Bull Run Observer: Power line hearing at BHS ends before all can testify

By Terri L. Erwin-Fitz – Observer staff

The final local public hearing for testimony to be presented for the Dominion Power 230kV and Haymarket Substation project – to provide electricity to what is thought to be an Amazon data center in Haymarket – was held at 7 p.m. on May 2 at Battlefield High School.

People arriving to the meeting, similar to the first meeting on Feb. 24, were met with thunderstorms.

Glenn Richardson, hearing examiner, began the hearing promptly at 7 p.m. reminding those in attendance that the auditorium would act as a court of law. He pleaded with attendees to refrain from applause.

Delegate John Bell (D-87) testified first and noted that Del. Bob Marshall and Senator Dick Black were fighting hail storms on their way to the hearing. Bell testified that though we live in a “divided political field,”  all local politicians agree that the power lines should be buried along I-66 and begged the SCC listen “to the power” of the “non partisan plea” and “honor the wishes of the people.”  He also stated that the need of one customer should not outweigh the voice of all of the residents.

Black noted that the project would adversely impact property values. He alleged that Jeff Bezos makes billions of dollars and argued that no one in attendance would make that much money and that homeowners will lose equity in their investment of property.  He asked for a show of hands of those in attendance that supported the I-66 buried option and turned to see a sea of raised hands.

Karen Sheehan, who lives in Rose Hill Estates, testified that any route that the project takes would affect her home as she said her home is in the rural crescent, Haymarket, and Prince William County.

She alleged that PWC Economic Development and Dominion “colluded” with Amazon as representatives from both traveled to Seattle, Washington in order to court Amazon and to make the project happen.

Sheehan studied and read many pages of data in the application and regarding the project in order to make the case. She noted that though Amazon (Web Services) made $1 billion each quarter last year, the cost of the project “to feed Amazon’s (AWS) need” would fall on the backs of the residents.

She also contended the amount of water that would be necessary would be equivalent to the needs of 455 families in the county.

In a conversation after the hearing, Sheehan said that the purpose of her testimony was to give witness, but also to educate those in attendance about what was happening behind the scenes that put the residents (in the situation) where they were today.

Marshall described the project as a “moral crime” by taking land that was not for public use, not for the residents of Prince William County, but for Amazon. He noted that although more than 400 residents have written to Bezos, he had yet to respond.  He noted that residents of Bull Run Mountain were responsible for the cost of supplying power to their homes, why would Amazon be any different.  Why, he questioned, should Amazon not pay for the project.

Yvonne Morehouse, of Gainesville, adamantly refused to pay for Amazon’s “power cord.”

Elena Schlossberg, the outspoken director of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, described her property that has become a “dream oasis,” where her husband proposed and though it was originally a rough area, was transformed and they were married there under the stars. The description of her life and property – both poetic and emotional – spoke for residents throughout the Battlefield High School auditorium.

Approximately 500 people attended the meeting. According to Sheehan, the SCC hearing examiner was pulled aside by a school division employee at the high school, and the examiner told the group in attendance that he was advised the room was no longer available.

Sheehan said that about 40 residents were still in attendance with about 20 still waiting to testify.

Sheehan said that one custodial staffer began his vacuum cleaner and stood giggling at the back of the room. A man was testifying when in the middle of his testimony, the microphone was cut off and then the lights were turned off and on.

When the SCC commissioner was finally notified that the room was no longer available, he and his staff packed up to leave, according to Sheehan. A gentleman, who was waiting to testify, Omar Awad, said that he would pay $10,000 to keep the room open so that he could testify.  Awad owns Evergreen Station.

Sheehan said that Supervisor Jeanine Lawson was one of the witnesses signed up to testify and pleaded with the examiner to figure out a way to continue the hearing. After the examiner left, the remaining citizens were escorted from the building by state and local police.

There will be a public hearing on May 10 at 10 a.m. in the State Commission’s Courtroom at the Tyler Building at 1300 Main Street in Richmond. The Evidentiary will be held in the same location on June 21 at 10 a.m.  For more information on the project, see https://www.dom.com/corporate/what-we-do/electricity/transmission-lines-and-projects/haymarket-230kV-line-and-substation-project.

For more about the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, go to http://www.protectpwc.org.