Virginia Electric and Power (Dominion Energy Virginia) on Feb. 27 told the Virginia State Corporation Commission that the new Surry-Skiffes Creek 500-kV Transmission Line and the 500-kV bus was energized on Feb. 26.
The fendering system below the surface is 100% complete, and the fender hall section above the surface is 25% complete, the company said. Noting that the fiberglass covers for the tower piles are at 50% complete, the company said that continued work on the covers will start back after the below the surface restrictions are lifted June 15.
As noted in the filing, by its November 2013 order, as modified by its February 2014 order amending certificates and confirmed by its April 2014 order denying petition, the commission approved the construction and operation by Dominion Energy Virginia of the 500-kV line, as well as the Skiffes Creek-Whealton 230-kV Transmission Line, and the Skiffes Creek 500-kV-230-kV-115-kV switching station.
The company added in its filing that those orders were appealed by BASF Corporation and jointly by James City County, Saves the James Alliance, and James River Association (referred to as the JCC Parties) to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which issued its unanimous opinion in those appeals in April 2015, affirming the commission’s approval of the facilities, which comprise the certificated project.
Dominion said that the court’s opinion in BASF reversed and remanded – by a 4-3 vote – the holding in the commission’s November 2013 order that the term “transmission line” includes transmission switching stations such as the Skiffes station under Va. Code § 56-46.1 F, which exempts transmission lines approved by the commission under that section from Va. Code § 15.2-2232 and local zoning ordinances.
The court in May 2015 denied petitions of the commission and the company seeking rehearing of that aspect of the BASF opinion, and as a result, the company is now required to obtain local land use approval from James City County to build the Skiffes station.
The company also noted that it must obtain permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to place fill material in the James River for construction of the transmission line towers and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 for resulting obstructions to navigation. The Corps in July 2017 issued the company a final permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.
The company added that the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) in July 2017 sought to challenge the Corps permit by filing a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia; later that month, the NPCA filed a motion for preliminary injunction with the court. The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) and Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (Preservation Virginia) in August 2017 also sought to challenge the Corps permit by filing a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief with the same court, the company said.
The court in October 2017 denied the motions for preliminary injunction of the NPCA and the NTHP/Preservation Virginia. The company added that the NPCA and NTHP/Preservation Virginia in December 2017 each filed a motion for summary judgment. The court in May 2018 issued an order denying the motions for summary judgment of the NPCA and NTHP/Preservation Virginia, granting the cross-motions for summary judgment of the Corps and the company in their entirety, and dismissing both cases (District Court MSJ Order).
The company added that the NPCA in June 2018 filed a notice of appeal in the District Court appealing the District Court MSJ Order to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (D.C. Circuit). The NTHP/Preservation Virginia, also in June 2018, filed a notice of appeal in the District Court appealing the District Court MSJ Order to the D.C. Circuit. The D.C. Circuit heard oral argument on the appeal in December 2018, the company added.
Dominion Energy Virginia said that it submitted an application to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for the removal of an inactive bald eagle nest on one of the 230-kV structures that is proposed to be replaced, and that the application is awaiting approval.
Among other things, the company said that the inability to begin construction since the application was filed with the commission had made it impossible for the proposed facilities to be completed and in service by Dec. 31, 2015, as provided in the commission’s February 2014 order amending certificates. As permitted by federal environmental regulations, the company obtained from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality a one-year extension of the April 2015 deadline for Yorktown Units 1 and 2 to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) regulation that will be achieved by retiring the units, which drove the original June 2015 need date for the new transmission facilities.
Dominion Energy Virginia added that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in June 2017 granted an order to PJM Interconnection to direct the company to operate Yorktown Units 1 and 2 as needed to avoid reliability issues on the Virginia Peninsula for 90 days. In December 2018, DOE issued a seventh 90-day emergency order under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, and on Feb. 8, PJM submitted a request to DOE for a 30-day renewal of the seventh DOE order, for the period of March 9 through April 8.
The company also noted that the EPA on Feb. 7 published a proposed rule revising the “appropriate and necessary” finding regarding the MATS rule, concluding that it is not “appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollution (HAP) emissions from power plants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The EPA proposes to find that a “proper” consideration of costs demonstrates that the total cost of compliance with MATS is larger than the monetized HAP benefits of the rule, and thus MATS could not be considered “appropriate and necessary.” The company added that the EPA is proposing that the MATS rule would remain in place, citing legal precedent that a negative “appropriate and necessary” finding cannot by itself remove a source category from regulation.
In the proposed new finding, the EPA would not remove or “de-list” coal- and oil-fired power plants from the list of affected source categories for regulation under CAA Section 112 and would leave MATS in place, the company said. The proposal also addresses the CAA requirement for the EPA to conduct a residual risk and technology review for power plants, which is due for completion by 2020. Dominion Energy Virginia added that the EPA will accept public comment on the proposal through April 8, and that a final rule on the proposal could be issued later this year.