Dear Friends –
Our fight to protect our property values and the quality of life in our communities against the proposed 230 kV power lines for a new data center campus in Haymarket took an unexpected, but welcomed, turn last week. The General Counsel for the State Corporation Commission (“SCC”) issued their recommendations on August 5th for how the Commission could protect the interests of citizens over the arguably exploitative proposals by Dominion Power and the data center operator.
If these new transmission lines are really required, the SCC General Counsel made an excellent case for requiring the data center operator, who will be the single beneficiary of the costly new infrastructure, to pay for the new proposed transmission line. The I-66 Hybrid proposal would require Dominion Power to bury the power lines along the 5.1-mile stretch that would have the most significant negative impact on homeowners and our community.
Specifically, the SCC General Counsel said the following:
“. . . the Commission may wish to require the customer requiring such project to put some of its own skin in the game. Otherwise, the general public, already burdened by the environmental and aesthetic impacts of otherwise unneeded transmission projects, is not also burdened with 100% of the otherwise unnecessary costs.”
Make no mistake, those environmental and aesthetic impacts would be potentially devastating to the property values of the hundreds of homes directly along the route, and have a negative economic ripple effect on comparable values of real estate when other homeowners throughout the area attempted to put their homes on the market.
Dominion Power strongly favors the overhead power line design and they have argued in formal submissions to the State Corporation Commission that the environmental and aesthetic issues are “minimal” despite the fact the height of the transmission towers would average 112-120 feet. The negative visual impact of these towers if this project were approved by the State Corporation Commission would do significant harm to our property values.
The conclusion by the legal team was devastating to the Dominion Power argument: ” . . . If the Commission were to determine that the I-66 Overhead should be built, then the Customer would acquire no additional cost responsibility for the Project, while garnering almost the entirety of its benefits.”
The SCC General Counsel also persuasively argued that the cost of this project should be borne by the data center operator because of the uncertainty as to whether the data centers would even be constructed. In 2011, Dominion Power submitted an application to build a 2.3-mile long, 230 kV transmission line from a location in the City of Manassas into Prince William County to a new substation to be built there on land “owned by Unicorn Interest, LLC.” The approved Final Order recited Dominion Powers claim that the project was needed to meet “Unicorn’s requirements for service to its data center campus by July 2013.”
That project cost ratepayers $42 million, and we are currently paying for that new transmission line in our monthly electric bills today. Yet, Unicorn has not built that new data center some three years after the stated deadline of July 2013. In another instance, Dominion Power proposed the construction of “two new overhead 230 kV double circuit transmission lines extending approximately 1.5 miles to a new Waxpool substation ostensibly to provide power to another new data center owned by Intergate.Ashburn I, LLC.
That project cost ratepayers $48.9 million. Yet, based on a report to the State Corporation Commission in November 2015, neither the Unicorn nor the Intergate’s planned data center campuses are using any power from these expensive new transmission line infrastructure projects.
The conclusion of the SCC General Counsel on this point was devastating:
“If such customers walk away from their commitment letters, as appears to have happened in the Cannon Branch and Waxpool cases, they bear zero costs. If the load does develop, as the Company feels confident will happen at the Haymarket campus, the customer receives an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of the benefits of the Project, while the general public bears an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of the costs.”
And those additional costs on our monthly electric bills are real, and we are paying for them today for the abandoned data center projects.
This recommendation by the SCC General Counsel is an important milestone for all of us in our fight to protect our homes and our communities.
The thousands who attended the Public Hearings held by the SEC Hearing Examiner were heard. That report, coupled with the legal recommendation from the SCC General Counsel, provides a powerful affirmation that citizens can be heard when we are unified.
I want to personally thank the more than 5,200 citizens who joined in co-signing with me the letter to the State Corporation Commission objecting to this project.
Thanks as well are due to Supervisor Lawson, Chairman Corey Stewart, Senator Dick Black, Delegate Tim Hugo, Delegate Bob Marshall, Delegate John Bell, and former Delegate David Ramadan – all of whom are standing with us in this fight.
I would also like to recognize the outstanding efforts by Jim Napoli, who led the significant legal team that were the voice for numerous HOA’s and homeowners in our area; and the Coalition to Protect Prince William led by Karen Sheehan, Tadd Wilson, and Elena Schlossberg.
These leaders, along with all of you, have made a real difference in this fight.
However, our battle is not yet over. While I am certain Dominion Power and the multi-billion-dollar global data center operator will still unleash their lawyers and lobbyists to work for their preferred outcome, we will continue to fight to protect our homes and our communities.
Together, we can continue to make a real difference, and I thank you for your individual efforts.
Pete Candland, Supervisor
Gainesville Magisterial District
In preparing my earlier email to you, I inadvertently failed to mention and thank several individuals and groups who have been instrumental in the fight against the power lines thus far.
First of all, I would like to thank Mayor Leake and the entire Haymarket Town Council. Their leadership and willingness to step up, organize and take on Dominion has been critical to our success. I would also like to thank the residents of the Town of Haymarket who continue to get involved throughout this whole process.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the HOA’s across Western Prince William County for their help and support getting the word out to their communities. Having hundreds of folks show up to a public hearing and share their thoughts with the SCC representative was extremely impactful.
This fight isn’t over and we all need to continue to be united with one voice.
Pete Candland, Supervisor
Gainesville Magisterial District