Com­mis­sion to re­con­sider protested power line route

Health im­pacts and po­ten­tial up­root­ing of slave de­scen­dants cited

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY AN­TO­NIO OLIVO an­to­nio.olivo@wash­post.com

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.

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