- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The owners of a planned power plant in rural Warren County were among the chief opponents of a proposed 65-mile, $243 million high-voltage transmission line through Virginia that has drawn scorn from some environmentalists and preservationists.

That was until Dominion Resources Inc., the transmission line’s chief proponent, bought the rights to the Warren County project lock, stock and barrel for an undisclosed price.

Just before the purchase was announced, Silver Spring-based Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) rescinded its opposition to the power line, surprising environmental groups. The company withdrew its objections just days before a crucial regulatory hearing in Virginia that could determine whether the line is built.

Dominion, a Richmond-based utility holding company, said the purchase was a legitimate, routine move to increase its generating capacity.

Opponents said it was a thinly veiled means of buying off its opponents.

“It’s like the New York Yankees. If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em,” said Bob Lazaro, spokesman for the Piedmont Environmental Council, referring to the Yankees’ propensity for using their big budget to sign away other teams’ top stars.

Opponents of the transmission line were pleased when CPV sided with them in West Virginia, where the line also would extend. CPV had argued that the power line wasn’t necessary because the region’s electricity needs could be met locally by projects including the 600-megawatt natural-gas power plant it planned for Warren County.

CPV was similarly critical of the line in a filing to Virginia’s State Corporation Commission, but formally withdrew its opposition before the Feb. 25 commission hearing.

On March 4, Dominion said that it bought the rights to the Warren County project.

Opponents of the line do not dispute the facts but question Dominion’s motivation in buying the project and CPV’s motivation in withdrawing its testimony.

Dominion said it is “absolutely not accurate” to insinuate that it purchased CPV to silence opposition to the power line.

Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle said such purchases are common, and noted that the company also has announced plans to buy a proposed power plant in Southwestern Virginia.

Federal regulations establish a firewall between Dominion’s transmission business, which delivers electricity, and its generation business, which creates electricity. As a result, Mr. Norvelle said, those on the transmission side of the company who argued the case for the power line had no idea that Dominion was negotiating a purchase of the CPV project.

CPV’s Chris Ganley, who had been in charge of the Warren County project, said the company still opposes the transmission line.

He said CPV pulled its testimony because it has limited resources and already has spent a lot of time and money battling the power line in West Virginia. If the line is defeated in West Virginia, Mr. Ganley said, the Virginia case will be moot because the line must run through both states as well as Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ganley declined to comment on whether the terms of the sale to Dominion required CPV to withdraw its opposition at the Virginia hearing.

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