Overhead Power Lines Tough Sell in N. Virginia

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 9, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Overhead Power Lines Tough Sell in N. Virginia


Byline: Tom Ramstack, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

As a Dominion Virginia Power representative in Manassas tried to explain to 1,000 persons the advantages of a proposed electrical transmission line across 40 miles of Northern Virginia, protesters nearby chanted, "Say no. We won't glow."

Residents who listened to his presentation at the George Mason University campus Thursday night seemed unimpressed by his assurances the 500-kilovolt overhead power line would avoid blackouts.

"We're sending people to the moon," said Wendy Ault, a Manassas pediatrician. "You can put this underground."

In each of the three public workshops the electric utility has held in the past week, protesters have been "very aggressive," said David B. Botkins, Dominion Virginia Power spokesman. About 1,000 area residents showed up Thursday night at a university gymnasium, some to protest, others to ask questions.

With demand for electricity increasing in Northern Virginia, the area's electric utility says it must build a new power line if residents want to avoid rolling blackouts and higher electricity bills.

"Our data shows that from the year 2000 to 2011, the demand for electricity in Northern Virginia alone will have increased by 44 percent," Mr. Botkins said. "If we're going to continue to keep the lights on and meet demand for electricity in Northern Virginia, we must build this line."

Some residents said they worried the at-least 150-foot-wide swath the power line would cut through the Shenandoah Mountains would uproot homes and farmland and trample Civil War battlefields that lie in its path under rights of eminent domain.

"The overhead lines are cheaper and they're ugly," one man said over the voice of a Dominion representative. "We have to live with this. You don't have to live with it. It's a profit issue is what it is."

Opponents from the Piedmont Environmental Council say the utility should seek other alternatives, such as offering financial incentives to customers who reduce their electricity consumption. The group accuses the power company of hiding its true motive of increasing profits by extending its power grid farther into Northern Virginia.

Dominion Resources Inc., parent company of Dominion Virginia Power, reported net income of $654 million in the three months ending Sept. 30 compared with $15 million a year earlier.

The company says it is trying to keep residents informed about its plans through the public workshops.

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Overhead Power Lines Tough Sell in N. Virginia
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