Virginia Supreme Court Agrees to Hear JCC Appeal on Dominion’s Over-River Power Line

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A simulated view of the over-river power line from the Kingsmill area. (Photo courtesy Dominion)
A simulated view of the over-river power line from the Kingsmill area. (Photo courtesy Dominion)

James City County and other groups against Dominion Virginia Power’s plan to build a high-voltage power line across the James River will have their chance to present their argument in court.

The Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear an appeal of the Virginia State Corporation Commission ruling in favor of the 500kV line, which is planned to cross the river on towers as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

The court has not yet set a hearing date, but James City County and the Save the James Alliance — grouped together against the SCC’s decision — are anticipating a hearing by the end of this year and a decision by early 2015.

“We are pleased that the Court believes there is sufficient merit in our request to move forward with the appeal, however, it is only because of the unanimous agreement by the James City County Board of Supervisors to continue their commitment to this cause, the significant outpouring of financial assistance from our many supporters and the involvement of the James River Association that we are able to take this critical next step,” reads a Save the James news release about the appeal.

The supervisors voted in January to appeal the SCC’s November 2013 ruling, which allows Dominion to construct a power line from the Surry Nuclear Power Plant to a planned switching station at Skiffes Creek in the county. James City County Attorney Leo Rogers told the board in January he believed the SCC did not appropriately consider the planned power line’s effects on the area’s history.

The SCC also determined Dominion would not need a county-issued special use permit for the Skiffes Creek Switching Station, which county zoning regulations require. The Supreme Court appeal will also focus on this part of the commission’s ruling.

The board’s January vote allowed Rogers to pursue the appeal. Save the James Alliance offered to foot the bill for any costs related to the appeal. The county will not be paying anything more than Rogers’ standard salary.

BASF Corporation, which owns land where the towers would come aground in James City County, and the James River Association have also joined the appeal. Both groups will pay their own legal costs.  Other parties may still join the case by filing paperwork with the court.

If the Supreme Court appeal is unsuccessful, James City County has a case pending before the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court to force Dominion to comply with the county’s zoning regulations for the switching station.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also reviewing the case to determine whether it should grant Dominion a federal permit. Without the permit, the line cannot be built.

Despite not having a permit in hand, Dominion moved forward with construction work in Surry to prepare for the line. Dominion is not required to obtain any permits for the work it has begun, but cannot cross the river without obtaining permits from the Army Corps and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

According to the VMRC’s 2014 agendas, the commission has not yet considered Dominion’s request.

The power line is designed to move electricity from Surry to the Whealton Substation in Hampton. The line route requires additional permits from the City of Newport News, the City of Hampton, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

On Friday, the DEQ submitted information to James City County as part of its review.

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