Putting a Price on the Priceless

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Jamestown archaeological dig site. Photo credit: Daily Press

How does the state put a dollar value on historic, cultural and environmental assets threatened by eminent domain?

by James A. Bacon

In its high-stakes effort to win regulatory approval to build a 500 kV electric transmission line to the Virginia Peninsula, Dominion Virginia Power proposed in December to spend $85 million to mitigate the project’s impact on historical and environmental resources. That’s over and above the estimated $155 million cost to build the 7.7-mile line, which Dominion says is critical to maintain a reliable electric supply to nearly 500,000 residents from Williamsburg to Hampton.

Measures in the draft Memorandum of Agreement submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would do nothing to alter the visual intrusion of the 17 towers crossing the James River near Jamestown. But it would allocate $52.7 million to underwrite archaeological work and other improvements in and around Jamestown Island, $15.6 million for water quality improvements, $12.5 million for landscape and battlefield conservation, and $4.2 million to acquire wetlands, restore shorelines and preserve historical resources nearby.

Dominion’s proposal is being circulated for feedback, and there is no guarantee that it will be accepted by the Army Corps, which  is charged with considering the adverse impact of the project on wetlands and historic assets. In the view of some conservationists, nothing can make up for the cluttering of view sheds in and around Jamestown, one of the most important historical sites in American history.

Whatever the Army Corps decides, the MOA still represents a watershed in Virginia regulation. It would be one of the largest sums, perhaps the largest sum, ever proposed to offset the impact of a Virginia utility project on environmental, historic or cultural resources.

“We’ve not conducted an exhaustive file search, but [I] suspect that few final mitigation proposals to resolve adverse effects to historic resources associated with a Corps permit have exceeded a total cost of $85 million,” says Mark W. Haviland, chief of public affairs for the Army Corp’s Norfolk office.

Few spots resonate in the Virginia psyche like Jamestown does, but the state is chockablock with historical sites, cultural sites, landscapes, wildlife habitats and view sheds that many would like to preserve from development. As Bacon’s Rebellion documented recently (see “Clash of Competing Values“), these intangible resources have become so ubiquitous that it is increasingly difficult for energy companies to build gas pipelines or electric transmission lines without crossing multiple assets.

Decades ago, routing pipelines and transmission lines wasn’t the complex task that it is today. It was a relatively straightforward exercise to calculate the fair-market value of farmland, timberland and houses to compensate landowners for lost economic value. But the determinants of economic value for land have evolved. Increasingly, Virginians in rural areas purchase property for the views they offer or the natural habitat they conserve, not for their ability to extract income. Moreover, various public and private entities are identifying habitats and view sheds as worth protecting — historical sites and districts; federal, state and local parks; scenic highways and scenic rivers; private conservation easements and public conservation zones;  and wetlands, wildlife habitat and more.

Can a price tag be put on an acre of habitat for the rare Cow Knob Salamander? How much is it worth to preserve the view from James Madison’s library window at Montpelier? What is the value of an obscure Civil War battlefield such as the indecisive 1864 cavalry clash at Samaria Church in Charles City County?

Much of the conflict between utilities and conservationists stems from regulators’ inability to value intangible assets that loom large in nearly every project, thus making it impractical for utilities to pay meaningful compensation. Dominion’s proposal is significant because it attempts to offset the adverse visual impact on Jamestown-area historical resources by funding the creation of non-visual benefits.

Both utility executives and their foes acknowledge the trade-offs between economic growth, jobs and profits on the one hand and hard-to-value historical, cultural and environmental assets. The great public policy question is what weight should be given to one and what weight to the other.

For years Virginia was a “a manufacturing powerhouse,” says Margaret Fowler, co-founder of the Save the James Alliance and one of the more outspoken foes of the Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line project. “We were undeveloped, we needed power, we needed factories. Industrialization happened. At some point … we became sensitive to what we were losing — air quality, water quality, visual beauty. Has the pendulum swung too far? I don’t think so. But I understand the dilemma.”

Cultural attachment

In the current regulatory regime, utilities plot paths for their pipelines and transmission lines with the goal of creating the least disruption to landowners –within the utilities’ capital budgets. If a landowner refuses to grant an easement, the utility can condemn the land on the grounds that there is a public purpose for the project. There are well-established rules for determining the fair market value of the land taken from the property owners. But foes of big projects argue that fair market value cannot compensate landowners who have a long-standing “cultural attachment” to a property.

Cultural attachment is the “cumulative effect over time of a collection of traditions, attitudes, practices, and stories that ties a person to the land, to physical place, and kinship patterns,” wrote a group of environmental and landowners groups in a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Such attachment to the land is particularly widespread in rural areas where property has passed through the same family for generations. These are communities where everyone knows everyone else, where neighbors often are related to one another, where there are complex patterns of inter-dependence and mutual assistance. Inhabitants of such communities place a higher value on their property than would outsiders who are not embedded in the web of relationships and sentiment. Thus, the argument goes, the fair market value of the land, as established by sales of comparable properties, reflects the value others would place on a house or farm, not the value of landowners whose families have been entwined with it for generations.

James Kibler, senior vice president for external affairs for Atlanta-based AGL Resources, a partner in the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, says he understands sentimental ties to the land. Born in mountainous Craig County near Roanoke, he says, “I have a strong cultural attachment to the Blue Ridge and Appalachians. I still get a lump in my throat when I come back home.”

To Kibler the question is, what is the greater good? The rights of landowners need to be acknowledged, he says. “But how are they so unique and so special as to outweigh the significant benefits” of a project like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? “Is the greater good served when a very small percentage of the public can stop a project because of esoteric issues not everyone would agree with?”

Gray areas show where Dominion Virginia Power's existing 115 kV line between Gordonsville and Remington are visible. Map credit: Piedmont Environmental Council. (Click for more legible image.)

Gray areas show where Dominion Virginia Power’s existing 115 kV line between Gordonsville and Remington are visible. Map credit: Piedmont Environmental Council. (Click for more legible image.)

View sheds

Preservationists also attack big infrastructure projects — highways, pipelines and especially electric transmission lines — that disrupt landscapes. The desire to conserve view sheds is particularly prevalent in parts of the states such as western Virginia, with its spectacular mountain views, and the northern Piedmont, where affluent owners of vineyards and horse farms pay a premium to enjoy bucolic farming landscapes.

In the northern Piedmont, Dominion proposes to upgrade an existing 115 kV power line paralleling the scenic Rt. 15 corridor between Gordonsville and Remington. Although Dominion will use existing right of way, which transmission line foes commonly urge utilities to do, the proposed line will be roughly 50 feet taller and far more visible. Using off-the-shelf software, the PEC has mapped the impact of the existing line and the proposed line on the viewshed of the Route 15 corridor. The difference is dramatic, as can be seen by comparing the maps immediately above and below.

Beige areas show where the Dominion transmission line would be visible if upgraded to a 230kV line, according to PEC mapping software. (Click for larger image)

Beige areas show where the Dominion transmission line would be visible if upgraded to a 230kV line, according to PEC mapping software. (Click for larger image)

The Rt. 15 corridor’s scenic byway designation has no legal force, other than banning billboards, but it affirms the consensus of the communities along the road that they want to preserve the landscape. Counties along the route enact comprehensive plans to provide zoning protection, and citizens place conservation easements on their property.

The idea that “coherent visual landscapes” are worth protecting go back a century or more to the movement to set aside lands in the national parks, says Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), which defends the scenic integrity of Virginia’s northern Piedmont. The preservation of view sheds can be seen in the designation of state parks, national scenic areas, and national heritage areas, as well as the recognition bestowed upon scenic rivers and scenic byways.

There are many other view sheds in Virginia that Miller would like to preserve. Take one of Virginia’s treasures, Monticello, for example. The first step was to purchase the building and keep it from falling in on itself. Then came the acquisition of Thomas Jefferson’s properties, some 6,000 acres of land. But more can be done. “This is a world heritage site, a national landmark and an anchor to our identity,” he says. One of the reasons Jefferson built his house upon a mountaintop was to enjoy the expansive view. That view, he says, “is what we’re trying to protect.”

Another example is the Madison-Barbour National Historic District around Montpelier. The goal shouldn’t be limited to preserving the home of James Madison, he says. “You want to protect the view from Montpelier. This is the view that inspired Madison as he looked out the window when he was writing about the Constitution.”

Scenic Virginia, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of scenic beauty, argues that view sheds have economic value. In a public policy statement on utility corridors, contends that sightseeing is the most popular recreational activity in the United States. “Virginia’s scenic resources are arguably the major tourist attraction in the state, an thus make a significant contribution to our economy.”

Margaret Fowler with the Save the James Alliance takes the economic-development argument a step further for urban areas. Citing the work of Urban Land Institute fellow Ed McMahon, she argues that scenic resources are critical to creating a “sense of place” that people value, that communities possessing this magical quality are particularly attractive to the kinds of smart, educated people that corporations like to hire, and that corporate investment follows people to these places.

“Electricity is important, but so are views and national historic resources,” Miller says. “The cost of electricity is only one value. There has to be a balancing with public values. All we’re asking for is a robust process where the agencies given the responsibility of protecting the resources actually do.”

Aerial view of Wintergreen, showing ski slopes.

Aerial view of Wintergreen, showing ski slopes. (Cilck for larger image.)

However, Kibler, the AGL Resources executive, responds that these values are vague and subjective. “The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that loss of view is not a compensable damage,” he says. “You can’t put a dollar figure on it. It’s too subjective.” For example, he says, residents of the Wintergreen resort get exercised about the “scar on the land” created by a 125-foot pipeline right of way that will be cleared of trees and planted with meadow grasses. Visually, what’s the visual difference between a pipeline right of way and Wintergreen’s ski slopes?

It is important to look at the larger context, Kibler adds. The pipeline right of way will consume 5,500 acres of land end to end. But compare that to the impact of wind farms or solar facilities capable of producing a comparable amount of electricity. Wind farms would require more than 70 times the amount of land, solar 300 times, he says, citing the Energy Sure website. Moreover, the pipeline will be buried “underground and invisible” while renewable energy sources would be above ground and visually intrusive. (The Federal Aviation Administration recently stated that ridge-line wind turbines in a proposed Botetourt County wind farm could pose a threat to aviation!)

Why, Kibler asks, aren’t environmental and conservation groups mobilizing to shut down wind and solar?

What to do?

Is the inherent tension between big energy and the preservation community destined to create win-lose scenarios, or is it possible to create optimal outcomes in which both sides get much, though not all, of what they want?

One idea is to document as many valuable places as possible and put them on maps so that when utilities begin planning routes, they can identify obstacles before they get committed to a particular route.

Scenic Virginia supports the creation of a scenic registry, similar to a landmarks registry, that identifies places that people regard as special. The hope, says Executive Director Leighton Powell, would be to push development away from these resources. “People want to be in beautiful places. … These areas have a lot of value — economic value, emotional value, health value.”

Nature Conservancy map shows priority forest cores (green), priority caves (gray), active cover in rivers (blue), and critical habitats (orange).

Nature Conservancy map shows priority forest cores (green), priority caves (gray), active cover in rivers (blue), and critical habitats (orange) in western Virginia and eastern West Virginia.

A parallel initiative, launched by the Nature Conservancy, is building an inventory of irreplaceable biological resources.  “We’d like anyone planning a project to have access to the location of irreplaceable resources,” says Judy Dunscomb, senior conservation scientist with the conservancy. “In the Central Appalachian region, we’ve identified large patches of intact forest, caves and karst resources, and rivers where the forest alongside the river is intact, and globally rare species. We’ve mapped those out and made them available to anyone.”

Her long-term vision is to create a central statewide clearinghouse — a one-stop geographic information shopping, so to speak — where a project developer could find all environmental, historical and cultural resources. The database would have no regulatory weight, says Dunscombe, but it potentially could help utilities side-step a lot of conflicts.

Sometimes conflicts are unavoidable. In a concept analogous to a proffer in which a developer promises to upgrade roads or build a school to help offset the fiscal impact of a real estate development, Dominion is proposing to spend $85 million on projects to offset the negative impact of the Surry-Skiffes Creek line. Just as there is a rational nexus between the proffers and the development, Dominion’s plan posits a nexus between its mitigations and the historical resource — America’s first permanent English-speaking settlement and the land and waters around it — that would be harmed.

States a document that Dominion submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers:

The MOA defines a series of mitigation initiatives that while not able to further avoid or minimize adverse effects, will in our opinion, strengthen the general public and visitor’s understanding of an experience at significant places within and related to this landscape through enhanced heritage tourism opportunities including development of additional interpretive and orientation facilities. Proposed mitigation also seeks to ensure future permanent preservation of existing above-ground cultural landscape features, such as natural resources and systems, vegetation, landform and topography, land uses, circulation, buildings and structures, Native American settlements, views, and small-scale features through land acquisition, and acquisition of historic preservation and open space easements.

Critics of the Surry-Skiffes line undoubtedly will find fault with the proposal, but at least it provides an alternative to a yes-no decision by the Army Corps of Engineers.

In the meantime, preservationists are trying to tilt the regulatory playing field in their favor. Miller wants to make sure the “scenic” designation means something more than a signal to counties to put protections into their comprehensive plans. He’d like to see the Virginia Outdoor Federation, the state agency that manages conservation easements, take a more forceful role in State Corporation Commission deliberations over electric lines. (The SCC does not regulate gas pipelines.) “Scenic values haven’t been part of the [SCC] process,” Miller says. “It ought to be.”

“We value private property but we also value public goods,” he says. “Both are strong values. Working through those tensions is what democracy and our governing process are all about.”

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9 responses to “Putting a Price on the Priceless

  1. It’s hard to believe that putting a bigger natural gas pipe on an existing natural gas pipeline right of way is more expensive than what DVP is proposing for crossing the James plus the millions of “mitigation”.

    The issue is – is what is in the best interest of the public – regardless of corporate winners and losers – verses what’s in the best interest of DVP?

    I don’t think it’s Dominion’s job to depict the interests of ratepayers as superior to something that belongs to all Virginians and the fact that they are proposing millions in mitigation tell me they apparently believe that themselves. So Dominion has apparently decided what THEY think the VALUE of the damage is and that’s essentially now their proposal.

    My question is – if you totaled up the highest cost of a real alternative – how much impact would that have on the average ratepayers bill for the next 25 years?

    My guess is – a few cents a month – tops.

    How about in all of your maps that you are displaying – courtesy of Dominion that you provide 3 more?

    1. – the current right of way for Virginia Natural Gas pipeline.

    2. the current corridor for I-64.

    3. the current right of ways for other corridors – including rail?

    why must the citizens of Virginia and ratepayers march to DVP drums and not the ones that make more sense to citizens and ratepayers?

    Again – to remind – I have zero sympathy for the folks million-dollar views from their waterfront homes.

    I think the visual belongs to all Virginians and if there is TRULY no reasonable alternative then so be it.

    But I’m NOT buying the current approach – it’s bogus because they have not, in my view, honestly looked at viable practical alternatives.

    Jim – if you are going to use Dominion-provided stuff to essentially give their side – you ought to seek out the other sides views and let them write guest views.

  2. This is an outstanding article, thoughtful and nuanced. Comments up to the task of matching the article aren’t easy. It’s not going to happen within the four comments listed below, but several thoughts jump readily to mind.

    1/ I recall driving years ago hour after hour south down the high plains and big sky country of Montana. There travelers are surrounded by a wide open and empty landscape, one clothed in golden grass and punctuated by lonesome buttes of stunning proportion, works of art in immense scene that takes ones breath away.

    Hours of paradise, however, changed quite suddenly when I saw in the distance a house built on the very top of a lone butte. This gave its owner a 360 degree view but to me it ruined the view of everyone approaching it from miles around, whether they did so by coming down the road, or on foot or horseback, traveling across that amazingly irreplaceable landscape.

    Unfortunately that house proved to be the first of dozens that desecrated at the very top of most every butte for 40 miles around Bozeman, Montana. And once there at Bozeman the disillusioned traveler found a town whose appearance failed miserable to match the country surrounding it. What possesses people to foul their own nest, and do so in inverse proportion to the quality of the gift God gave?

    How easy it would have been for the builders to tuck those houses beneath the ridge lines of those 40 miles of buttes. This preserved for the owners of every home the natural appearance of its 180 degrees view all the way across that magnificent land, along with the view of everyone else for 40 miles around.

    2/ That scene on those last forty miles to Bozeman reminded me of Virginia. How Virginia state roads suffer from unsightly roadside clutter, clutter has been ruining views of Virginia since the advent of the automobile, how so few Virginian seem to care as so little is done to fix it.

    3/ One problem might be that the regulations to control and mitigate these view-shed problems are inherently tricky, as Jim’s article points out. Our culture today has another related flaw. Its regulations, however intended, seem most always taken to monstrous extremes, imposing ridiculous costs to defeat worthy and necessary projects altogether instead of building into them the protections reasonably needed to fix the original concerns.

    4/ one wonders how emerging technology may help to resolve some of the issues described in Jim’s article and do so sooner than we think. Things akin to telephone lines now put underground, or now done way with altogether by use of wireless technologies.

  3. here’s another example of an alternative apparently never discussed”

    VNG Hampton Roads Crossing Pipeline
    What is HRX?

    The Hampton Roads Crossing (HRX) pipeline project was completed in January 2010 and connects two gas distribution systems within the Virginia Natural Gas service area. Prior to HRX, the Virginia Natural Gas distribution system was divided into two non-contiguous systems (Southern and Northern) due to the geography of the Hampton Roads harbor. The Southern system includes the areas of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Suffolk in south side Hampton Roads. The Northern system includes Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, York, James City, Williamsburg, New Kent, and Charles City on the Peninsula, as well as Hanover and King William counties.

    https://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/pdfs/ns/fupwg_fall08_duvall2.pdf

    the thing one gets out of this is the cynicism of some folks in thinking that people are not aware of other corridors and crossings.. and so a legitimate “alternatives’ document ought to include HRX as opposed to including only infeasible options and concluding that “no other feasible options exist”.

    I’m curious …..

    How many who have been commenting here about this issue KNEW about HRX?

    • From the Virginia Natural Gas website:

      The Hampton Roads Crossing (HRX) pipeline project was completed in January 2010 and connects two gas distribution systems within the Virginia Natural Gas service area. Prior to HRX, the Virginia Natural Gas distribution system was divided into two non-contiguous systems (Southern and Northern) due to the geography of the Hampton Roads harbor. The Southern system includes the areas of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Suffolk in south side Hampton Roads. The Northern system includes Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, York, James City, Williamsburg, New Kent, and Charles City on the Peninsula, as well as Hanover and King William counties.

      Prior to HRX, on a peak day each system was fed by a single interstate pipeline: Columbia Gas Transmission in the Southern system and Dominion Transmission in the Northern system, making them vulnerable to regional supply disruptions. HRX eliminates each system’s reliance on a single interstate pipeline. Additionally, this pipeline helps ensure a reliable and competitively-priced natural gas supply is available to meet the ever-increasing growth and demand needs for Hampton Roads.

      The availability of additional supply to both areas ensures all customers are getting the most favorable price advantage of existing gas supplies. Because of the constraint on the systems prior to HRX, VNG sometimes had to base its use of gas on considerations other than price.

      How does HRX benefit me?
      •Reliability – Gas supply to the Southern system is now more reliable as customers no longer have to rely on a single interstate pipeline to meet their demand for natual gas. In fact, in the winter of 2013-2014, Virginia Natural Gas was able to serve all customers without a supply interruption despite the Company’s record demand for natural gas and constraints in the interstate pipeline network. Reliability is also crucial to the military facilities in the Southern system that depend on natural gas including the Norfolk Naval Station, Oceana Naval Air Station, Little Creek Amphibious Base, Dam Neck Naval Training Station and Fort Story.
      •Increased and Stable Supply – The pipeline allows for the delivery of additional supply to the Southern system. On the very coldest days VNG has traditionally had to rely on additional, and sometimes costly, alternate means of supplying enough gas to our customers. The HRX pipeline provides us with a mechanism to ensure ample supply is available to customers in the Northern and Southern parts of our system every day.
      •Supply Diversity – Hampton Roads now has a gateway to access natural gas supplies from the Marcellus Shale, Rockies, Mid-Continent, Gulf Coast and other locations – meaning a broader array of supply options as well as increased operational and cost flexibility. Additionally, because Virginia Natural Gas is no longer solely reliant on supply from limited numbers of locations, customers are less likely to be affected by natural gas production or transportation disruptions that may affect a specific region.

      Regional Benefits

      The HRX pipeline project provides economic development opportunities for businesses to expand or even relocate because of improved access to supply. Virginia Natural Gas customers benefit from a competitively-priced gas supply which also is a significant factor in economic development for the region.

      In addition to serving VNG customers, the HRX pipeline and compressors provide access to additional supplies for Dominion Virginia Power at some of its gas-fired electric generating plants in central Virginia and Columbia Gas of Virginia for its gas customers in Portsmouth and Fredericksburg.

      It is a logical question to ask: If the gas distribution system on the Peninsula is served by two different gas pipelines, why couldn’t Dominion build a gas-fired power plant there to replace the Yorktown capacity? I presume that the distribution system is not set up to handle quantities of gas that large, but I don’t know.

      • I think that’s right, the gas pipeline to Hampton isn’t big enough, given its existing commitments to many other gas customers. Anyway, I don’t know enough to have an opinion on why DVP didn’t propose new generation at Yorktown rather than the transmission solution. I can say though that as a general proposition no electric utility likes to have responsibility for service to any large area that is “constrained,” that is, cannot be supplied entirely from outside but depends upon “must-run” generation inside that area under peak load conditions. That’s especially true when there are military installations and a shipyard involved. The surprise is that DVP bought all that ROW across the Chickahominy but never built a transmission line on it years ago (say, back when I-295 was being unrolled through the same swamp). Now they are faced with predictable opposition to the James River crossing alternative. If I were DVP I’d sure want to explore placing it under the river despite the obvious extra cost and put that alternative out there for consideration.

  4. Jim – thanks for your comment and you are correct about the capacity of gas infrastructure in Hampton Roads.

    The Virginia Natural Gas HRX Pipeline has made significant improvements to the safe, reliable, and cost-effective delivery of natural gas to VNG sales customers and to existing large industrial and power generation users in the Hampton Roads region. However, in order to meet large, new natural gas demands like a power generation facility at Yorktown, the HRX alone is not sufficient. Additional investments in VNG infrastructure and in upstream capacity, such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, would be necessary.

  5. look at how long it took to build that crossing – and it’s cost.
    It appears that such a line could easily be built in a timeframe to meet the EPA dates for Yorktown – and it’s not like DVP did not know the fate of Yorktown – years ago – …

    the gas pipeline crossing cost is in the same ballpark as the power line crossing + mitigation… AND it has zero impacts to the environment!

    the problem is that DVP – CHOSE to put the gas plant on the south side of the James rather than near Yorktown and use VNG as a transmission provider.

    this is likely all about DVP wanting to row their own boat…and not have to pay another company for gas or transmitting it.

    I think that’s fine for any corporation to do that – to act in their own investors best interest – even if it’s not in the best interests of their customers. That’s the way business works and because of competition it usually ends up benefitting the customer.

    but you can’t be doing that as a monopoly and claiming you need to damage something or need eminent domain – at that point – you’re in a transaction with the public and they have a right to insure that you are not damaging something because of your preference rather than no other possible alternatives.

    I think this is an example of how DVP uses their monopoly power to do things that are not necessarily in the best interests of the public.

  6. Thanks, Reed, for your evocative road trip to Bozeman. It brings to mind a recent drive I made from Front Royal to Deep Creek Lake by way of Moorefield. All those vistas of blue ridges; all those homes perched on the ridges. Most of them vacation homes, actually occupied a fraction of the time; but they impact the view for everyone else all the time.

    Electric utilities are subject to this criticism more than gas utilities because transmission lines are above-ground. But, nothing compares to the hand-wringing I recall over the “wind farm” of wind generators proposed years ago to be built in the Buzzards Bay, MA vicinity within sight of the ferry from the mainland to Martha’s Vineyard. Noble purpose clashes with pristine vista, wealthy folks on both sides! Some of those wind turbines were finally built as I recall; don’t know if they are still there, but what a public ruckus that was at the time! And we will probably hear more about this in Virginia as the result of that Botetourt County windfarm just approved for a mountain ridge there. Views from the Peaks of Otter Lodge, anyone?

  7. Of course with any “must run” facility – that depends on external sources of power – like powerlines over the James is really no different than a gas pipeline UNDER the river !

    the question I’ve posed is why wasn’t a gas pipeline under the river just as viable an alternative as powerlines over the river?

    did you see how long it took to put in that pipeline? 2 years?

    and it was started and completed and online long after we knew that Yorktown had to stop using coal.

    My question all along has been why are obvious alternatives not included in any legitimate alternatives analysis and instead ones that have obvious fatal flaws are included – and quickly discarded?

    If VNG could put a natural gas pipeline across the river in 2 years why couldn’t it be bigger or a second one put in – in the same time frame for a gas plant with no more vulnerability to failing than a powerline over the river and cause less disruption than the powerline would – to the degree that DVP is now offering millions of dollars in “mitigation” when that money could have been used for a pipeline.

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