I have news, and it is not good. The Coalition has consistently warned that any transmission line route could be chosen. The SCC Hearing Examiner has done just that.
The State Corporation Commission (SCC) Hearing Examiner took the arguments from Dominion Power, local elected officials, Coalition attorneys and leadership, and numerous allies – and this week has recommended the overhead Carver Road alternative to the SCC Commissioners – a route that no one wants, with a bill that we all get to pay. (Please read the Hearing Examiner’s final report.)
Let’s look at both items.
- Route: The above-ground Carver Road alternative parallels Route 29 from Gainesville, before cutting through neighborhoods and woodlands to swing north toward the Amazon data center. Homeowners and businesses along Routes 29, 15, 55, and smaller residential streets throughout this area up to the town of Haymarket, including the HOAs of Villages of Piedmont, Somerset Crossing, Somerhill, Hopewell’s Landing, Haymarket Overlook, and Kennard Ridge, face the worst property and viewshed impact. The Hearing Examiner discounted our community opposition to any above-ground route.
- Rates: The Hearing Examiner also rejected arguments by the Coalition and others that the cost of building a line benefiting a single, private customer – Amazon.com – should not be subsidized by rate payers. The Hearing Examiner’s findings will allow Dominion to pass on the cost of the proposed project to all customers statewide.
More shocking than what the Hearing Examiner ruled, is what he dismissed or flat-out ignored, including:
- Local elected officials and governing documents (Delegates, Supervisors, County staff, Virginia state agencies, and virtually all County plans)
- Gross errors by Dominion’s “expert” witnesses who didn’t know where the town of Haymarket was on a map, or what the Rural Crescent is.
- Vagueness in the law and Dominion’s own statements describing the project as a line extension – a type of work not funded by rate payer.
All of which begs the questions: What did the Hearing Examiner really hear? And what did he bother to examine? “Very little” in both cases, it seems.
Oddly, though, one conspicuous area highlighted by the Hearing Examiner was whether Dominion demonstrated a need for the line absent Amazon.com. The Hearing Examiner attempted to defend Dominion’s expert witness (the one who couldn’t find Haymarket on a map or in his car) against two local land use experts who provided withering criticism. On one hand, the Hearing Examiner tried to prop up Dominion’s thin case for need, based on disputed future development, while on the other hand saying it didn’t matter anyway because the customer had a significant bulk load need which requires power. Now, I’m not a legal expert, but I thought the Hearing Examiner’s role was to assess Dominion’s case, not make it for them. If a regulator won’t regulate, what good is this process?
So where does this leave us? It leaves us still ready to fight, and willing to take this battle to the next level, and the next after that. Whatever it takes.
In the coming days, the Coalition will share details about our plans regarding next steps with the SCC Commissioners. The Coalition’s legal team has 21 days to respond to the SCC Hearing Examiner’s finding. The Commissioners must now decide which, if any, of the Hearing Examiner’s recommendations to take. Our collective voices matter. While individual citizens have no further means to address the Commissioners, as a legal party to the case, the Coalition will continue, with your ongoing support, to serve as our community’s vehicle for making that unified voice heard.
Remember – Just as the Hearing Examiner has chosen an unexpected route, the SCC Commissioners could go with any of the ten routes which Dominion has floated. We ALL remain at risk.
Today seems dark, but I must admit, the willingness of this community to come together to battle such obvious abuse has inspired me in the past, and it energizes me now. No one said this would be easy. We will raise our voices once again. Or twice again. Or… like I said, whatever it takes.
PS: Your financial support will enable us to keep our legal team engaged. The Coalition’s legal arguments obviously impacted the SCC Staff. We must maintain the influence we have achieved for our community. Donate now!