Virginia SCC grants Dominion Virginia Power petition over concerns for 500-kV line

The Virginia State Corporation Commission, in a Dec. 17 order, said it will grant reconsideration to consider the petition by Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power in which the company sought relief from the SCC’s selection of the “James River Crossing Variation 4” as the route for the new 500-kV Surry-Skiffes Creek line.

“Reconsideration is granted for the purpose of continuing the commission’s jurisdiction over these matters to consider the petition,” the SCC said, adding that the matter is continued.

As TransmissionHub reported, the SCC on Nov. 26 approved, with conditions, Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed line, finding that the project is required by the public convenience and necessity.

The proposed project, using a tower alignment identified as “Variation 4,” is required by the public convenience and necessity, reasonably minimizes environmental impacts and otherwise satisfies state law requirements, the SCC said.

In its Dec. 16 petition, Dominion Virginia Power said that it files the petition reluctantly and in a limited fashion because it fully supports the order in every respect save the one pertaining to Variation 4.

“[W]ithout the reconsideration and relief requested herein, the company believes it will be unable to construct the Surry-Skiffes Creek line as directed by the commission in order to resolve the impending reliability violations recognized by the commission’s order,” Dominion Virginia Power said.

During the evidentiary hearing, a witness for the James City County Economic Development Authority (EDA) testified that the EDA made a “commitment” to the SCC that the EDA “will provide Dominion with the necessary easement that would make Variation 4 a viable route.
Variation 4 crosses property owned by the EDA.

“Since the close of the evidentiary hearing, however, the EDA has broken that commitment and refuses to provide the easement required to construct the Surry-Skiffes Creek Line unless the company accedes to a demand of Williamsburg Developments, Inc. (“WDI”), a subsidiary of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, that the portion of Variation 4 that crosses the James River be installed underground, a condition expressly rejected by the order,” Dominion charged.

The EDA’s actions confirm the hearing examiner’s findings that “if the [EDA] and Dominion Virginia Power are unable to conclude a right-of-way agreement, Variations 3 and 4 are no longer viable routes. The only remaining option that point would be James River Crossing Variation 1.”

Dominion Virginia Power requested that the SCC adopt “Recommendation 12,” which established a deadline for the conclusion of negotiations for a right-of-way agreement with the EDA to be enforced by the condition that, if such an agreement is not concluded by the time set by the SCC, the route for construction of the Surry-Skiffes Creek line will be James River Crossing Variation 1.

Should the SCC choose to not grant the relief requested, the company said it requested that the SCC convene an expedited and limited hearing to receive evidence and rule on whether and when the EDA “will provide Dominion with the necessary easement” to make Variation 4 a viable route. If it is determined that EDA will not provide the necessary easement, the route for construction of the line should be James River Crossing Variation 1 or the SCC should consider an adjustment to the Variation 4 route that would avoid the EDA property entirely.

That adjusted revised route would require additional route-of-way from another party to the proceeding, BASF Corporation. Additionally, the company said, it is important for the SCC to consider that the selection of Variation 4, in any routing configuration, will adversely affect the already tight construction schedule for the proposed project in ways that were unknown to the company when the evidentiary hearing concluded.

A letter was e-mailed on Dec. 5 by Dominion Virginia Power’s counsel to EDA’s counsel stating that Variation 4 is not viable without an executed memorandum of agreement (MOA) from the EDA. The company was told by WDI twice that WDI will not provide its easement unless the Variation 4 river crossing is installed underground.

“Obviously, such a condition would violate the commission’s order, which rejected undergrounding that river crossing,” the company said.

Company counsel further asked the EDA, by Dec. 13, to execute and deliver the MOA to the company or state the EDA’s reasons for not providing an executed MOA. By letter of Dec. 10, EDA counsel referenced and provided a copy of the EDA’s May 9 resolution and notified company counsel that the MOA would be discussed at the EDA’s next meeting on Dec. 12.

At that meeting, the EDA voted to confirm its resolution, which states that the EDA will not provide its MOA unless adjoining landowners first confirm that the proposed location of the easement on their properties is acceptable.

WDI representatives also attended the meeting and provided the company with a copy of a letter, dated Dec. 11, to EDA counsel confirming WDI’s position that it will not sign any easement for Variation 4 unless the James River crossing on that route is installed underground.

Among other things, the company said that the letter “confirms that the EDA’s refusal to sign its MOA, unless and until WDI has signed its MOA, together with WDI’s refusal to sign its MOA unless and until the Variation 4 river crossing is installed underground, nullifies the EDA’s ‘commitment’ to the commission that EDA ‘will provide Dominion with the necessary easement’ required for Variation 4 to be viable.”

Leo Rogers, counsel for the EDA, told TransmissionHub on Dec. 18 that the EDA did meet the week of Dec. 9.

“They have three times confirmed the commitment and adopted a resolution to convey the necessary right-of-way for Variation #4,” he said. “There is conflicting desires between adjacent property owners as to what to do, so we asked Dominion to work that out.”

BASF wishes to have the line go the northern route, while WDI wishes to have it go underwater or in a southern route.

“Dominion has the power of eminent domain and should [it] acquire the necessary property rights over either property, then the EDI would go along with whatever position they’re in,” he said. “If Dominion were to act to resolve the controversy, then the EDA has three times made a commitment to convey its right-of-way.”

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2807 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 13 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at corinar@pennwell.com.