From Haymarket Beat
The following is a letter to Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. It was sent by The Coalition to Protect Prince William County and distributed to local media outlets.
Dear Mr. Bezos,
The purpose of this letter is to address with you a situation that involves Amazon and individuals being harmed by choices being made. Our elected officials, national and local news reporters, citizens, and The Coalition to Protect Prince William County have had no response from you or Amazon/AWS to multiple previous communications. We are hoping that this letter will prompt engagement and response.
Your Amazon Web Services (AWS) business unit is seeking to place a data center in western Prince William County, Virginia, outside the small town of Haymarket. All involved have taken pains to hide Amazon’s identity, but job listings, regulatory documents, and comments from industry players all agree that Amazon is the prospective data center owner. Unfortunately, the location for the data center isn’t the best location in terms of infrastructure. In fact, our state utility company Dominion Virginia Power (DVP) says they need to locate a new substation right next to the data center – and put a high-voltage transmission line through residential and rural areas to serve it. DVP has told the community that without this large client and its block load, neither the substation nor the transmission line is needed.
Here’s the challenge. This transmission line requires the outright seizure of private property for right of way. For some routes under consideration, that’s over 100 acres taken, encompassing private residences, working farms, golf courses, historic wineries, natural habitat – all acres belonging to someone. Home value losses are estimated to range from 12% to 36% – and this loss is not compensated by DVP, even though the transmission line is for one private customer – Amazon.
You’ve had your own challenges innovating around government limitations to personal choice, whether it’s around taxes or drones or some other topic that hurts Amazon’s ability to conduct business and build its future. So you must be sympathetic to the cause of individual property owners who aren’t even pushing boundaries or doing anything other than owning a home, who suddenly find themselves “forced” to give up property and endure losses. They are not “persuaded” – they are told by Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) to give up their land. Amazon may say, “We just need power,” and DVP may say, “The SCC makes the decision,” but let’s be clear – without Amazon, these people would face no harm.
You speak eloquently about liberty and the American Dream. You have said, “Liberty, giving people the freedom to do what they want — as long as they’re not hurting somebody else — is super important. I think it’s the core essence of the American Dream. I think at times we as a people get confused about it.” The people who are being hurt here aren’t doing “what they want” – they are having to deal with what is being forced on them. It’s hurting their property, that most basic concrete manifestation of the American Dream. So which people are confused?
There are alternatives that align directly with your belief in liberty – and with your passion for innovation. Residents throughout this region have joined together to support these alternatives.
DVP has the technology to bury any transmission line, and to shatter the tired tradeoff between traditional state-protected monopolies and individual property owners. Citizens are pushing DVP to evolve and start deploying this available 21st century technology to support your 21st century needs. If a transmission line must be built, the only acceptable option is the Hybrid Option, with the line buried along Interstate 66 using existing transportation right of way.
The other alternative is for Amazon to construct any new data center where the required infrastructure already exists, in Prince William County’s Innovation Technology Park, just a few miles away. This alternative would be a win for the residents, a win for the county, and a win for Amazon.
You told Princeton graduates, “In the end, we are our choices.” You are a brilliant man, a visionary, and someone who clearly understands the consequences of his choices and actions. In your commencement speech at Princeton you shared a quote from your grandfather about being kind. Clearly, he was a wise man. In the end, when it comes time to make YOUR choice regarding how your data center will negatively impact thousands of lives, we ask you, “Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?”
Mr. Bezos, TODAY is the day to be KIND. You have a choice and you have a voice. Will you use both to help push this project away from our homes? We can assure you that we too will applaud you with a standing ovation when you choose to support the people in the communities of Haymarket & Gainesville, Virginia!
Thousands of very concerned residents in Haymarket/Gainesville VA and The Coalition to Protect Prince William County