The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) on June 6 authorized, subject to certain conditions, Dominion Energy’s (NYSE:D) Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Energy Virginia to build and operate electric transmission facilities in Charles City and Prince George counties in Virginia.
As noted in the SCC’s June 6 final order, the company proposes to rebuild, within the existing right of way (ROW), an approximately 0.99-mile portion of its existing 500-kV Chickahominy-Surry Line #567, where the transmission line crosses the James River between Charles City County and Prince George County. The portion of Line #567 that the company proposes to rebuild includes an approximately 0.79-mile river crossing, with the remaining 0.2 mile of the rebuild project on the riverbanks, the SCC said.
The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in February filed a report with the SCC that contained such recommendations as that the company should coordinate with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding potential project impacts to the Atlantic sturgeon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the Bald Eagle Concentration Zone, and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regarding its general recommendations to protect wildlife resources.
The SCC further noted that its staff on March 14 filed testimony, concluding that the company had reasonably demonstrated the need for the proposed project and that the proposed routing in existing ROW reasonably minimizes impact to environmental, historic, and scenic resources. Staff also indicated that if the SCC determines that the company should mitigate the visual impact of the galvanized steel replacement structures for the rebuild project, chemical dulling of the structures may be a reasonable and cost-effective method for doing so, the SCC said.
The company on March 30 filed rebuttal testimony, stating that it generally agrees with staff’s overall conclusions; explaining why its estimated cost of the project increased from about $10.9m to $36.7m; requesting that the SCC not require the use of chemically dulled structures for the project; addressing the company’s prior and future outreach activities to the landowners in the project’s vicinity; and addressing the recommendations contained in the DEQ report.
The SCC also noted that a hearing examiner’s report, which was entered on May 22, found, for instance, that the proposed project is needed and reasonably minimizes impact on the environment, scenic assets, and historic resources.
The company and staff on May 26 filed comments on that report, the SCC said.
As TransmissionHub reported, the company said, for instance, that it agrees with the hearing examiner’s finding that the commission should not direct the company to chemically dull the structures in this case, noting that the transmission towers for the rebuild project will be in the middle of the James River with the sky as the background. As the hearing examiner said, “the transmission towers in the middle of the James River will be clearly visible whether they are dulled or not,” the company said.
Staff said, for instance, that in its opinion, the record in this case could support an SCC decision to direct chemical dulling for all, some, or none of the project’s replacement structures, depending on how the SCC weighs the record evidence. Based on the specific facts of the case, staff said that it neither opposes nor supports chemical dulling for the project.
The SCC said in its final order that the need for the project is unchallenged, noting that the record includes documentation of extensive deterioration and damage to the supporting structures in the area where the existing transmission lines cross the James River.
Discussing scenic assets and historic districts, the SCC said that after consideration of the record, it will require chemical dulling of the structure finish for this particular rebuild project under the circumstances of this case to mitigate the visual impact of the rebuild project.
The SCC noted that it finds that there are no adverse environmental impacts that would prevent the construction or operation of the project. As a condition of its approval, the SCC said that the company must comply with all of the DEQ’s recommendations as provided in the DEQ report, with one exception. The SCC added that it adopts the hearing examiner’s recommendation that the company is to consult with the Department of Conservation and Recreation for updates to the Biotics Data System only if the scope of the project involves material changes, or 12 months from the date of the order pass before the project begins construction.
The SCC also said that the project must be built and in service by Feb. 28, 2018; however, the company is granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown.