Dominion Power & the BoA protest

Brent Finnegan -- November 17th, 2007

The DNR’s top story today is about Dominion Power’s plan to build a 500 kilovolt line through rural north-central Virginia, and into the Shenandoah Valley. Yet, for whatever reason, Dominion Power is never mentioned in the story.

I’ve been writing about Dominion’s power line plan since March. James Gannon’s Rappahannock Voice has been covering it extensively since well before March.

Democrats, Republicans and independents have voiced their objection to the planned transmission line corridor. Here’s what Republican Delegate Todd Gilbert had to say about it:

…during the very last days of the legislative session when no further legislation could be introduced, no hearings could be held, Dominion dropped the Rappahannock route bomb. Obviously, the earlier route selection was a straw man, a ruse, a smokescreen to hide Dominion’s real route choice until the General Assembly closed for the remainder of the year.

Not much has changed since then. Hearings were held, citizens spoke out against it, people protested. For it’s part, Dominion bought out all the legal experts in the area, and looked to the federal government for help. Today’s DNR story focuses on the latest development in the power line saga: the U.S. Department of Energy’s tacit approval of Dominion’s plan.

At issue, they say, is a decision by the U.S. Department of Energy that includes the Valley as part of a “transmission corridor.” The decision would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to approve utility companies’ request to build transmission lines, even if the state denies their applications.

“It’s a significant expansion of federal power and an infringement on our prerogatives as a state,” said Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg. “It’s going to have a significant impact on the view in this beautiful valley.”

In related energy news, yesterday evening around 4:30, a few dozen young activists gathered in front of the Bank of America building on Court Square in Harrisonburg to protest BoA’s continued funding of mountaintop removal coal mining in the Appalachian region. The protesters also demanded clean energy alternatives to coal.

Environmentalist Alden Hathaway has accused Dominion Power of intentionally ignoring clean energy alternatives. Those alternatives could reduce or eliminate the need for the proposed 500 kilovolt transmission line. Hathaway explains:

Coal is still the primary source of energy for Dominion Power, which supplies energy to HEC in Harrisonburg.

I saw a TV3 reporter videotaping the BoA protesters from across the street yesterday, but from what I can tell, the protest didn’t make so much as a splash in the local media.

14 Responses to “Dominion Power & the BoA protest”

  1. Gxeremio says:

    Why does it seem like it’s so hard to make important stories interesting? What’s the most compact and compelling way to explain this story so people care, especially those who don’t think of themselves as preservationists?

    Just throwing out some ideas for how to frame this discussion:
    If the UPS decided the fastest way to deliver packages to your neighbors was to walk through your house, would you let them have a key?

    Dominion Power owns your elected representatives.

    Virginia is getting robbed so that other states get cheap power.

    By the time DP destroys our view, their ugly power lines will be outdated. But by then, it’ll be too late.

    Sewage pipes. I81. “Transmission corridor.”

  2. finnegan says:

    You say, “Dominion Power owns your elected representatives.”

    I say Dominion Power is beyond comparison more powerful than your elected representatives. I’m not sure if our politicians are merely paying lip service in opposition to the transmission line, or if they sincerely oppose it. In either case, their political power is dwarfed by Dominion’s. It’s a classic example of the man behind the curtain.

  3. David Miller says:

    Gxeremio
    This runs contrary to Dominion’s stated code of ethics
    “Fair Dealing

    Each employee, officer and Director should endeavor to deal fairly with the Company’s customers, suppliers, competitors and employees. None should take unfair advantage of anyone through manipulation, concealment, abuse of privileged information, misrepresentation of material facts, or any other unfair-dealing practice.”
    source “http://www.dom.com/about/governance/ethics.jsp#community” Copyright Dominion

  4. David Miller says:

    On the issue of BKOA, I’d like to say that if you want something to stop, lobby your senators (I know I know, this always works right). If you start picketing my business because you disagree with beer sales, I’m gonna be pissed.

  5. David Miller says:

    Another gem from Dominion’s website
    “Dominion Supports an Open and Accessible Democratic Process

    Dominion believes that an open, transparent and accessible political process is one of the most important components of a successful democracy. Accordingly, the company encourages all its stakeholders to participate in the political process. We support both the letter and the spirit of all applicable federal and state laws governing our political activities as well as all of our actions using high ethical standards.”
    source “http://www.dom.com/about/governance/political.jsp”
    copyright Dominion 2007
    Open and accesible to all corporations with profit margins to expand.

  6. David Miller says:

    Gilbert for Delegate , PO Box 309 Woodstock VA campaign committee – Woodstock, VA 11/1/2007 $10000 $11250
    source”http://www.sbe.virginia.gov/cms/Campaign_Finance_Disclosure/Large_Contribution_Reports/View_Large_Dollar_Contributions_Results.asp?RYVal=2007&CIVal=&CCVal=02-040&Mo=&Nm=&rN=committee&rA=&Srch=PACS”
    From Dominion Leadership Trust Political Action Committee,

  7. finnegan says:

    Here’s a blog post about the “Coal Finance Day of Action” in WV, along with a pic of some of the JMU student protesters at the site of the mountaintop coal mining operation.

    Also this from RAN:

    Harrisonburg VA: Thirty-five to forty students from James Madison University and Blue Ridge Earth First! attended attended a bike mass and action outside of Bank of America in downtown Harrisonburg. Two people cancelled their accounts, while others delivered letters to bank managment. Check out the video here on “One on one”–http://www.whsv.com/news

  8. McCampbell says:

    I enjoy reading DNRonline and i feel i need to stick up for them. I am not sure why hburgnews.com’s top story is concerned why Dominion Power isnt mentioned in the article. I read another time when hburgnews covered Dominion Power and it started out stating “Admittedly, not Harrisonburg news, but I can’t help myself…” Well admittedly DNRonline covers the Harrisonburg area. DNR does what the a Harrisonburg news outlet should do, relate the story to our area. DNR does concentrate on the latest development of the electric transmission lines in Rockingham Page and Shenandoah counties. I believe that this is a debatable problem that could of been brought to light in a different tone.

  9. finnegan says:

    McCampbell,

    Thanks for your comment — even though I don’t quite understand it. I covered it before, because if it’s changing the landscape of the Valley, and it involved Dominion Power (which supplies H’burg with power), it is a local issue. Also, it was an issue for our State Senator, Mr. Obenshain, and his challenger, Ms. Roles.

    You don’t need to stick up for the DNR. For what it’s worth, the reporter that wrote it is a friend of mine. I’m not attacking. I’m merely raising the question: why was the primary force behind the transmission line plan (Dominion) left out of the story? I think it’s a fair observation. Why do you seem to think it’s unfair?

  10. finnegan says:

    Here’s yesterday’s Breeze article about the BoA protest.

    …more than 50 percent of U.S. electricity comes from coal: “That is an economic reality.’”

    Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of a summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth removed is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.

    Dusold and sophomore Melanie Avery took the statement a step further by terminating their account with Bank of America during the protest.

    “The manager of the bank was really receptive to the two of us who cancelled our accounts,” Dusold said.

    He said the manager kindly accepted letters addressed to Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, which explained why they canceled their accounts.

    However, Nathan Blackwell, a local engineer, was opposed to the protest, describing it as “just ignorance.’’

  11. finnegan says:

    From today’s DNR:

    .. according to the DOE, the agency is only “taking additional time to thoroughly review requests for a rehearing” of its Oct. 2 decision to create the Mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor.

    […]

    The decision gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to approve utility companies’ request to build transmission lines, even if the state denies their applications.

    No rehearing on the corridor has actually been rescheduled, according to DOE.

  12. finnegan says:

    Reported by WHSV today:

    Richmond-based Massey Energy has agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over allegations that it polluted hundreds of waterways in West Virginia and Kentucky with coal waste… The EPA says some of the discharges were more than ten times the amounts allowed by state permits.

    Massey is one of the major “mountiantop removers” in Appalachia. Lowell Fulk is working on plans to bring a documentary about mountaintop removal to Harrisonburg, as well as a panel of people in the film. This will probably be the first Tuesday in March.

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