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January 23, 2017

Dominion Power Must Be Stopped

This article originally appeared at The Jeffersoniad.

Is Dominion Power going to get its way on everything?

How else does one explain HB 1766 (sponsored by Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem), a bill that would abolish the zoning powers of every locality for the sole purpose of allowing Dominion Power and other utilities unlimited rights to locate electric substations and other facilities wherever Dominion desires.

In fact, it amends 56-265.2, which reads:

For construction of any transmission line of 138 kilovolts, a public utility shall either (i) obtain a certificate pursuant to subdivision 1 or (ii) obtain approval pursuant to the requirements of (a) § 15.2-2232 and (b) any applicable local zoning ordinances by the locality or localities in which the transmission line will be located.

Currently, local zoning determines electric substation and equipment placement. Subsection (b) above states that Dominion must follow local applicable zoning laws when placing transmission lines.  HB 1766 negates this clause, and allows the State Corporation Commission to issue permits to Dominion for placement of their substations and facilities without regard to local zoning laws.

Legislators who support this bill (most likely written by a Dominion employee), must not have read it or do not understand the consequences of this legislation.  In effect, Dominion can, if HB 1766 is passed, arbitrarily and legally “run over or under” any local resistance by communities in regards to placement of transmission lines and associated facilities. It seems that HB 1766 codifies eminent domain at the local government level.

The bottom line is that with this legislation Dominion can put a mega-power line through your county, and your elected local leaders will be able to do nothing to stop it!

Why this bill now?  Is this the beginning of a long-term plan to increase the size of allowable transmission lines above 138kV in the future?  Is this a first step in securing transmission lines for Amazon data centers in Prince William County despite local opposition (Does Amazon require 230kW lines)?  Or, is this simply another way for Dominion to increase its profit margin?

Virginia is now very close to granting de facto zoning powers to a private corporation and regulated utility. I call on Mr. Habeeb to separate himself from this bill.

Dominion Power is the largest single donor to members of the Virginia General Assembly.  All Virginians should all take a moment to visit the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) and calculate how much their representative has received from Dominion Power.

I have received no money from Dominion Power, and if they send me a check by mistake I will send it back.  I don’t think public utilities should be able to lobby the legislature to increase their profits, nor do I think it is proper for them to shower the legislature with donations.  The government has granted them a monopoly, and they have no business seeking to increase their profits through politics.