Where’s the Need? Citizen Letter


Where’s the Need?

So many people want to discuss, debate, and argue about what route should be used for Dominion Energy’s Haymarket, Va. transmission line and substation project in Prince William County.  This is understandable.  Affected residents and businesses are trying to protect their homesteads and properties; and Dominion Energy and its data center customer, Amazon, as well as the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), just want all the issues resolved and the project moving forward.

While route questions are getting a lot of attention, the NEED for this project is an open question and must be definitively proven first.

The Coalition to Protect Prince William County has been challenging the need for this project since day one.

– Contrary to what Dominion has been, and will continue to try to argue, this rural area of Prince William County is NOT at risk of having insufficient power. Current County growth projections very clearly outline this.

– The SCC Commissioners, in their decisions on this project, said, “It is uncontested that a retail customer of the Company (Dominion Energy) is driving the identified need for this Project.”

– In fact, Dominion’s own expert witness testified, at the SCC Evidentiary Hearing for this case, that 97% of the power to be provided by this project is for the private data center retail customer (Amazon).

The Code of Virginia requires that a transmission project must fulfill a public need, not a private need.

Amazon, the private retail customer working with Dominion Energy to create the need for this project, wants to operate a data center campus, which would be comprised of a total of 4 buildings just outside of the town limits of Haymarket.  One Amazon data center is already operational (powered through double-stack distribution lines running straight through the town of Haymarket, which were also installed for this customer), in a leased building on property immediately adjacent to the land Amazon (VAData) purchased for its data center campus.  As stated in Dominion’s application to the SCC, the retail customer (Amazon) told Dominion that it wants to build 3 new additional data center buildings, and its need is immediate, ie: it requires service by June of 2018.

However, most recently, Amazon’s own attorneys changed the story about the need for this project, in testimony to the Army Corps of Engineers.  Also participating in their meeting was the federal Advisory Council for Historic Preservation, Prince William’s state delegate Bob Marshall, Prince William County executives, and other consulting party representatives from around the region.  Amazon’s counsel told this group the following, regarding the plans for Amazon’s new data center campus buildings:

(1) The first of the new buildings is complete and operational using existing electrical utility infrastructure;

(2) The second of the new buildings is not yet built, and would operate without the requirement for additional electrical utility infrastructure;

(3) The electric transmission and distribution facilities delineated in Dominion’s application would not be required until the final third building was operational;

(4) The last two buildings were not projected to be built in the foreseeable future, if ever, as construction would only occur if expanded data center capacity was required in the future by the Customer.

So, the private retail customer for this project, Amazon, says it doesn’t need the power now, and it may not build all the planned buildings?

Who is lying?  Dominion? or Amazon?

Where’s the Need?  I don’t need the power from this project.  Who does?  Remember – the County has already documented growth projections which do not support a need for additional transmission lines.

Dominion is using these data center projects as a way to expand its network grid, at no cost to the company, so that it can transport and sell electric power, much of it to customers outside of Virginia.  With the proposed Haymarket project, Dominion will benefit and see its profits expand yet again, with the addition of more transmission lines as well as a new substation.  And – a substation in Haymarket will give Dominion yet another way to run even more subsequent transmission lines through our countryside to that substation, to further expand its network grid even more in the future, enabling the utility to sell even more power to surrounding states, and make even more money on the backs of Virginia ratepayers.

How is this business model of our public utility benefitting the citizens of Prince William County, or citizens across the entire state of Virginia? 

The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) is accountable to the Virginia State General Assembly.  The mission of the SCC is to “…apply law and regulation to balance the interests of businesses and citizens in regulating Virginia’s business and economic concerns and work continually to improve the regulatory and administrative processes.”

How broken is this process, in which the Va. SCC continues to support outcomes which enable these types of travesties?

It has been established that we in Prince William County and the state don’t need this project.  Amazon, itself, has now put into question the immediate need for power which it portrayed.

The citizens of this county and Virginia certainly don’t benefit from subsidizing Dominion’s and Amazon’s greed.

I am a wife and mother who grew up in Northern Virginia, and I have now lived in Prince William County for close to 20 years.  I would much rather be playing with my new grand-daughter and working in my garden, than spending countless hours dealing with all of this.  But I am also one of the residents watching our government entities, our public utility, and the richest man on earth working to take away from me, and mine, and all future generations, the history, the environment, the culture, the neighborhoods, and the way of life that we cherish in this rural part of Virginia.  I am one of thousands upon thousands hitting the Coalition website more than a million times to keep educated on all the twists and turns of this issue.  I am disgusted, and I am angry.

I live in one of the many neighborhoods throughout Haymarket, Gainesville, and elsewhere that support the Coalition to Protect Prince William County.  We are all not finished challenging the very need for this project.


Karen Sheehan

Haymarket, Va.