Commission to reconsider protested power line route
Health impacts and potential uprooting of slave descendants cited
The Virginia State Corporation Commission announced Friday that it will reconsider its decision to allow the route of a set of Dominion Energy power lines to cut through land near Haymarket that has been owned for more than a century by descendants of a freed slave — a case connected to a project for a new computer data center that has faced fierce community opposition.
Commission spokesman Ken Schrad said the panel will weigh two appeals filed by local resident groups this week before reaching a final decision on whether to stick with a route along Carver Road or choose a different path. The six-mile project between Haymarket and Gainesville requires 100-foot-high transmission towers supporting lines carrying 230,000 volts of power.
Opponents argue that the health and environmental impacts along Carver Road would be too great and that VAData — an Amazon.com subsidiary that is pursuing a data center project on 38 acres of land — does not need the extra capacity to operate because the company said it does not yet know when it expects to build its two warehouse-size buildings.
An Amazon representative did not respond to requests for comment Friday. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
Dominion spokesman Charles Penn argued that the project is needed to serve both the proposed data center and the wider Haymarket area, which has been growing.
The company said it will work with local residents along whichever route is chosen to purchase the land it needs.
“This project has broad public benefit,” Penn said in a statement.
Residents have been pushing for the transmission lines to be located along Route 66 with a portion of the lines buried — an option the state commission ruled would be too expensive.
The commission had favored an alternative path along a nearby freight rail line, but Dominion failed to secure an easement needed for the project from Prince William County.
Elena Schlossberg, director of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County — one of the groups that filed an appeal — said her organization will continue fighting against the Carver Road route.
“Our arguments are strong,” she said.
Nathan Grayson, a descendant of Livinia Blackburn Johnson, the ex-slave who purchased some of the Carver Road land in 1899, said he and the roughly 30 siblings and distant cousins who live there have been filled with anxiety over the possibility of having to leave the property.