Examiner’s recommendation to bury power lines stimulates considerable, varying response

by Audrey Thomasson

RICHMOND—A recent report from the State Corporation Commission’s hearing examiner recommending Dominion Energy bury replacement lines under the Rappahannock River instead of installing them overhead drew a mix of responses.

Hearing Examiner Alexander F. Skirpan Jr. issued a detailed report August 22 concluding that an underground line is a better option.

“Because of the significant and negative impacts of an overhead line on the viewshed and local economy, I find that an underground alternative best meets the needs…and will reasonably minimize adverse impact on the scenic assets, historic districts and environment of the area concerned,” Skirpan wrote.

Dominion Power fired back with a 73-page response from McGuire Woods’ attorney Vishwa Link who has represented Dominion throughout nearly two years of proceedings.

“The company respectfully requests that the commission reject such an unsupported recommendation and instead approve this rebuild in an overhead configuration as proposed by the company that could be built in relatively short order, that reasonably minimizes adverse impacts at a cost-effective level pursuant to the Virginia Code and that improves the reliability of the line in the Northern Neck,” Link wrote.

Attorney John Pirko, representing Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, released a somewhat harsher, yet shorter response at 27 pages.

“What is most striking in this proceeding is the dearth of hard evidence to support the findings and recommendations of the report. The bulk of the findings of the report are based on speculation, conjecture, strongly-held belief and a sample of public opinion. Much of the supporting ‘expert’ opinion that is offered in support of the conclusions and recommendations is either unsubstantiated or based on unreliable assumptions. Overall, the weakness, or in some cases complete absence, of factual support for the findings of the report seriously undermine its credibility,” Pirko submitted.

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