Residents on Carver Road are continuing to fight against Dominion Energy over a 230 kilovolt transmission line that could be coming through their properties in Gainesville.
The community has formed an organization called the Alliance to Save Carver Road, which is planning a protest at one of Dominion’s facilities on July 29.
Several weeks ago, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) stated that the “Carver Road route” was the second-in-line preferred route for the transmission line Dominion is building in large part to service Amazon’s incoming data center facilities in Gainesville.
In a press release issued earlier this week, the organization asserted that Dominion spokesman Chuck Penn approached some of Carver Road’s elderly residents, making them uncomfortable.
“I am extremely concerned to hear a representative of Dominion Energy, Mr. Chuck Penn, approached residents of the Carver Road community. Among those approached was an elderly resident, we find this very disturbing and makes the residents uncomfortable. Our elderly residents are especially vulnerable and may not be aware of Dominion’s tactics to influence the process of installing transmission lines to serve Amazon’s data centers,” stated Alliance spokesperson Joyce Hudson in a release.
Penn provided this statement in response to the release: “We respect the right of citizens to peacefully assemble to express themselves. That is the beauty and blessing that comes from living in a Democratic society.”
Nathan Grayson, a former electrician and resident living on Carver Road shared his thoughts on the situation. Grayson’s five-times great aunt was a freed slave that purchased the land where his home sits, back in the 1800s.
“Him coming out and giving them this long spiel, and talking and saying, ‘We really didn’t want to be on Carver Road…this is not our desired route’ – pretty much the gentleman that showed up was pointing the finger at everyone except for Dominion Energy,” said Grayson.
While Grayson understands that the SCC is the body that selects the routes, he highlighted Dominion’s responsibility in choosing potential routes to begin with.
“They are the folks that are choosing these actual routes. They’re the ones that put Carver Road on the map, they’re the ones that put the railroad tracks on the map,” said Grayson.
According to Grayson, Dominion has stated that they will only need a 100-foot easement on his property for part of the power line, but he doesn’t agree with their assessment.
“Even at the base where it’s only 100 foot-wide where the actual power line pole sits…they will need more additional room besides what they’re asking for, because we can’t live that close to 230,000 volt transmission lines, so they’re going to need at least another 50 to 100 foot on the left and the right of this power line to make it safe,” said Grayson.
Because of the position of his property and adjacent properties in the neighborhood, Grayson stated that it would be extremely difficult for Dominion to place the power line along Carver Road without taking his home.
“They will be coming directly through my house, and they will have to take my house,” said Grayson.
If the company were to use eminent domain to take properties as part of the transmission line project, the Carver Road residents could get far less for their homes than if they were to sell them in the housing market.
“They’d only pay us fair market value, and we’d have to start our lives completely over again…and for the older folks, it’d kill them…their parents, their parents, their parents have passed this land down…they’re elderly folks that we’re trying to take care of in our community, to avoid having to put them into a nursing home…the plan is [to let] these folks pass on in peace in their homes,” said Grayson.
The Alliance, as well as the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS), has stated that a hybrid route along I-66, which would place the power line partially underground, would be the best route for all involved.
Grayson expressed frustration with Amazon in addition to Dominion, as Amazon is not contributing financially to the construction of the transmission line that it will use for its data centers.
“They don’t want to deal with the I-66 hybrid route because they don’t want to deal with the [increased cost]. Jeff Bezos (the owner of Amazon) and Dominion Energy have more money than God. And I can’t understand as to why on Earth they want to put all this pressure on folks…98% of the actual electricity from the 230,000 [volt] transmission lines will be utilized directly for Amazon…and Amazon’s not even willing to step up to the plate,” said Grayson.
The SCC has pulled Carver Road from being the designated route right now, as Dominion and Prince William work through some terms for the project, according to SCC Division of Information Resources Director Kenneth Schrad.
“Now it’s the big guys up against us little folks, and they’re gonna run over top of us because they’re utility companies…and you have no finances to be able to protect yourself against these large conglomerates…if they want your property, if they want your land, if they want access to it…they are coming through,” said Grayson.
Schrad stated that on June 23 the SCC originally recommended the “railroad route”, but that the BOCS would not approve it.
“That required Dominion to go to Prince William County and work out some situations with regards to easements….the county wasn’t willing to allow the line because of those easements,” said Schrad.
This is what led the SCC to select the “Carver Road route” as the second option.
When asked about the SCC’s decision to not select the hybrid underground route, Schrad stated that cost was a major factor.
“It’s been the Commission’s practice not to impose on all rate payers, the much higher cost of an underground facility,” said Schrad.
Estimates from Dominion state that the I-66 underground route would cost at least $167 million, as compared to $55 million for the Carver Road option and $62 million for the railroad route option.
The issue of Amazon being one of the major motivators for the building of the transmission line came up during SCC hearings, according to Schrad, as well as that Amazon was not contributing financially to the project.
“That was all litigated before the Commission, and the Commission determined that it simply wasn’t a line extension to a single customer, that there was going to be an added benefit to the provision of electric service in that Northern Virginia area,” said Schrad.
Following motions for reconsideration filed with the SCC, they have given Dominion a 60-day extension to go back to Prince William County to discuss terms, and will need to file paperwork by August 16, according to Schrad.
The Alliance to Save Carver Road’s protest will be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. outside of a Dominion facility at 3072 Centreville Road in Herndon.
“It gives you an empty gut feeling…knowing that you are totally, completely helpless. Your fate is in the hands of someone else,” said Grayson.
Amazon did not return requests for comment.