Washington Post: Pr. William backs a route that would bury most of high-voltage power line

From the Washington Post

by Victoria St Martin

If the Prince William Board of County Supervisors had its way, a planned high-voltage power line through the county would be buried, snaking along a route roughly parallel to Interstate 66.

Last month, Dominion Virginia Power proposed five possible routes for the 230,000-volt power line, which county officials said they believe would supply energy to a planned data center in Haymarket operated by Amazon. The company has not made its plans clear. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, owns The Washington Post.)

But this week, county supervisors unanimously approved a resolution in support of a route that would take the high-voltage line from Gainesville to Haymarket along the interstate and run both aboveground and below it.

The supervisors’ vote Tuesday night was largely symbolic: The resolution did nothing to settle the question of where the power line will be built. The State Corporation Commission will decide that, and it has set no timetable for its ruling. A Dominion spokesman said the utility would defer to the commission’s decision. Chuck Penn, a Dominion spokesman, said the company plans to file an application in coming weeks.

Prince William officials said they hope they’ve sent a clear message that they think having most of the line aboveground would tarnish the county’s landscape. Dominion’s proposed routes run through private properties and the county’s Buckland Historic District. One option would go through the overlay of Manassas National Battlefield Park; another goes through a state park.

“You can’t just vandalize the county by putting a big, nasty power line right in the middle of the community,” said Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the County Board. “You have to put it in the right place.”

The resolution urges the commission to approve the hybrid route, in which much of the six-mile power line would run underground.

“Local government is only supportive of the hybrid route,” said Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, who represents the Brentsville District and helped write the resolution. She added that the supervisors would also consider amending the zoning rules for data centers. She added that the resolution was drawn up with the help of area residents.

Prince William is home to 22 data centers, said Josh Levi, vice president of policy for the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Stewart said that the supervisors are not opposed to the centers but that their placement needs to be well considered and take into account residents’ concerns.

Many residents of Haymarket and Gainesville — the two communities that would be most affected by the power line — voiced their opposition to the overhead-line proposals, saying that that approach would destroy property values and the environment.

“Allowing data centers by right creates chaos,” said Elena Schlossberg, executive director of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, which opposes high-voltage overhead power lines in residential communities.

After the vote, Levi said he was concerned.

“Clearly, the county intends to convey a message saying that ‘We still want economic development, and we still want data centers,’ ” he said. “My concern is about the industry and what they will read into and hear based on the tone of the resolution.”