Power Line Foes Rally in Richmond

Opponents of a Dominion-proposed power transmission line cranked up the political heat yesterday, holding a rally of some 150 residents of the northern Piedmont and enlisting support of their local legislators. (See the Manassas Journal-Messenger account.)

Dominion contends that Northern Virginia faces rolling blackouts in four years if the transmission line isn’t built. But foes, who don’t want the giant towers running through 40 miles of scenic landscape, argued that Dominion should emphasize conservation, alternate fuels and distributed generation.

I’m not sure what the legislature can do to block the transmission line. One proposal, forcing Dominion to run the transmission line underground at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, seems impractical. But one measure, proposed by Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas, strikes me as entirely reasonable.

One of [the amendments] would require the state agency that hears power line applications to expand its consideration to more than just the land under the transmission towers. “Normally the SCC only has to consider the cost of the land taken under the power line. They do not have to consider the property depreciation effect that this power line has on the rest of the community,” Marshall said. “That’s a real cost.”

If a power line slices a working farm in two, it reduces the productivity of, and lowers the value of, the entire farm. If a power line ruins scenic vistas of landed estates, it lowers the value of the entire estate. To pay property owners only for the value of the land traversed by the power line does not begin to compensate them for their loss.

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8 responses to “Power Line Foes Rally in Richmond”

  1. Groveton Avatar

    Telcos bury their high capacity network lines all the time. In fact, they believe that their networks are much more reliable when they traverse through buried conduit.

    Why is it so common for telecommunicatiosn companies to bury wires and so difficult for power companies?

    The power company should pay the full value of the landholder’s loss. Maybe if they did burying the power cables would look a lot more attractive.

  2. Jim, another great post on Dominion’s plan and as someone working with Virginians for Sensible Economic Policies (VSEP), I appreciate your outlook.

    As you have covered in previous posts, this plan isn’t about providing for increased demand in Northern Virginia but transferring electricity from dirty coal-fired plants in the Midwest, through Virginia and up to the Northeast. This is simply to increase Dominion’s profit, while the ratepayers in Virginia subsidize this project. In addition, despite their latest letter writing campaign, Dominion has yet to prove their doomsday claims of rolling blackouts by 2011.

    Considering that Virginia ranks in the bottom ten states in regard to efficient use of energy (According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy) VSEP believes there are alternatives. We believe that Virginia can meet all of its energy needs through a comprehensive state energy plan that promotes the use of modern technology and energy efficiency not creating more incentives for inefficient and antiquated means of electricity delivery.

    Again, I’m glad to see this issue highlighted on Bacon’s Rebellion.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    What happens when you have a small lot, and the line runs 50 feet from your house, but not on your land…will all surrounding land be compensated, all land in sight, or does the bill just accomodate the large landowner?

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Dominion compensates only those whose land the power line crosses. Any and all collateral damage is uncompensated. The compensation is based only on the difference in use before and after the power line.

    Therefore a large landowner may be compensated for the difference between a hayfield and a hayfiled under the power lines, in other words, not much. If the area later becomes developed the loss would be much greater, but there will be no additional compensation.

    The small lot owner in your example might well be compensated better.


    Dominion is guaranteed a return on their investment. That being the case, what difference does it make what it costs to bury the line?

    Telco cable is low voltage or even fiber optic, so arcing and voltage loss is not a problem. I don’t know how that is managed with underground elctric cable.


    Conservation will reduce demand and delay the need for power lines, etc. But sooner or later someone, somewhere is going to get trampled over. The real issus that needs to be addresses is full and fair compensation, which is not what happens under the current rules.

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Clarification: my comments above apply to the current rules, not the proposed ones. The proposed ones will go a long way to raising the cost of transmission enough to cause Dominion to consider other alternatives.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray, I have been following your blog’s – you really get to central issue (protection of property rights from being taken by “outside” parties, either for profit or cause). Quick question – when easements are purchased, are they perpetual (e.g. if purchased for one purpose say 40+ years ago then remain “dormant,” can they be “re-claimed” later for another purpose). Question related to DVP’s latest proposal for Stafford – I question the legitimacy of the “claim” of ownership of easement that was not maintained (marked, etc) or used for approved purpose. I appreciate and thoughts.

  7. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I am not a lawyer. However, my Progressive Farmer magazine has a column on “Law of the Land”.

    My understanding is that, once recorded on a deed an easement is permanent. However, even in the case of ownership, there is such a thing as adverse possession. If someone uses your property long enough, and you do nothing about it, they may eventually claim it as theirs.

    If, however, you merely send a letter granting your permission for the use, then you have essentially re-established your possession. Sounds backwards, but there it is.

    My guess is that if there is an easement across your property, but you have used the property as your own for many years, and the use of the easement has not been maintained, then you could make a claim the easement has expired.

    Making the claim and making it stick are two different things.

    Incidentally, a recent issue of Progressive Farming had an article about land being taken under eminent domain.

    In the article a farm that had been in the family for generations was taken, under eminent domain to build a manufacturing plant. The jobs the plant would bring were much needed in the county.

    Ironically, the farm belonged to the county director of economic development.

    The proposal by Marshall is a good one, and Groveton is correct about the likely result. Marshall’s proposal is one of several that were proposed by a commission studying eminent domain several years ago. None of the recommendations have yet been put into force, and I imagine that special interests may have played a role.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray – thanks for the post. Like you said, making claim and making it stick are two different animals. Will search for some “precedence” out there.

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