Dominion Shifts Course, Will Run Transmission Line to the South

Dominion has changed course in its plans to wheel more out-of-state electricity into Northern Virginia: Instead of running high-voltage power lines through the hunt country of the northern piedmont, it will route the line along existing right of way, according to the Washington Post.

The change would add about 28 miles to the length of the power line and add $60 million to the cost, which would be passed on to rate payers. But it would avoid disrupting the viewsheds of one of the country’s most historic and scenic areas.

No doubt Dominion hoped that the decision also would dampen growing political opposition. There were no immediate signs, however, that the power line’s foes were backing off. Write Michael Shear and Amy Gardner:

Spokesmen for both said they remain unconvinced that the power line is needed and believe Dominion’s proposed solution simply moves the problem from one place to another. “Their whole strategy is divide and conquer,” said Wolf’s chief of staff, Dan Scandling. “Dominion still hasn’t proven that this power is needed for Northern Virginia.”

Piedmont Environmental Council spokesman Robert W. Lazaro Jr. said running the new line along an existing right of way does not protect nearby homeowners from transmission lines that he expects to be significantly taller than existing ones.

He also wondered whether the existing path was wide enough to accommodate the new line or additional private property would have to be acquired.

“The fact is the state has a failed energy policy,” Lazaro said. “Dominion is a huge player in the politics of this state and is able to run roughshod over consumers and responsible legislators.”

Dominion’s problem now is that it has unleashed the genie from the bottle and can’t put it back. Galvanized by the Piedmont Environmental Council’s opposition to the power line, Virginians have awakened to the reality that, as Lazaro says, Virginia has a failed energy policy. Current policy favors investing in generation and transmission over investing in conservation and energy efficiency. Most people would agree that we need a balance.

What Dominion really needs to worry about is that skeptics of the transmission line won’t just retreat to their farms and estates. Now that their consciousness has been raised, the skeptics will take a critical look at Dominion’s plans to re-regulate the electric power industry as a means to finance a $4 billion expansion of electric generating capacity in Virginia.

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3 responses to “Dominion Shifts Course, Will Run Transmission Line to the South”

  1. I think you mentioned before the future possibility of additional uses far a right of way once established. When this happens the owner charges the maximum rent he can get from the new utility, frequently a percentage of the revenue. The land owner, of course gets nothing additional from this new transaction which makes use of his land.

    Whether the new towers are larger or not, even if a fiber optic line is buried along the route, Lazaro is tending in the right direction: the landowner isn’t properly protected, and he isn’t properly compensated for what he provides, and for what he endures.

    If the state is going to charge tolls for use of their (our) right of way, then we should expect the landowners to get some kind of continuing toll or rent, not a one time payment for an easement.

    If you fix those problems, it would go along way to provide new incentives for Dominion to think differently.

  2. Look at it another way. Dominion is going to charge ratepayers for the $60 million extra they claim this is coing to cost.

    (This doesn’t seem right. The whole original line was only going to cost $300 million, including the takings. That’s 2.14 million per mile, meaning the original 41 miles would have cost $88 million before land and right of way acquisition, which are not needed with the new route, unless they are paying the landowners for additional rights of way. So, while the power line costs $60 million more it looks like the total cost is less by $152 million. Dominion should be thanking PEC and the other protesters for saving them this money instead of posturing as if they are absorbing an enormous additional cost.)

    Any way, they are going to charge the ratepayers for this additional cost. That cost is part of the cost of conservation for the land that is preserved. Conservation is not free: the cost is exactly equal to the additional cost of building (whatever) someplace else.

    So, in this case the result is that the ratepayers (which is pretty near everybody) are paying extra to preserve this landscape which is enjoyed by not everybody, but an awful lot of people just the same.

    Moving the power line is only one small step in a continuing effort to preserve this landscape (not to mention the owner’s property values). Every time some kind of construction is directed elsewhere it is going to cost somebody money. In this case it is the power company and the rate payers.

    Who is paying the rest of the conservation costs, and what are they?

  3. All the skeptics can now see that this never was a “not in my backyard” fight, but one of failed policy based on Dominion’s lies. The opposition to Dominion will continue no matter how many times they revise their proposed path.

    Dominion still refuses to provide even a shred of proof based on public information instead of general scare tactics that we face rolling blackouts.

    You all may have seen the new Virginians for Sensible Energy Policy ads (I work with VSEP) running in the Times Dispatch and Washington Post in honor of President’s Day, they are worth a look if you missed them.

    As Ray mentioned, it doesn’t matter to Dominion the cost of the line because the ratepayers are stuck with the bill. There is no incentive at all to encourage conservation or change their outdated perception of energy policy.

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