The Other Power Line Controversy

Dominion is running into more resistance to building high-voltage transmission lines, this time in Fredericksburg. Last year the power company stirred up a hornet’s nest with a proposal to build a parade of 100-foot-plus towers through 40 miles of northern Virginia piedmont. Now it’s poked a bee’s nest in the Fredericksburg area.

Dominion would seem to have a much stronger case in the Fredericksburg area, where it has owned an easement since the 1960s, than in the northern piedmont, where it still needs to condemn the land. Yet the power company has said it would “consider” burying five miles of line in the Fredericksburg area, according to the Free Lance-Star, while it has declared that it would be uneconomical to bury the northern piedmont power line.

Still, not all locals are impressed with Dominion’s willingess to discuss the issue. “Right now, we’re at the ‘check is in the mail’ stage,” said Hampton Oaks resident Al Tierney, as quoted by writer Edie Gross.

We can expect to see more of these conflicts as Dominion embarks upon a massive expansion of electric power generation and transmission capacity in Virginia in the years ahead. The conservation option is looking better and better.

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8 responses to “The Other Power Line Controversy”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Tell people they cannot sit on their hands on this one.

    Unless you like Dominion writing their own regulations, call and write your state reps and tell them to vote against Hogan’s HB 3068 and Norment’s SB 1416.

  2. hey, if they own the easement, then that’s different. It is theirs to do with as they please.

    The question ought to be, “How did they get the easement?” If they bought it at market value, that’s one thing. If they acquired it through eminent domain 40 years ago, then that’s different.

    The issue is one of time, and this is an issue that is perasive in land use squabbles, and one that is never addressed.

    How has the value of the land changed over time? How has the value of the surrounding land changed over time? How has the value and profit from selling electricity changed over time?

    We frequently see the argument made tht residential property does not pay its own way. This argument is based on a cost of public services study tht is based on a single point in time. I believe that if you made the same analysis based on 20 years, or th lifetime of a structure, then you would get a different answer.

    When it comes to condemning property for profit, it seems to me the only reasonable way to handle the situation is to pay the full market value for the property in question, and pay for it with stock in the acquiring company.

    THEN the stock owners can do as they please, sell the stock, or stay in the game for a piece of the profit generated from their land. Given that the land is likely to be restricted anyway, you would be a fool not to keep the stock: it is the best deal you are likely to ever see.

    After the power ine is built, the owners can negotiate, at full market value, to buy the remainder back from the company: if they wish. And pay for it with stock.

    If the company is right, and the plan is a good one, then the value of th stock willgo up. If the landowner are right, and the power line utterly ruins much of the value of the land, then they can buy it back (if they wish) for pennies on the dollar.

    If they don’t wish, then the power company can sell the land for what they can get. If their contnetion that the land is not relly much damaged, then they come out ahead.

    Everybody wins, except for legal an moving costs.

    They still might not like the result, they still might prefer “no change” but it is better than a poke in the eye and “No change” was never a real option.

    The option that is missing, is change at a fair price.

    A fair price might well encourage the power company to consider other options.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ray – if you wrote laws or was a judge interpreting laws… all parties would go away saying:

    ” what did he say?”

    “what did it mean”.

    I’m grinning … here just poking some fun….


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    It has been amusing watching Dominion gyrate during this session. On the power line bills, they are willing and eager to let the SCC have all that authority (and the blame) for siting. But on the rate-making bills, the whole game was to restrict the authority of the SCC as tightly as possible and have the General Assembly dictate the terms and profit formulas in the Code. It has proven once again it is the finest legislature money can buy.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that with the growth in demand and the future development to come in that region, the transmission lines are needed. So are the improved connections to other PJM states. All the NIMBY’s and Luddites in Baconland can’t stem the public appetite for cheap power (and long commutes, for that matter.)

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    If you charge what it takes to produce peak hour power and peak hour roads – you won’t change the appetite but you will the useage trends.

    Peak Hour use causes more powerlines and more generating plants at huge expenses – much higher than norm base load costs.

    It is NOT in Dominion’s best interest to sell LESS electricity and that is the fudamental problem.

    They do not benefit from people using less power or alternative power.

    We not only are given them a monopoly but absolutely no reason to be efficient.

    And it is not conincidence that Dominion Power and VDOT are very similiar in the way that they conduct business – both in a way – that is contrary to the public interest.

    A very simple thing – the use of SMART Meters and a rate structure that reflects the actual cost of peak hour power would have a profound and far reaching impact on really simple things.. like water heaters that come on at 2am instead of 8pm.

    I am all for capitalism. It’s the best economic system in the world but what we are doing right now is not Capitalism – it is, in fact, just plain stupid.

    I just love our myopic view of the world. We talk the talk when it comes to the benefits of Capitalism but walking the walk – no way not when obscene goveernment-guaranteed profits are at stake.

  6. Larry,

    Nearly all of Metro is built to provide peaking capacity, and at truly enormous expense,not to mention considerable discomfort to its riders.

    How would you propose spreading out the peak costs for Metro? Congestion Pricing to the point where everyone gets a seat?

  7. If I was a judge interpreting laws, I would base my findings on fundamentals of fairness, not case law, pounded to fit the current facts, and then painted over to match.

    In China, they also depend on case law. But there, the issue is that there is so much case law, after 3000 years, that judges can pretty much pick and choose whatever fits the facts as they choose to decide. Even though they, too, depend on case law, the result is far more latitude for the judge.

    Then, of course, there is the issue of what they have been told to decide by the party.

    Fortunately, we don’t have that problem.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    In the past few cold days, we have had some minor power outages – enough to reboot the computer, and cause a reset of the digital clocks.

    My wife wonders if it is really because of cold weather and increased usage, or if Dominion is playing a little psychological warfare to go along with their ads claiming we will soon have real shortages.

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