Va. regulators punt power line decision to Prince William Co.

By:  Mike Murillo, WTOP  April 7, 2017

WASHINGTON — Virginia state regulators have given the green light to a plan to construct high voltage power lines in Haymarket but the conditional approval also requires Dominion Virginia Power to obtain support from local officials.

In an interim order issued on Thursday, the State Corporation Commission directed Dominion to seek approval from Prince William County to build the 100-foot-tall power lines along what’s known as the Railroad Route, one of five possible routes for the lines that would serve a proposed data center.

The route runs primarily along railroad tracks, but would require the county to withdraw a conservation easement placed alongside the tracks before any construction could take place in the corridor.

The SCC also said in its decision that if legal issues remain that would prevent the lines from being built along the tracks, the lines could then be built on another route that runs along Carver Road.

 “We just received the order, we’re going to take some time to review it,” said Chuck Penn, spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power.

Opponents, who fear health issues and dropping property values because of the project are upset by the move.

“We’re not going to allow the SCC and Dominion to vandalize our neighborhoods in western Prince William County,” said Corey Stewart, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors.

Stewart is also running for governor and will face former Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie and state Sen. Frank Wager in the Republican primary.

Stewart said the board will discuss the issue in the coming week. He said the county could refuse to choose between the two routes, and could consider rejecting any applications to construct a power substation or possibly even the data center itself — both of which would require county approval and would undergo an approval process that is separate from the transmission line.

Many of residents against the power lines eventually backed a proposed route that would send the power lines down Interstate 66 and would place a section of the high voltage transmission lines underground. The commission said the I-66 plan would impact more homes, be more difficult to build and would cost significantly more.

“They’re completely wrong, the I-66 is being widened right now. And it would not cost that much more to run these transmission lines down 66,” Stewart said.

It hasn’t been confirmed, but many believe Amazon would own the data center that the lines would serve. The SCC stated that the project is being designed to serve one customer.

“While they’re concerned about the economic interests of Amazon, they’re not concerned about the economic interests of the people who live along each one of these routes,” said Elena Schlossberg, executive director of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County.

Schlossberg believes Amazon should foot the bill for the power lines and accused the state of abdicating their duty by putting the decision in the hands of county supervisors.

The lines will run through the town of Haymarket and Mayor David Leake called the state’s decision “disappointing.”