Press Release: Habeeb-Stanley “Trojan Horse” Aims to Eliminate Local Voice in Utility Regulation

Executive director says: “The Habeeb-Stanley Trojan horse doesn’t just shorten the process – it short circuits it.”

Haymarket, Virginia (January 30, 2017) – The Coalition to Protect Prince William County intensified its efforts to expose efforts in Richmond which will short circuit local participation in utility-related zoning and land use regulation.

Coalition executive director Elena Schlossberg stated, “Together, Delegate Habeeb’s HB 1766 and Senator Stanley’s SB 1110 make up a Trojan Horse aimed at stopping local elected officials and regulatory bodies from exercising their duties. It’s like pressing the mute button on citizens’ voices in what is often a venue of last resort for protecting homes and habitat. As citizens, elected officials, and attorneys, both men should know better.”

“Delegate Habeeb keeps repeating that he’s just trying to ‘shorten the process’ for regulatory decisions, presumably to benefit large regulated utilities,” Schlossberg continued. “What he ignores is the well-established role of local elected officials in exercising zoning and land use policies for the good of their communities and businesses. Delegate Habeeb simply does not care about short circuiting the local process and is working to cut local representation out of the process altogether. Odd for a self-described conservative who might be expected to favor established law, localized decision making, and property rights. Or maybe pocketbooks trump principle.”

Schlossberg added, “Delegate Habeeb’s actions in particular have crossed the line into dishonorable behavior unfit for an elected public servant. Habeeb openly derided colleagues on the House of Delegates floor, ignored statewide opposition to his bill from groups including local boards of supervisors, the Virginia Association of Counties, and the Virginia Municipal League; and denied the fact that his bill violates Article 1, Section 14 of the Virginia Constitution by granting de facto zoning powers to private utility companies. The man has had a busy week.”

“Habeeb and Stanley also try to assert that their bills only apply in limited circumstance to 138kV transmission lines in limited locales,” Schlossberg observed. “Habeeb has also taken great pains to point out that Dominion Power does not use 138kV lines. As if the scope of the bill cannot – or will not – be extended when Dominion sees fit to use their usual source of influence: money. Habeeb knows this, as Dominion and Appalachian Power are top ten donors. Stanley does too, with Dominion and the Association of Electric Cooperatives ranking in his top eleven donors.”

“Senator Stanley also might consider how his complicity in making it easier for regulated utilities to seize private property will play among his constituents, who have sought his help in their own struggles against a utility company interfering with their property rights and enjoyment,” Schlossberg went on.

Schlossberg concluded, “Ultimately, Habeeb and Stanley are playing small supporting roles in a much larger drama. The real question lies with each General Assembly Delegate or Senator – will you vote for HB 1766 and SB 1110, and thereby subvert existing law and local governments? Or will you have the decency to vote NO, and serve the interests of your constituents and all Virginia citizens across the Commonwealth?”