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State Board Considering Northern Virginia Power Line

Deborah Fitts

- (October 2007) WARRENTON, Va. - Plans for a major power-transmission line that would impact dozens of battlefields and other historic sites in Northern Virginia are now before the State Corporation Commission (SCC), the agency charged with approving or rejecting the controversial plan.

Dominion Virginia Power and Allegheny Power are proposing to build a 500,000-volt line from Winchester to Loudoun County, building towers as high as 150 feet.

"It'll be like putting a casino in the middle of Gettysburg - it's just obscene," said Robert Lazaro, spokesman for the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC). Warrenton-based PEC is a lead organization opposing the line.

The SCC has held public hearings throughout the counties that the line would cross. Formal testimony on the proposal will be held before the SCC at a hearing Jan. 14.

Lazaro cited 1,300 historic properties that would be affected by the towers, which would be visible for miles across the open landscape. Having an "industrial structure" visible to battlefields, historic homes, or even vineyards and other tourist-friendly venues, would have a devastating impact, he said.

In June Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf was unsuccessful in getting passage of a bill that would have placed a one-year moratorium on the authority of the federal government to allow construction of such a transmission line without state approval. The measure was defeated in the House 257-174.

The power companies are hoping for a declaration by the U.S. Department of Energy of a "National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor," which would allow for the private companies to exercise eminent domain.

Opposition to the transmission line is widespread along the proposed route. Lazaro said more than 90 percent of the speakers at public meetings spoke against the line and questioned the power companies' need. The companies are warning that power outages could result in Northern Virginia if the lines aren't built.

"We believe this is all about sending energy to New York and New Jersey because they make a lot of money out of it," said Lazaro.

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