speed up construction of APCO 138kV lines in his Southwestern district. He doth protest too much that his bill has no effect on any other part of the state, that it has no effect on local government authority, and that it has nothing to do with Dominion Power.
Contrary to Delegate Habeeb’s on-the-record claims that “Dominion didn’t ask for this bill, didn’t lobby for this bill, didn’t know about this bill, and doesn’t care about this bill,” Dominion Power lobbyists have worked very diligently to ensure that this bill is passed. Their lobbyists have been working the floor of the House and the Senate during this session, and have spoken in support of these bills before both Commerce and Labor committees. I know that Dominion Power has handsomely taken care of each of the members of the House and Senate committees, to the tune of more than $1M in donations. If this legislation has nothing to do with Dominion Power, then why has Delegate Farrell, the son of Dominion Power’s CEO, recused himself from voting on this legislation?
If this legislation has no effect on the authority of local governments, then why have all delegates and senators been contacted by VACO, VML, and Boards of Supervisors from throughout the state, asking you to vote against this legislation?
If this legislation has no effect on any other part of the state, then why have all delegates and senators received hundreds and hundreds of emails and phone calls from citizens, not only from my county, but from across the state, demanding that the interests of citizens, who are your constituents, and the power of their local governments must be protected – by stopping this legislation?
If you think I am cynical, you are right. If you think I am being cynical by believing that the true intention of this legislation is to get something through which can easily be amended, such that local authority will be removed over placement of substations and other local infrastructure for higher kV projects – such as the Dominion project in my own Prince William County – you are right.
I don’t trust that this body is looking out for the citizens of our state when utilities are involved. I don’t trust Delegate Habeeb when he says that he can and will prevent this legislation from being amended to include higher kV transmission projects. I have been misled and lied to by Dominion Power. I have personally witnessed Delegate Habeeb making fun of citizens testifying before the House committee, two years ago while he sat on the dais. And Senator Stanley would be right if he also thinks of me as another “that” to be stopped, which is how he referred to Supervisor Jeanine Lawson from Prince William County, when he confronted her after she testified two weeks ago in opposition to his SB 1110.
So let’s get real:
It is wrong for any delegate or senator to attempt through legislation to remove the power of local governments over their own destiny. However, if Delegate Habeeb believes that the citizens in his district have no issue with that concern, then this legislation is very poorly constructed to only address a perceived need regarding two APCO 138kV projects in the 8th House district. If Delegate Habeeb, and Senator Stanley, are going to be accountable to their words and to their commitments, then this controversy can be ended by doing this: Amend the legislation before it leaves the General Assembly, to specifically state that the legislation is only applicable to APCO 138kV lines in Delegate Habeeb’s 8th House district.
If this legislation is not amended in this way, the controversy you are experiencing from your constituencies will only be ended if you VOTE NO on this legislation.
My name is Elena Schlossberg, I live in Haymarket VA.
While I may have a fancy title, Executive Director for The Coalition to Protect Prince William County, with over three thousand supporters and growing, at the end of the day, I am just a stay at home mom, passionate about advocating to protect her neighbors, her community, from what we believe could be a power grab sometime down the road by Dominion Power.
HB1766 with companion bill SB1110, removes imperative oversight by local governments to permit substations and/or switching stations. I understand that Delegate Habeeb and Senator Stanley have stated, in multiple news outlets, that this bill is required for their districts and their residents have no objections. And while I can respect their desire to stream line the APCO process for two 138KV projects, I am at a loss of why this bill has not been restricted to only address their specific needs. Because, there are citizens, plenty of them, who DO object, along with their elected leaders throughout Virginia.
Delegate Habeeb has clearly stated that this bill will NOT affect Dominion Power as they have no 138KV distribution lines and if indeed that is the case, that this bill will have no impact on the entire Commonwealth, then I ask: What IS the resistance to simply amending the bill to state?: The legislation is only applicable to APCO 138KV lines in the 8th House of Delegates District.
When I watched Delegate Habeeb speak before the House Committee on Labor and Commerce, I was surprised that he appeared shocked at the mistrust and cynicism of citizens towards government and legislation. You see, we DO fear that Dominion will attempt to use HB1766 or SB1110 as a precedent to push, at some later date, the removal of oversight from ALL local government for switching stations and substations.
Amending this legislation is a tangible opportunity to demonstrate to citizens that you ARE listening, that you can address the needs of a constituency, District 8, while at the same time ensuring you are protecting the rights of ALL the citizens in the Commonwealth.
Citizens need you to be our advocates. So please, either vote no, or amend the legislation to address the needs of District 8 only. Since Delegate Habeeb and Senator Stanley have advocated for their district, so should you respect the Senators and Delegates from other regions of Virginia who are voting no or recommending an Amendment.
Both bills have been approved by the Commerce and Labor committees, in both the House and the Senate.
But – There is still time to affect the final votes in the General Assembly.
Your emails, together with all of the communications on this issue from other citizens, multiple groups, and local governments throughout the state, as well as increasing media coverage (see most recent articles in our Headline News), do have an impact .
Let them feel continuing pressure from citizens.
Senator Stanley, together with Delegate Habeeb, are trying to rob our local governments from having a say in decisions on local infrastructure – such as substations.
You can make their phones ring off the hook – use the list below.
|Senate Member Name
|Barker, George L.
|Black, Richard H.
|Carrico, Charles W., Sr.
|Chafin, A. Benton , Jr.
|Chase, Amanda F.
|Cosgrove, John A. , Jr.
|Dance, Rosalyn R.
|Deeds, R. Creigh
|DeSteph, William R. , Jr.
|Dunnavant, Siobhan S.
|Ebbin, Adam P.
|Edwards, John S.
|Favola, Barbara A.
|Hanger, Emmett W., Jr.
|Howell, Janet D.
|Lewis, Lynwood W. , Jr.
|Locke, Mamie E.
|Lucas, L. Louise
|Marsden, David W.
|Mason, T. Montgomery “Monty”
|McClellan, Jennifer L.
|McDougle, Ryan T.
|McPike, Jeremy S.
|Newman, Stephen D.
|Norment, Thomas K., Jr.
|Obenshain, Mark D.
|Peake, Mark J.
|Petersen, J. Chapman
|Reeves, Bryce E.
|Ruff, Frank M., Jr.
|Saslaw, Richard L.
|Spruill, Lionell , Sr.
|Stanley, William M., Jr.
|Stuart, Richard H.
|Sturtevant, Glen H. , Jr.
|Suetterlein, David R.
|Surovell, Scott A.
|Vogel, Jill Holtzman
|Wagner, Frank W.
|Wexton, Jennifer T.
|Va. Assembly – House Members
|Leslie R. (Les)
|Hyland F. (Buddy)
|Nicholas J. (Nick)
|Thomas A. (Tag)
|C. E. Cliff
|N. D. (Rocky)
|James A. (Jay)
|G. M. (Manoli)
|James P. (Jimmie)
|James W. (Will)
||O’Bannon , III
|Marcia S. (Cia)
|Richard C. (Rip)
Habeeb-Stanley “Trojan Horse” Aims to Eliminate Local Voice in Utility Regulation
Executive director says: “The Habeeb-Stanley Trojan horse doesn’t just shorten the process – it short circuits it.”
Haymarket, Virginia (January 30, 2017) – The Coalition to Protect Prince William County intensified its efforts to expose efforts in Richmond which will short circuit local participation in utility-related zoning and land use regulation.
Coalition executive director Elena Schlossberg stated, “Together, Delegate Habeeb’s HB 1766 and Senator Stanley’s SB 1110 make up a Trojan Horse aimed at stopping local elected officials and regulatory bodies from exercising their duties. It’s like pressing the mute button on citizens’ voices in what is often a venue of last resort for protecting homes and habitat. As citizens, elected officials, and attorneys, both men should know better.”
“Delegate Habeeb keeps repeating that he’s just trying to ‘shorten the process’ for regulatory decisions, presumably to benefit large regulated utilities,” Schlossberg continued. “What he ignores is the well-established role of local elected officials in exercising zoning and land use policies for the good of their communities and businesses. Delegate Habeeb simply does not care about short circuiting the local process and is working to cut local representation out of the process altogether. Odd for a self-described conservative who might be expected to favor established law, localized decision making, and property rights. Or maybe pocketbooks trump principle.”
Schlossberg added, “Delegate Habeeb’s actions in particular have crossed the line into dishonorable behavior unfit for an elected public servant. Habeeb openly derided colleagues on the House of Delegates floor, ignored statewide opposition to his bill from groups including local boards of supervisors, the Virginia Association of Counties, and the Virginia Municipal League; and denied the fact that his bill violates Article 1, Section 14 of the Virginia Constitution by granting de facto zoning powers to private utility companies. The man has had a busy week.”
“Habeeb and Stanley also try to assert that their bills only apply in limited circumstance to 138kV transmission lines in limited locales,” Schlossberg observed. “Habeeb has also taken great pains to point out that Dominion Power does not use 138kV lines. As if the scope of the bill cannot – or will not – be extended when Dominion sees fit to use their usual source of influence: money. Habeeb knows this, as Dominion and Appalachian Power are top ten donors. Stanley does too, with Dominion and the Association of Electric Cooperatives ranking in his top eleven donors.”
“Senator Stanley also might consider how his complicity in making it easier for regulated utilities to seize private property will play among his constituents, who have sought his help in their own struggles against a utility company interfering with their property rights and enjoyment,” Schlossberg went on.
Schlossberg concluded, “Ultimately, Habeeb and Stanley are playing small supporting roles in a much larger drama. The real question lies with each General Assembly Delegate or Senator – will you vote for HB 1766 and SB 1110, and thereby subvert existing law and local governments? Or will you have the decency to vote NO, and serve the interests of your constituents and all Virginia citizens across the Commonwealth?
As a reminder: SB 1110 and HB 1766 attempt to quietly strip authority from local Boards of Supervisors to execute their own land-use policies. For citizens, local bodies are often the only venue for defending their property.
These bills are aimed at every local board statewide.
These bills set a dangerous precedent that will affect and come back to haunt every Senator, and every constituent, in every district throughout the state. The bills will rob local governments of the ability to intervene and protect their own localities all across Virginia – localities made up of each Senator’s constituents!
This is bad legislation with statewide implications – no matter what Delegate Habeeb has tried to represent. They must protect the citizens who elected them into office, and who expect them to uphold their elected responsibilities.