Prince William County said Tuesday that it will donate $30,000 to support the legal efforts of residents fighting against a proposed Dominion Energy transmission route in the Haymarket area linked to plans for a new computer data center in the area.
“Dominion is a corporate bully,” Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, said before the board voted unanimously to use budget contingency funds to donate to the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, one of several neighborhood groups protesting plans for a route through an area along Carver Road where descendants of a former slave have lived for generations.
“We are going to stand up and we are going to stick with you,” Stewart told Carver Road residents who showed up to the county government center to plead for support. “We are going to protect the Carver Road community.”
The move by Prince William came amid a growing effort to persuade the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, to reverse its decision last month to allow Dominion to build a six-mile transmission route along Carver Road that would mean installing 100-foot-high towers carrying lines with 230,000 volts of power.
Dominion officials have said that the extra capacity is also needed to address the increasing demand for power in the area.
The state commission agreed last week to suspend that decision to consider arguments from area residents that VAData — a subsidiary of Amazon.com that has proposed building a 38-acre data-center complex in the area — does not need the extra power to operate. VAData has not responded to repeated requests for comment. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is owner of The Washington Post.)
Residents argue that the transmission lines would disrupt their community and pose environmental and health hazards.
They want the state commission to order Dominion to build a route along Interstate 66 with the lines partially buried — an option estimated to cost $167 million, which the regulatory agency had previously ruled as too costly. The Carver Road route would cost about $62 million.
“The money does not outweigh our lives,” Nathan Grayson, one of the Carver Road residents, said before the vote. “We’re trying to live there peacefully until the end.”
Dominion officials have said that they will work with residents along any route to avoid displacing people from their homes.
The utility company also said that it warned Prince William County of the repercussions for Carver Road residents while pursuing an alternative path along a freight railroad line that required county approval to use adjoining land — a request the Board of County Supervisors unanimously rejected.
“The residents of Carver Road should look no further than Corey Stewart and the Prince William County Board of Supervisors for the reason why the State Corporation Commission selected their community to build this project,” Dominion spokesman Charles Penn said in a statement. “The Railroad Route was the least impactful route; a route that would have resulted in some trees being removed. Yet overhead powerlines still would have been hidden from view.”
Residents said that the county donation will help but that it may take a lot more than $30,000 to fight a legal battle that could land in the state Supreme Court should the state commission decide to stick with the Carver Road route.
“The level of work this fight entails is overwhelming if you don’t have the resources,” said Elena Schlossberg, director of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County.