Transmission Lines and Electricity Imports

In a recent post, “Virginia’s Growing Energy Gap,” I argued it doesn’t matter where Virginia gets its energy from, as long as it’s from a secure region of the world like North America. (The recent bombing of a Mexican pipeline by a group linked to Venezuela’s socialist despot Hugo Chavez may force me to rethink which parts of the world qualify as secure.) But I do find it strange — and somewhat troubling — that Virginia imports one third of its electricity from other states.

According to the Virginia Energy Plan, Virginia’s electricity imports have climbed significantly since 2000. Some imports come from Dominion’s Mount Storm power generating complex and some from out-of-state generating sources in the AEP and Allegheny power systems. But most of the increase, I believe, appears to coincide with Dominion’s strategy of buying electricity from the Midwest and wheeling it into Virginia through the PJM transmission pool — a practice that gained momentum during the power company’s flirtation with deregulation.
Dominion is a proponent of what I call the Big Grid energy strategy, of building a dense network of electric transmission lines in order to shift electricity long distances to those regions where it is most needed. But the approach has major drawbacks. First, as demonstrated by massive blackouts in the Midwest and Northeast earlier in the decade, the system is subject to catastrophic failure. Second, it requires building high-voltage transmission lines — such as the line that Dominion proposes for Virginia’s northern piedmont — which people don’t like running through their back yard.
I wouldn’t have a problem with the transmission lines if Dominion negotiated the rights of way with the individual property owners whose land it crossed. But Dominion doesn’t want to do that — it wants to utilize the power of eminent domain to compel landowners to sell their right of way. What’s more, as I understand it, landowners would be compensated only for the land in the right of way itself. They would receive no compensation for the loss of property value caused by visual blight on land surrounding the transmission line. That may seem like an arcane point to some, but consider: How would you feel if you paid $5 million for a farm, valued largely on the beauty of the surroundings, and Dominion ran a transmission line through it? Dominion might pay you $100,000 for the right of way, but the value of your farm might decline $1 million or $2 million in value.
The alternative to Big Grid is a distributed grid that integrates a legion of small and independent power contributors into the mix: wind mills, solar, biomass conversion, cogeneration and so on. By keeping the power source closer to the consumer, distributed generation does not experience the electricity leakage that occurs with long-distance transmission, nor it is as vulnerable to a catastrophic, system-wide failure.
If electric utilities are willing to pay the full cost of building electric transmission lines, then, I say, “Let ‘er rip!” However, I have no sympathy with those who would say, “But that would be too expensive.” Expensive to whom? To Dominion and its Northern Virginia customers? How about the people who own piedmont real estate?
If Northern Virginians want more electricity to build more energy-hogging server farms that yield big tax revenues for municipalities, why don’t they build power plants locally? Could the reason be that nobody in Northern Virginia likes power plants? Could it be that Northern Virginians prefer, for aesthetic reasons, to import their electric power?
Here’s the stand off: Northern Virginians don’t want power plants in their midst, and piedmont inhabitants don’t want transmission lines running through their land. Here’s the trick: The onus is on the Northern Virginians to find a solution because they’re the ones who want the electric power. They can build big Dominion-style power plants in their own back yards, or they can evolve to a system of distributed energy, or they can pay the piedmontese the full cost of running a transmission line through their region. They have no right, through the agency of Dominion, to simply take what they want.

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26 responses to “Transmission Lines and Electricity Imports”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: telling Dominion how they should be doing their business…

    I’m quite sure one of the “alternatives” to stringing power lines through Piedmont might well be to .. build a local power plant but I can also envision – major NIMBY responses… from the same folks who don’t want power lines nearby – also don’t want a power plant nearby.

    But even if we built a “local” plant – tell me how we’d get some level of redundancy – without grid-connected power lines.

    and what .. pay-tell would you fuel the “local” power plant with and would transporting that fuel from wherever… to “local” .. really and truly make that plant a “local” plant?

    to a certain extent – I find the anti-network philosophy to be luddite – shall I say?

    I’m all for efforts to help us all make smarter choices with respect to conservation – and I’m not opposed to considering other power-providers business models – but methinks we’re taking quite a bit for granted…

    p.s. – I’m completely in favor of ALL ED being decided by a jury of locals who also would set the price per certified appraisals which would INCLUDE the loss of value of the remaining parcel – not acquired by ED.

    but be forewarned – that those higher costs will not only be passed on to each of us – but those higher costs could well keep many proposed projects – in the proposed category.

    In the end – the consumer is going to pay – not Dominion and not it’s investors unless we’re going to pass a law that says.. once you buy Dominion shares – you own those share permanently.

    We do have existing alternatives – they’re called Rural Electric Co-operatives and they would be more than happy to expand their reach.


  2. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    Put the power lines through the Piedmont! NoVA needs the power in order to keep the economic subsidies flowing to RoVA, which includes the Piedmont. The latest state data shows Fairfax County residents alone paid more than 23% of the entire personal income tax bill in 2004. We sure don’t get anywhere near that much money back in services or state aid.

    Here’s an alternative. Fairfax County will build its own power plants, but the amount of personal and corporate income taxes sent from Fairfax County to Richmond will be capped at the amount sent in 2006. Going forward, all proceeds above that dollar amount generated in Fairfax County stays there.

    Any takers?

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar

    TMT, If you want to eliminate NoVa subsidies to RoVa, eliminate the subsidies. Don’t compensate with RoVa subsidies to NoVa that trample property rights in the process. If followed to its logical conclusion, all regions will subsidize all other regions in an opaque process intermediated by politicians. Everyone will be the loser.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    this is what I call the “VDOT Effect” (sic).

    Virtually every locality in Virginia expects VDOT to build more road projects than their area actually generates in gasoline taxes except that they call it … having the “state step up to the plate”.

    leaving that thorn alone for the moment…

    If NoVa builds it’s only power plants and important the fuel to power them (this is a good idea?)… how does it obtain backup/redundancy in the case of one or more of it’s power plants going offline…

    if … they choose not to build those nasty power lines that connect to the rest of grid?

    answers please?

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Put them underground, like the Tysons Tunnel.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, note that Dominion owns the transmission infrastructure in the state, not the co-ops. I don’t like the co-op arena at all for personal reasons but it only supplies power to the grid that Dominion owns. That’s an important distinction.

    Note that a grid can have power supplanted from a variety of arenas. It’s analogous to the internet with a web of distribution lines; one can re-route and reroute, albeit with energy there is a percentage loss of power with distance. Underground does make sense. There is a large capital cost but that cost should be able to be amortized over 50 years which should make it better for the power company than current power towers. However, corporate ceo’s are looking to the short term not the long term in regard to revenues.


  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    annon 10:22 – thank you for the info.

    did you get it backwards?

    My impression is that the cooperatives maintain the distribution system within their territories but they themselves do not produce power but instead buy it from Dominion (and perhaps other sources).. except that I think some of the Co-ops jointly own a South Central Virginia Plant.

    The Cooperatives have an interesting history and and equally interesting contemporary role.

    But .. my main point – was that – no matter what entities produce and/or distribute power – that for any given geographic location – there is an expectation that as long as the distribution system itself (the powerlines,etc) is intact .. the expectation is that power will be delivered.. even if one or more nearby generation plants are “down”.

    That’s the whole idea of a “grid”, is it not?

    So.. in that context, discussions of “local” power generation seem, in my mind, to have avoided the idea of HOW we get reliability and redundancy – at any local level – if you don’t have the powerlines that connect to the Grid.

    Even folks who have implemented their own “green” power – usually rely on Dominion and/or the cooperatives to provide them with supplemental and/or backup power.

    It would seem to me – that any concept of “locally-generated” power would need to, at the least, disclose how backup power would (or would not) be provided.

    I’m quite sure that the average user of electricity would not tolerate ANY comptemplation of supplanting GRID power with LOCAL power if there was no backup power capability.

    so I was hoping that the blogger advocates of “local” power would weigh in .. with a response.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    I have some questions concerning the spike in imports. The report only says these are imports and not net imports. So, how much of this is Dominion taking advantage of market and moving electricity around PJM? Interestingly, the spike in the graph is at the time the Virginia Electric Utility Restructuring Act was passed.

    And if this is Dominion taking advantage of arbitrage opportunities within PJM, how can you be sure that this line through the Piedmont is all about NoVA’s demand? It could just be Dominion’s natural drive as a private company to maximize profit. And even if Northern Virginian’s allowed a bunch of coal fired generation to be built in their back yard, Dominion would still want to export that given arbitrage opportunities that might arise in the marketplace. And in that event, they would still need transmission lines to accomplish that.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, you should use Janus as a pseudonym.

    “…every locality in Virginia expects VDOT to build more road projects than their area actually generates in gasoline …”

    Of course. Because the gas taxes are no where near high enough to cover the bill. Gas taxes which you oppose.

    Give me a break.

    Fine, let VDOT tell the people that we will fund projects in your area equal to what your gas taxes provide.

    But gas taxes are not the only thing that fund roadways, so set up some other measure that assesses how much money is actually provided, and from what sources, and go by that.

    Either way, ROVA is going to come out onthe short end of the stick, compared to where they are now.


  10. Anonymous Avatar

    How are the rural electic coops going to serve Farifax?


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    “tell me how we’d get some level of redundancy – without grid-connected power lines.”

    Yes you still need interconnections, but they dont need to be massive high voltage lines all over the place. Such connections can be placed underground, whereas high voltage lines cannot, or at least not economically.

    Think of the computer analogy. You can have a few supercomputers with high speed coonnections between them, and then run terminal speed lines to every home.

    Or, you can have bunch of individual comuters linked with much less powerful lines, and swap off locally as needs arise.

    If a small power plant goes off line there is more possibility that the slack can be picked up than if it is a huge one far away.

    However, you make a good point about fuel. If the fuel isn’t local, is the service really local?

    Would Piedmont residents be any happier with their road ways blocked by unit trains all day? Or their highways clogged with tankers hauling oil?

    Would it really be any more efficient, even considering transmission losses?

    Folks who have implemented their own “green” power – usually rely on Dominion and/or the cooperatives to provide them with supplemental and/or backup power, and to provide them with a market for the electricity they generate but don’t use. THAT is where the real savings lie. The enormous savings from hybrids is that they generates electricity and store it for later. But for a green energy producers it is more convenient to “store: the power by selling it to the grid.

    Anonymous 1:52 raises a hugely interesting question. How much energy will be imported to NOVA at the same time other energy previosly sent to NOVA is going to New England? (Where the NIMBYS have pretty much shut down power plant construction.)


  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: gas taxes

    actually I do support _any_ mechanism that directly ties local land use decisions with road infrastructure plans and funding.

    what I am opposed to is localities making land-use decisions that have major transportation consequences without taking responsibility for those consequences.. and/or worse telling their citizens that their hands are tied and it is up to VDOT to “fix it”.

    If a locality or region decides that it want to have a local tax on gasoline – they can – right now; it is permitted by the GA for Regional Transportation Authorities.

    and there are many other ways of doing this. For instance, localities can go to their citizens with a referenda…

    what I am opposed to is the statewide shell game where the theory is that everyone puts money into it and everyone gets money out of it – and of course everyone is expecting to get more money out of it than they put into it.

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: electric interconnectivity via big grid or smaller, more numerous paths.

    … I don’t truly know the tradeoffs but I suspect that more, smaller (underground) connections are going to be much more expensive.

    this is like the question that citizens answer with respect to more roads..

    yes.. they want them… no they don’t want to pay more for them…

    given the average citizens “expectations”… those who make and implement policy (including Dominion) are kinda left rolling their eyes…

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim, for the affected landowners, the situation is fr worse than you describe.

    The power company doesn’t take the land, just the right of way. Therefore the landowner is stuck paying taxes on land used by the power company.

    The amount they pay is based on its value under the previous use, which has no connection whatsoever to its value to them.

    The previous use may have been restricted by other government agencies, depressing its value far below what would be paid on the open market. Therefore, Fairfax and NOVA residents will get the benefit of conservative land use rules put in place in other jurisdictions – to prevent them from becoming like Fairfax.

    I have argued with Larry, that much of whatwe now see as (or is promoted as) land use for conservation reasons is really selfishness on the part of those who have already reaped the benefits of development, and now wish to reap the benefits of conservation – at someone elses expense. Because the power line locations will be selected specifically to avoid places that are developed (to keep acquisition costs down) this will result in another example of developed areas taking advantage of undeveloped areas – and therefore not paying their full locational costs.

    Larry correctly points out that higher acquisition costs will be passed on to all of us. I think he has it backwards. The true acquisition costs should be paid and should be passed on to all of us: this is fair ethical and right. What we shoud NOT do is accept artificially low costs based on what amounts to stealing.

    If the power line does not cross my property, I would be willing to pay a few cents more each month to make sure the poor SOB that gets stuck with it is adequately compensated, not just now, but forever. And, if I turn out to be that poor SOB, I would hope everyone else feels the same way.

    I know a woman who bought property in a fancy golf community. She paid extra for her lot because it was adjacent to land in conservation easement. The property is fairly clse to the terminus of the proposed line, therefore ther are fewer choices as to where the line will go. Undoubtedly that conservation easement will be compromised. Since the line will not cross her property, she gets nothing.

    My advice to her would have been, never pay for something that you don’t own, which is effectively what she did. Nevertheless. the value of her property will be compromisd, along with the conservation easement.

    Of the various power line routes proposed, three of them cross my wife’s proerty. Two of the routes skirt the edges and will have far more visual effect on my neighbors than me. Like my golf community friend, they were attracted by being next to this large farm. The power line routes may make the farm become an attractive nuisance, but they will get nothing.

    I gotta tell you, I would probably rather have one millionth of the value of the elctricity that may cross my property than anything they might offer on a one time basis. Same goes for the highway they built through here. I’d take a tiny, itsy bitty toll over the $200 per acre actually paid. Part of the problem is that this is a one time deal. No matter how important or expensive electricity becomes in the future, the land owner gets one fixed price. It would be better if landowners became stockholders of the company, and got a proprtionate share of the income derived from crossing their property.

    Actually, Dominion does negotiate with the landowners individually, and that is the problem. When my neighbors called meetings to try to stop this, I suggested they form a corporation. Proerty rights being a bundle of sticks, they could sell the rights to power lines to the corporation. Then, Dominion would be forced to negotioate with the corporation. Since the corporation would not own the land, the only thing Dominion could negotiate for would be the value of the ENTIRE transmission line. I submit that would be a far stronger position than what I or any individual owner now has.

    Finally, the judges that set the prices to be paid sit on the SCC, which will appprove the power line. Even if the prices are not set by a jury of locals, as Larry suggests, at least they should come from a different pool of judges.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, this is an earlier anon: the co-ops do have their own system but I was referring to the main line big grid.

    Regarding the power line debate that this blog references, one interesting aspect that no one has addressed is the 28th Senate. Stuart has not taken a definitive position on the powerlines; Pollard has testified against it. However, Pollard from what I can see is not campaigning at all in Fauquier or in Stafford–at the big FOR fall event, there were no Pollard signs outside. Pollard is doing little or nothing and the Dems don’t seem engaged–only Del Toro seems active.

    Here’s a machievallian thought: What if Chichester, Howell, et al, held a cabal and came up with a game plan to get the senate support for Dominion in the seat (Stuart) by having a non-engaged opponent (Pollard), Stuart and Pollard being part of their local network–isn’t that quite the conspiratist theory!

    Thoughts, anyone? Dominion has been a major donor of Chichester for years and I believe that they have contributed to Howell as well.

    Of coures, this could be just the reality that the dem is not running a strong campaign….

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    Underground connections are more expensive, and those communities that now have them DO pay for them. On the other hand, they are less prone to storm damage.

    I have always been amazed at the angst that putting up cell towers cause. It seems to me that if visual clutter was a big deal, you would go after the power and phone companies first.

    Not only are power lines ugly, but if you hit a pole (placed strategically alongside the road, even at the apex of a curve) you will be the one to pay for replacing the pole. If something happens once it is an accident, but people hit poles every day, and we should ask whose fault is that? Surely it is the drivers fault, but not entirely.

    So,When we tot up the cost of putting stuff underground, we should throw in a factor for the number of lives saved in the process.

    On the other hand, all that excavation is going to cause considerable runnoff.

    I don’t see that it is the government’s problem to manage people’s “expectations”. The government has a obligation to provide a level of services sufficient to prevent safety and health hazards. As JAB points out, it is in the government’s interest not to pull so much out of the economy that the kill the golden goose, otherwise and up to that point, they should provide the services to meet their obligation, and send people the bill. Tough noogies.

    In addition, since the government depends on the economy for their money,it makes just as much sense to provde services that improve the economy as it does to not dig so deep that they destroy it.

    Like any business, it’s a balancing act. If you don’t spend enough (including borrowed funds if necessary) you don’t grow as fast as you can, If you spend and borrwo too little, you also don’t grow as fast.

    If you think that growth is not sustainable, then the balancing act is even trickier. Now the goal is not growth but sustainment and status quo. Most voters won’t like the idea of never being able to get ahead, or improve their lot.


  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Citizen-initiated Referenda.

    Even ones that might strictly be “advisory” – would help all of us, our elected and even Dominion get a better sense of where Virginians want to go (or not) with respect to energy and electricity.

    I think we have a Government that is an artifact of a time – when there were few “educated” folks – and a philosophy that citizens needed to have a “directed” form of governance.

    As a result – who does the GA – and those running for the GA – pay more attention to – citizens or Dominion?

    I don’t discount Dominion or for that matter any business which must operate in the green – as opposed to how the government operates.

    But I think the frustration level is high for many folks of all political stripes in terms of our current… entrenched Dominion-dominated culture.

    So .. our politicians – even those running for office… are .. either not going to weigh in on the issues per se or even if they do – they’re not going to dance on Dominion’s toes…. or any other “kiss-of-death” activities.

    .. but again.. isn’t there major opportunities for those from the Conservative/Republican side of the house to … demonstrate bolder thinking… about Virginia’s role in this issue?

  18. Anonymous Avatar

    I have no doubt that in any referendum Dominion would come out ahead. Even I recognize that sooner or later we will need more generating capacity, more transmisson capacity, or both.

    But, we should have learned from the civil rights movement that government has an obligation to protect minorities.

    Majoritarian rule is no excuse to step on the little guy and take waht you want without full and proper compensation.

    While I have little doubt about the results of a Dominion referendum, I also have little doubt that the people of Virginia would consider standing up for what is right and protecting the little guy a “kiss of death” activity.

    It’s all in the marketing.


  19. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Majoritarian rule is no excuse to step on the little guy and take waht you want without full and proper compensation.”

    Let’s say I take your word – that you support the concept of land acquired from owners – for public benefit.

    then what process would you use to determine fair compensation?

    since you consider those in that situation as a “minority”, exactly what process would you advocate to ensure that the majority cannot “just take what they want”?

    or… does it boil down to paying the guy what he thinks it’s worth – and no other process applies?

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    No, I wouldn’t say that. Obviously there are people who would claim that no amount of money is sufficient.

    I suspect that what you are getting at is the difference between property rules, liability rules, and inalienability, with regards to land use. Under a property rule the owner of an entitlement can refuse to trade: he can hold out for any price. A liability rule requires the owner of an entitlement to exchange it with another party if the offer is considered acceptable by a third party. Inalienability meeans that initial entitlements should not be exchanged under any conditions.

    As we have discussed before, there is an issue as to when entitlements are established. Here, we cannot look to the comprehensive plan or the zoning laws for guidance, because they are the source of the problem, not the solution. And, we have to concede that the issue occurs mainly when suburban and exurban land that has never been previously developed is burdened with restrictions. It is common for these restrictions to be suprnormal: minimum lot sizes much larger than those of existing residents homes, infrastructure requirements of greater real cost that earlier subdivision, and land dedications by developers to provide for activities normally financed by public funds, and long procedureal delays.

    All of that is a precursor to a discussion of eminent domain. The fifth amendment says “nor shall private property be taken for public use without due compensation” This is the essence of a liability rule: owners do not have the right to refuse to give up their property as they would under a property rule. However, the Holmes decision inthe Pennsylvania coal case states that “A strong public desire to improve the public condition is not enough to warrant achieving that desire by a shorter cut than the constitutional way of paying the charge.”

    Suppose that five acre minimum lots were deemed constitutionally acceptable and ten acre minimum lots were not. A community that wishes to zone for ten acre lots should have the option of doing so, provided they pay landowners for the difference between the value of ten acre lots and five acre lots. That doesn’t mean the landowner can hold out for the value based on quarter acre lots.

    What it does mean is that zoning rules should be freely alienable and fungible. The reason is that this makes the revelation of information more freely available and allows the proper valuations to be openly decided.

    Draw an X on a sheet of paper. The line sloping up to the right is the landowners line and the line sloping up to the left is the communities line. More restrivctive land use is to the left on the bottom axis and less restrictive use is to the right.

    Where the lines cross maximizes the net toal benefit to the landownee and the community. But now consider uncertainty. Those are not lines but broad bands, and the region of the x is now a paralllogram of area, wherein a deal may arguably be struck.

    The band around the landowners line is narrower thatn the one around the communities line, because it is easier to establish market value basd on fvarious degerees of restriction. The Community band is larger because the benefits to the community are public goods and hard to value.

    So we have a condition where the landowner tries to minimze the value of the public benefit in order to shift his beefit to the right and the community tries to minimize the loss to the landowner.

    So, back to the landowner forced to sell. Reasonably, he ought to be satisfied with a condition under which he can see that his total compensation, including his share of the public benefit derived, along with his cash compensation is at least equal to what he might otherwise received over time. Let’s presume that as large lots become more rare, they increase in value. Over time the loss incurred by the landowner might reverse itself. Until then, he is effectively lending money to the community to finance some future benefit.

    All of this assumes that both the owner and the community are rational, and the discount rate is not too high.

    Unfortunately, none of that is what happens in practice. It is in the interest of both parties to withhold information or to provide false information.

    But if the zoning rules are expressly alienable and fungible then a landowner suffering from restrictions might try through a succssion of tentative offers to buy his way out of the restrictions.

    Eventually this would provide a true flow of information and a free market in zoning rights: the county could buy its way in to more restrictive zoning regulations if they truly believe the value si worth the cost, and this would be offset by the developer being able to buy his way out if the value is worth the cost.

    In such a world there would be little disagreement over valuation. And far less incentive for the community to impose supernormal restrictions.


    How does that apply to the dominion case, you might ask.

    A reasonable and rational property owner ought to be able to expect that his future value including his portion of the public benefit derived would be no worse off than his future value absent the power line and public benefit.

    We ought to be able to determine from past instances of sales of property under power lines compared with similar properties not under power lines. That would be a starter.

    Instead, what happens is that the owners compenstion is frozen in time, and based solely on the previous use. In turn, that previous use is highly likely to have been artificially constrained by supernormal land use restrictions.

    Consider the case of a landowner who has had property taken for construction of a highway or road. Over time, the presence of that highway might make his remaining land more valuable, but not if he is anchored in the past with supernormal land use restrictions effectively preventing him from tapping in to the public benefit provided by the highway.

    In the case of the power line, how is he to tap into the public benefit of transmitting power to Northern Virginia and New England, particularly if the value of that benefit goes up over time?

    What happens to him if he gets paid for the value of a strip of hayfield, and later the area around him is rezoned for higher density or use? He will have lost that value in the future, without being compensated for it.

    Now, I’d be the first to agree that there are places where homes and even schools have been built adjacent to power lines. Therefore, there are reasons to be suspect of outrageous claims.

    How do you rationalize these? As I said above, a true free market in land would go a long way to fix the problem, and that means you need a free market in land regulations as well.

    There is one obvious problem in that. It might behoove some communities to invoke strong land use restrictions in order that they can make money by then selling them off. Thats why you need some normative standard to prevent supernormal restrictions.

    I support the idea that some third party should make the final determination. I do not think it should be the same judges who approve the power line route.

    I also do not think it should be the average Joe on the streets of NOVA who thinks this is all a lot of whining by wealthy landowners concerned about their viewshed.

    But, if you buy the idea that a rational landowner should be convinced that his compensation, including his share of the public benefit should not be reduced below what it might otherwise have been, then at least we have a place to start.

    Then you still have to consider what to do about those whose land the power line impinges, but does not cross.

    Maybe there are 400 to 1000 landowners affected by this. If we are going to guarntee the power company a return on their investment, thn we should do no less for the property owners. So, we go back to the statistical study mentioned above. We find that for a certain property we can expect his value twenty years into the future to be reduced by $1,000,000. That is his future investment in the power line, and he should get a fair return in todays dollars on that investment.

    Or, you could go directly to a toll method. the owners would be entitled to (pick a figure) half of one percent of the profit derived form electricity that crosses their property, to be divided amongst the jumber of owners based on the property used.

    That still leaves you with what to do about the neighbors.

    In short, I don’t have a clear final answer, but I’m pretty sure that the current rules are insufficient to protect the property owners and provide a fair public benefit.

    Some years ago there was a state commission which stdudied the issue of emminent domain, and they made a number of recommnendations, none of which have yet been enacted. Maybe it isn’t too late.


  21. Anonymous Avatar

    RH is on the money regarding there being no clear answer; we need power. Underground lines will drive up costs, so hapless land owners get to be made to pay the price of others’ convenience. There isn’t a good answer.

    However, Larry asked about conservative political leadership: regarding the lines in Fauquier, there is some–Ligamfelter, Vogel are not in support. Whether they’ll really step forward remains to be seen. Cole and Stuart are non-committal and presuming that Stuart wins given Pollard’s activity level, that means Stuart will be a pro-Dominion sort. What’s refreshing is Del Toro’s platformm; he is specific and clear. So there is leadership on both sides on this issues–and avoidance (i.e. tacit support of Dominion) as well. And Larry is correct–Dominion’s support or opposition is something that any politician must take seriously.

    RH mentioned eminent domain reforms–that would be a great new discussion post–I don’t remember the state commission or its recommendations.

  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I find the ED issue in the context of Dominion’s use of ED … interesting.. in the context of a “public purpose” – when there are legitimate public policy questions – notably that the “need” for more power lines as asserted by Dominion verses the State that would like to see significant conservation incentives.

    And again – Dominion – without a change of State direction is going to assume…more consumption as justification for more power plants and more power lines.

    But the State… is long on fuzzy “feel good” goals and short on policy specifics – at least enough for Dominion to take notice and perhaps comptemplate alternatives – at least propose a couple.

    So methinks the State, the Environmental community and citizens are whistling in the wind shy of some meaninful ideas.

    but hey.. the Courts ruled that they can put wind turbines in Highliand County so who knows…

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    Unfortunately, at the moment I’m unabble to resurret the link to the state commission that studied ED.

    As I recall they made twelve recommendations.

    At present, if a condemnor makes an urealisticaly low offer, a landowner may sue. However, the condemnation goes forward, with the offered amount going ito escrow until the suit is settled. If the landowner wins a larger settlement he must still pay his own legal fees. One of the suggested amendments was to change that.

    Another related amendment would make the condemnor liable for apraisal costs incurred by the landowner.

    If a business is required to move, there is a cap on moving expense of ($10,000 or maybe it was $20,000). One suggested amendment was to remove or increase that cap.

    One suggested amentdment was to use a different set of judges from those approving the condemnation.

    Once a right of way is taken, the condemnor is free to offer it for use by other entities, and charge what the market will bear. In this case the landowner gets no additional compensation for additional use of his land. And, the landowner is in no position to do as the condemnor has done – charge what the market will bear. Instead, under current rules, he is restricted to being compensated only for the previous use.

    Both of those issues were part of the proposed amendments.

    Other reform had to do with land not affiliated with the actual right of way.
    at present, if the power company takes only a strip of land for the right of way, they pay only for the easement use of that strip of land. The landowner still owns the land and pays taxes on it. He may be constrained to continue to live next to the power line because only partof his land was used. And there is no compensation for loss of visual amenities, or losses suffered by adjoining properties.

    All of those issues were included in the recommendations, as I recall.

    Many of these reforms have already be instituted in other states, and these are in addition to the many reforms proposed as a result of KELO.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    In Fauquier County, we are working to establish a green energy initiative that will allow us to utilize the existing municipal solid waste taken to our landfill site, costing taxpayer dollars to maintain and operate, to produce not only electricity but with new technology simultaneously produce a biofuel for vehicles. Currently,by conservative estimates based on the population of the Northern Virginia Counties (excluding Fairfax and Arlington), this area produces enough garbage to generate at least an additional 1000 Mw if that waste were to be processed through small scale, nonpolluting (DEQ agrees) gasification plants.These plants, such as we propose for Fauquier, utilize current commercially available technology. In addition, within eighteen to twenty four months, the biofuel components are going to be ready and can be added for the alternative fuel production without impact on the electric generation capacity. These smaller, distributed power sources not only make up for the line losses inevitably resulting from long distance imported energy transmissions, but provide a secure and enhanced source of local power which does NOT require additional power lines. Partnerships between private entities and county public authorities are feasible constructors and operators at no additional costs in taxes or impacts on landowners. We are already working to develop ours. It takes time and people power to persuade the politicians, but once we do that, we can be permitted, constructed and operating in about twenty-four months. Talk to Warrenton Mayor George Fitch whose idea this was. Anyone cna do it, if you will try!

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    Look, i agreee this is a good idea, but:

    How green is this initative going to be? Are you trying to tell me that you have a chemical gassification process that produces NO waste, that it is truly non-polluting? I really don’t care if DEQ agrees I’m highly suspicious whther this is true.

    Yes, the existing solid waste stream costs taxpayer dollars to operate. How much will the gassification cost to operate, and won’t you still have to handle the same amount of waste stream whether it goes to the landfill or gassification plant? I don;t see the ne-net savings here.

    If this is current, commercially available technology,and there is no risk, why isn’t dominion doing it?

    If the Fauquier plant is used to support local power needs, how much is that going to help the rest of NOVA, which is what Dominion says it needs the power for (Never mind the same question if they are really sending it on to New England.)

    No additional cost in taxes or on neighboring landowners. I hope so, but I’ll believe it when I see it. go look at the one in Fairfax, and tell me it has “no impacts”.

    Lets put this in perspective another way. Alexandria uses a number of large rotating biological contactors in their sewage treatment plant. These are very reliable and they are currently available in sizes all the way down to the private homeowner level. It might make just as much sense to avoid central sewage processing as it does to avoid central power generation.

    So, just give me the facts: how much is this going to cost instead of and/or in addition to our present process? How much will the resulting product be worth, including the value of filling in the landfill more slowly.

    I think it is a great idea, now show me the proposed numbers. Then come back in five years and show me the actual numbers.


  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …. “why isn’t dominion doing it?”

    why should they?

    they’ve got a virtual monopoly, a guaranteed rate of return…on as much power as they can produce and profits only get better if people use even more power…

    and if people .. innovate and use less power… remember that guaranteed rate of return?

    Why would you expect THEM to…. INNOVATE ?

    this is sorta like expecting your cable company to … innovate…when they have you by your short hairs to start with


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