Monday, May 23, 2022

Parks group sues to halt power line project on James River

A simulated view of the Skiffes Creek project from the Kingsmill Resort area. (Courtesy Dominion Power)

Just one day after James City County supervisors approved the final part of the controversial Surry-Skiffes Creek Connector power project, a national conservation group took action to halt the entire project in federal court.

The National Parks Conservation Association — a Washington D.C. group that aims to protect and preserve national parks — filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court against the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Secretary of the Army Robert Speer for their approval of the high voltage transmission line project over the James River.

“If we allow this to happen to one of America’s most important historic areas, what’s next for our other national parks?” Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association said in a news release. “We will continue to fight in court to ensure that reckless development does not destroy this treasured and historic area.”

The group hopes to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental impact statement, which would require more intensive study of the overall project.

However, Dominion Energy Virginia says the lawsuit won’t stop the utility company from beginning construction of the project by Aug. 1.

“We are reviewing the complaint, but fully stand behind the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision,” said Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris. “Every other alternative fails to meet the need or has greater environmental and cultural impacts. No amount of additional study will change the facts.”

The lawsuit alleges that the project will have “significant and irreversible impacts in the heart of one of our nation’s most important historic regions.”

“It would be impossible to select a more historically and culturally significant location to construct and operate this project,” the suit states.

The suit claims the Corps’ decision to authorize the project was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law.”

Dominion has said they believe the Army Corps of Engineers did an adequate review.

“The Army Corp and other approving agencies followed the law and based their permitting decisions,” Harris said. “This has been one of the most heavily scrutinized infrastructure projects in the history of Virginia and any further delay in its construction will only put at greater risk our ability to keep the lights on in the Peninsula.”

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