Fauquier County supervisors look to General Assembly to ‘solidify’ underground transmission line via state law | Government and politics

In response to growing resistance from Fauquier residents regarding the proposed above-ground transmission line that could cross the northern region of the county, the Fauquier Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution asking the Virginia Legislature to examine the Blackwell substation project for an underground. transmission line pilot program.

On July 14, the supervisors passed a resolution authorizing the County Administrator to submit a letter to the Fauquier County General Assembly delegation requesting that the Blackwell Project be included in a pilot program under which Dominion would be mandated. by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to construct part or all of its proposed underground transmission line.

A 2018 law empowered the state legislature to direct the commission to approve partially underground routes proposed by electric utility companies, including Dominion, as part of a project pilot to study the reliability and cost impacts of building underground lines.

According to the legislation, to qualify: the transmission line must be 230 kilovolts or less (but greater than 69 kilovolts), an analysis must be done demonstrating the feasibility of putting the line underground, the community must support the project, the project must be filed with the commission, the cost does not exceed $40 million or 2.5 times the cost of setting up the above-ground line and the goal of the project is to create “network reliability, resilience network or support Commonwealth economic development priorities. ”

The Panel is not required to carry out further analysis of the impact on environmental or historic resources caused by the underground route, in accordance with the legislation.

The program was originally created to encourage the construction of several underground transmission lines in Northern Virginia between 2018 and 2020. But according to the county administrators office, the General Assembly could change the legislation to include the Blackwell project as soon as fall if an extraordinary session is convened.

Dominion spokeswoman Peggy Fox told FauquierNow that the company was not aware of any such legislative proposals and declined to speculate on any future changes.

However, Fox said, “We value our working relationship with the county in how we collaboratively meet its growing energy needs. We remain committed to exploring all feasible options for this project and to involving the community during the planning process.

To date, Dominion Energy has proposed eight preliminary underground and overhead transmission line routes, three of which are underground. Dominion communications consultant Stephen Precker has said repeatedly over the past few months that the company is investigating the feasibility of more underground alternatives. However, these alternatives have yet to be revealed, and the commission finally has the final say on building an underground route.

In response to backlash from residents over the possibility of an above-ground route, supervisors have been eager to find a way to push the company to request an underground route when it submits its application to the agency in the fall.

Center District Supervisor Chris Granger and Scott District Supervisor Holder Trumbo said the pilot program would be a way to “solidify” the underground route into state law.

“It would be much better if we had protection in place before any action, instead of waiting again until he was halfway to try to act,” Trumbo said during the meeting.

Dominion plans to file its application with the commission by September 29. If approved, construction could begin as early as 2024.

Bonny J. Streater