The following is the statement of Delegate Bob Marshall who is in Richmond for the General Assembly Session and unable to attend this hearing in person.
“Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” ― Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
This statement from the Greek historian, Thucydides, some 400 years B.C., describes the struggle between citizens of western Prince William and the combined corporate enterprises of Dominion Power and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon Corporation.
Dominion Power’s transmission line siting proposals designed to accommodate a single customer, Amazon, have presented the public with one shocking surprise after another. This past summer Senator Black and I sent a letter to 2600 homes in our districts, alerting residents about a transmission line shown on Dominion’s website, but by the time Dominion had their public meeting ten days later, the route had been changed!
Dominion has shown insensitivity and outright hostility toward the rights of homeowners who purchased their homes without ever being told that their greatest investment could possibly end up in the path of 110 foot high power transmission towers! When the community rallied in support of the only acceptable power line route, the underground hybrid route along I-66, Dominion responded by choosing an overhead route as their preference. This is total disregard for the will of the people they serve.
Recently, in another exercise of disregard for the people, Dominion opposed my HB 1297, which granted localities the authority to require that data centers which needed 150 kV or greater power, be located in industrial zoned areas or require the transmission lines to be buried underground at the cost of the corporation.
Dominion further opposed my Bills, HB 120 and HB 121, which eliminated preferential sales tax exemption for personal property belonging to data centers if the data center was located outside of an industrial zoned area. Is it possible Dominion wants no restrictions on location of data centers so Dominion has a rationale for stringing more power lines across the Commonwealth, potentially to serve out of state clients?
Dominion is unconcerned about reducing other people’s home values by building unsightly power towers without compensating homeowners in any way. Dominion further seeks to adversely affect these residents by making them pay for Amazon’s predatory business decision to
locate outside of an industrial-zoned area due to an anomaly in Prince William County’s zoning ordinances which I understand the County is working to correct. To add insult to injury, local residents will be forced to foot the bill for infrastructure for Mr. Bezos and Amazon despite the multi-billion dollar net worth of Mr. Bezos and his company.
When several members of the General Assembly requested that SCC hearing dates be selected that did not conflict with the 2016 session, the State Corporation Commission did not extend that courtesy. In fact, the SCC’s Mr. Ken Schrad stated in a December 14, 2015 email to me: “The company’s application was received on November 6, 2015, in which the application cited an in-service need date of June 2018 with an estimated construction time of 12 months, the Commission elected to choose the soonest dates available.”
Because the State Corporation Commission has chosen a hearing schedule to accommodate the construction schedule satisfactory to Dominion and Amazon this action seriously undermines any hope the public may have had, that the hearing process would be fair and unbiased in
determining whether Dominion’s application should be approved, especially since Amazon could have located in an industrial area with adequate power.
If the SCC approves Dominion’s application, your Commission will make patently clear that you are more concerned about satisfying the wishes of a giant corporation than the general welfare of the people who will be unnecessarily injured by the construction of 110 foot high power lines. Further, a precedent will be set that no matter where a data center chooses to locate in Virginia, even if it is 15, 20 or 30 miles away from sources of adequate electrical power, your body will not deny Dominion’s requests and rate payers will foot the bill.
Citizens are looking to you for fairness especially since the major media in this area, The Washington Post, is owned by the data center’s applicant, Jeff Bezos.
Citizens have been kept purposely ignorant throughout this process because the Prince William County Attorney’s office has repeatedly interpreted the Freedom of Information Act so as to exempt the county from FOIA requests under a confidentiality agreement initiated not by local elected officials but by Prince William County staff. This interpretation of the FOIA has been repudiated by the Virginia FOIA counsel but the County Attorney’s office has continued to stick with their interpretation of the law.
Further, Jeff Bezos and Amazon have refused to acknowledge communications from myself and Senator Richard Black. When a NY Times article was highly critical of the corporate labor and management practices of Amazon last year, Mr. Bezos responded to the NY Times with a new email address claiming he would listen to average citizens, yet he has not responded to even one of 400 emails and letters from community members and leaders upset about his decision to build one or more data centers in Haymarket outside of the industrial area.
Why should a corporate giant like Amazon receive a free ride from Dominion to construct 230kV transmission lines, the cost for which will be paid by those who will not benefit from, and in many cases be harmed by the power lines? Why are citizens forced to subsidize a wealthy major U.S. corporation? Dominion requires homeowners who build their own homes to pay to have electric brought to their homes. Why the double standard, one for rich, favored and powerful corporations, and another for the rest of us? Mark Twain’s quip is most apt here: Virtue has never been as respectable as money.
Both Dominion and Amazon expect that the three commissioners of the State Corporation Commission will decide that it is OK for Dominion and Amazon to take property and diminish property values of homeowners without compensation simply to benefit their corporations. Yet, if an individual were to deface a private residence or destroy private property value in some way, he would at least be required to pay just compensation under civil law. Will Dominion and Amazon get away with stealing property values with the blessing and assistance of the State Corporation Commission? I hope not!
I would like to also add that the decision made by this commission to approve any overhead route for these lines may not be the final say in these proceedings.
Again, while I oppose Amazon building a data center outside of an industrial area, as a state delegate I have no zoning authority, since I am not a local official. But I strongly and sincerely urge you, at the very least, to require Amazon to cover the cost of their extension cord and place it underground. Individual home owners must cover the costs of bringing power to their property when building a home. You should reject a double standard.
Finally, the only acceptable power line route that would minimize damage to Western Prince William home owners and businesses would be the underground hybrid route along I-66, so please, if you must approve a route, approve the hybrid route and no other.
Even if the cost of undergrounding the line is more expensive than the overhead line it cannot compare to the ongoing cost of lost property values. The Golden Rule, to treat others the way we wish to be treated, should be observed for the common good. This is Amazon’s business investment and Amazon should pay for it.