SCC denies motion in tower battle

by Audrey Thomasson

RICHMOND—Opposition to Dominion Power’s proposal to string power lines on towers across the Rappahannock River continued last week with an attempt to show Dominion’s cost estimates for underwater lines were grossly exaggerated.

In order to prove the cost argument and show underwater lines are more reliable, attorneys representing William Barnhardt and the Save the Rappahannock Coalition organization jointly filed a motion with the State Corporation Commission to depose Crofton Diving Company, the contractor used by Dominion to install underwater lines.

Although SCC hearing examiner Alexander Skirpan denied the motion for a deposition, he left the door open to obtain testimony from Crofton within the procedural schedule.

“We are pleased that the hearing examiner gave us the opportunity to explain why this testimony may be important to the case and we are reviewing how best to present it at the (March 15) hearing,” said Barnhardt’s attorney, Michael York.

York submitted written testimony by expert witness Henry Soleski of North Haven, Connecticut, a 30-year electric industry veteran specializing in design and management of cable installations in the U.S. and other countries.

Previously, Dominion has said it needs to build the towers to upgrade and modernize its system at a cost of $26 million. Soleski contends the cost of the underwater alternative would be as little as $12.7 million.

He explained that an underwater system with the same electrical capacity as the proposed tower system would cost between $12.6 million and $15.6 million. If Dominion wants to double the capacity of the underwater alternative with a redundant set of cables, the cost would still be less than that of the towers with the underwater alternative costing between $23.6 million and $24.2 million.

In written testimony filed January 30 by Lancaster County, which also opposes the towers, expert witness Peter Lanzalotta testified that other options, including underground, are better than the towers. Lanzalotta, a utility consultant, criticized Dominion for inflating its estimates of the competing options and pointed to instances in which the company exaggerated the capacity and numbers of transmission cables needed for the project.

“We have said all along that Dominion’s cost numbers for the underwater options it opposes were not real estimates, but instead were extreme exaggerations,” said York, who is volunteering his legal work. “Now, we have produced evidence that shows in dollars and cents that the underground option we support is superior both in reliability and in cost.”

“We agree with the hearing examiner’s ruling and appreciate the Commission’s efforts to keep the current procedural schedule intact. The company is in receipt of respondent testimony and will be submitting its rebuttal testimony on March 2,” reported Dominion communications specialist Daisy Pridgen.

The SCC staff is scheduled to submit its own written testimony by February 7. A commission hearing examiner will conduct a final public hearing on March 15 in Richmond.


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