It’s All for the Money

Virginia’s State Corporation Commission has made the case for a constitutional lawsuit against itself, Amazon and Dominion Power by their approval of two electric transmission routes (Railroad and Carver Road) to serve Jeff Bezos’s Amazon Haymarket data center, and their rejection of the hybrid underground route.

The SCC Interim ruled 4/6/17 that:

The Commission finds that the proposed Project is needed. It is uncontested that a retail customer of the Company is driving the identified need for this Project. (p. 10)

We find that the proposed Project will promote economic development in the Commonwealth of Virginia, including the Haymarket area, by serving the customer’s planned data center.  Tax revenues associated with the proposed data center will likely have a significant positive impact on Prince William County. (p.19)

Both proposed routes (Railroad and Carver) require the condemning and taking of private property.  The Constitution of Virginia states, “… the General Assembly shall pass no law whereby private property … shall be … taken except for public use  … a taking … of private property is not for public use if the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development.”  [Art. 1, Sect. 11]

The Amazon data center was sought by Prince William solely for an economic development purpose.  PWC denied me 65 pages of documents (2/6/15) “regarding a business that is considering locating or expanding in Virginia.  Prince William County is in competition with many other localities and states to attract this prospective business.”

Counsel for the Data Center claimed (12/4/15) an exemption from FOI laws for building and related permits “pursuant to a promise of confidentiality from the County to be used by the county for business and trade development and retention.

Virginia’s economic development agency paid for travel/lodging to Amazon HQ in Seattle/Redmond, Washington in mid-May, 2013 for James Gahres of PWC’s economic development office.  “I’m adding the data center team to our visit.”  [Jim Gahres of PWC email to Michelle Poe of VA EDA, May 6, 2013 10:38:27 PM, and additional emails.]

A Dominion invite (7/24/14) to an Open House at Battlefield HS states, “the successful economic development efforts of Prince William County, has resulted in electrical loads that are projected to exceed the capabilities of the electric infrastructure currently in place.”

The SCC could have avoided this conflict by choosing the partially underground Hybrid I-66 route.  The SCC does not want to burden the second richest person in the world, Mr. Jeff Bezos, ($75.6 billion) with having to pay to construct the power lines necessitated by his decision to put a data center six miles outside of an industrial area.

Instead, the SCC concludes that economic justice dictates that average citizens are better situated to shoulder Mr. Bezos’s business costs.  I urge citizens along the proposed Amazon right of way to take up a constitutional court challenge, and I urge community support for our neighbors. There should not be one rule for the very, very wealthy, and another for the rest of us.