The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), in a May 5 final order, said that Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power is authorized to build and operate the Cunningham-Dooms 500-kV Transmission Line Rebuild project, subject to certain conditions.
“The commission finds that the company’s proposed rebuild project is needed,” the SCC said in its order. “The record reflects that completing the rebuild project would replace aging infrastructure that is nearing the end of its expected service life and maintain the reliability of the grid.”
As noted in the order, the company in March 2016 filed with the SCC an application for approval and certification for transmission facilities in connection with the proposed rebuild of the Cunningham-Dooms Line #534.
According to the application, the SCC said, the company proposes to rebuild, entirely within its existing right of way (ROW), about 32.7 miles of its existing 500-kV Cunningham-Dooms Line #534 transmission line in Fluvanna, Albemarle, and Augusta counties, located between the company’s existing Cunningham switching station in Fluvanna County, and its existing Dooms substation in Augusta County.
The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in May 2016 filed a report with the SCC, calling for the company to, for instance, coordinate with the Department of Historic Resources regarding its recommendations to protect historic and archaeological resources.
The SCC also noted that its staff in July 2016 filed a report, concluding that the company had reasonably demonstrated the need for the proposed rebuild project, and recommending that the company address the feasibility of using structures with a dulled finish, as well as quantify any incremental costs associated therewith.
The company subsequently filed rebuttal testimony, saying that “while technically and commercially feasible, the company does not support the use of a chemical post-treatment process to dull the galvanized finish of the transmission towers.”
The SCC further stated that a hearing examiner entered a report in November 2016, finding that the recommendations contained in the DEQ report are reasonable and should be adopted by the SCC as conditions of approval, as well as that the proposed rebuild project:
- Is justified by the public convenience and necessity
- Will maximize the use of existing ROW
- Is essential to support ongoing economic development and overall system reliability
- Is not suitable for underground construction
- Reasonably mitigates – with its use of existing ROW and tower design – the overall impact and generally improves the aesthetics of the proposed rebuild project
The hearing examiner also found that requiring the company to use a chemical dulling process on the newly installed towers is unwarranted, the SCC said, adding that the hearing examiner’s report noted that the new towers would dull naturally over a few years, and that detrimental effects of the chemical dulling process on the towers’ life span were unknown.
Staff in December 2016 filed a motion requesting that the SCC take judicial notice of the hearing examiner’s ruling issued in October 2016 in other SCC cases, including PUE-2015-00073, approving for implementation a pilot program being conducted by the company to test the darkening chemical called “Natina” on certain galvanized tower structures located on the company’s Dooms-Lexington transmission line.
The SCC added that the company responded to the motion on Jan. 12, and staff filed a reply on Jan. 30. The SCC noted that it issued on March 2 an order directing supplemental filings related to the chemical dulling of the tower structures, and that the company, as well as staff, subsequently made the filings directed therein.
The SCC said, “After consideration of the record including the required supplemental filings, the commission will require chemical dulling of the tower finish for this particular rebuild project under the circumstances of this case to mitigate the visual impacts of the rebuild project.”
The SCC further noted that regarding impacts on scenic and historic districts, the rebuild project will be located within existing ROW, and that use of the existing route will minimize adverse impacts on scenic assets and historic districts in Virginia.
The SCC also said that it finds that there are no adverse environmental impacts that would prevent the construction or operation of the proposed rebuild project. As a condition to its approval, the SCC said that the company must comply with all of the DEQ’s recommendations as provided in the DEQ report.
Among other things, the SCC said that the rebuild project must be built and in service by June 1, 2019, but that the company is granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown.