From PrinceWilliamTimes.com – Town Council Opposes Proposed Power Lines

By Dan Roem – droem@virginianewsgroup.com

The Haymarket Town Council is officially opposed to Dominion Virginia Power’s plan to run 110-foot-high transmission lines from Haymarket to Gainesville.

Last Monday, the Haymarket Town Council became the first government body to officially oppose the six-mile power lines proposed by Dominion Virginia Power that would connect Gainesville and Haymarket.

The 230-kilovolt transmission lines would run on poles standing 110 feet high. The path would cut across part of the southern side of town before reaching its terminus at a substation just outside the western end of town.

It’s designed not just to bring additional power to western Prince William County, which is Dominion’s chief talking point, but it would service a planned data center by online retail giant Amazon.

Dominion has not publicly acknowledged the latter, simply saying it has a prospective “client” that would need the power but that a confidentiality agreement prohibits the company from discussing the details of that specific project.

Yet documents filed with the county Planning Office with Vadata Inc. (Amazon) show the construction of a data center is planned for 15505 John Marshall Highway (Route 55) in Haymarket, an address that happens to adjoin the substation that Dominion would use to end the power line.

Amazon has also advertised for jobs at a data center in Haymarket on its website.

The Town Council heard a presentation from Dominion regarding the power lines on Aug. 25 and the Planning Commission later did the same.

Haymarket Planning Commission Chairman Bob Weir told the council during a Sept. 23 work session that “it’s quite apparent that the sole and only need for this power line is the Amazon complex,” in order to provide a “100-megawatt service at that site.”

He addressed the mayor and council uninterrupted with a low-key, sanguine speech lasting more than half an hour while seated next to fellow Commissioner Ralph Ring.

They both then participated in a question-and-answer session with council members, particularly dominated by first-term member Chris Morris.

Weir mentioned during a separate interview that Dominion has detailed about seven alternative routes to the primary one suggested.

The council members voted 4-0 in favor of a resolution opposing “the proposed location of the Dominion Power transmission and distribution lines along the railroad tracks,” citing six reasons.

Morris introduced the resolution, which he supported along with council members Pamela Swinford and Joe Pasanello and vice mayor Steven Aitken.

Two council members, Matt Caudle and Kurt Woods, did not attend the Sept. 23 work session.

Weir suggested edits to the resolution, such as including a phrase about the council opposing any route that cuts through the town’s wetlands instead of just that specific route, but those edits did not make it into the draft read by Morris.

More than the language itself though, Weir objected primarily to the resolution’s timing, calling Dominion’s proposal a “moving target” subject to change before the utility company submits its approval request to the State Corporation Commission.

The planning commissioner noted the resolution would serve the town well as a form of public relations but it’s still premature to comment on a routing for the line without all the final details about the route.

He also told council members they should do more than just say they oppose the route by suggesting an alternative they would support. That would show the SCC that the town is working toward a constructive solution instead of just saying, “Not in my backyard,” or NIMBY for short.

“It makes your self interest appear too much for the State Corporation Commission,” said Weir.

Aitken agreed with Weir though he ultimately voted for the resolution.

“Dominion already knows we’re against this. Doing a resolution is more of a PR [public relations] stunt here rather than a productive action, so I would think that taking a step back, even rewriting this one and keeping (it) in our back pocket (so) that can be exercised at a moment’s notice is advantageous to us,” he said.

Swinford and Morris disagreed, with Swinford calling it “more of a public statement” announcing the town’s position while Morris added, “The residents, as of now, apart from that (previous) work session, have not heard from us.”

Town officials generally prefer power placed underground compared to giant above-ground poles.

Dominion made the case last month during a meeting with residents at Battlefield High School that underground wires cost substantially more to implement, have a shorter shelf-life and are more expensive to repair.

Meanwhile, Weir noted the planning commission is drafting an in-depth report during October regarding the lines, which should be available by the council’s November meeting.