Text Size

This is the statement I made at the State Corporation Commission hearing regarding Dominion Virginia Power’s plans to run a 250 kV transmission line down the W&OD Trail between Leesburg and Purcellville.

Supervisor Jim Burton’s Statement to the State Corporation Commission

9 February 2006


Good morning. My name is Jim Burton. I represent the citizens of the Blue Ridge District on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. The Blue Ridge District runs west of Routes 15 and 704 and includes the Towns of Hamilton and Purcellville. It also includes the entirety of the Middleburg-to-Purcellville transmission line route which is the next part of the power company’s strategy for Loudoun County. Clearly, what the SCC decides on this line and the future line is very important to me and the citizens I represent.

As a Supervisor, I am expected to attend Public Hearings, a task I faithfully undertake each month. Thus, I was surprised to see that not a single member of the State Corporation Commission made the trip to Leesburg yesterday, or again, today. If you are here, I wish you would identify yourselves.

[No Commissioners identified themselves. In other words, there were no Commissioners present either yesterday or today.]

A public hearing, by definition, is a meeting at which a decision-making body hears from those citizens and stakeholders impacted by the decision it will make. A public hearing at which none of the decision-making body is present to listen to the public does not meet that definition. This, with all due respect, sir, is not a public hearing; it has all the makings of a farce.

Despite this, my constituents have asked me to make a formal statement in this forum, although to whom I am speaking I do not know.

From the beginning my position has been that any transmission lines traveling between Leesburg and Purcellville needed to go underground. I have not changed that position. It is a position shared by a majority of my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors. Our representative in the General Assembly and our staff have spent hours negotiating with VDOT for access to the right-of-way along their road system. It is my understanding that VDOT is prepared to grant that right-of-way along its secondary roads for the purpose of burying transmission lines. In one of the fastest-growing counties in the country, free right-of-way that avoids costly negotiations with land-owners – or worse, condemnation – is not to be sneezed at.

By law, the SCC is expected to choose the low-cost alternative – a law that is meant to protect rate-payers state-wide. What is the low-cost alternative in this case? That depends on how you measure cost. Do you limit that measurement to cost-to-construct or do you consider total life-cycle costs? Historically, the SCC has chosen the former. I would suggest that in the 21st century the momentum around the country is the latter. When life-cycle costs are considered, the differential between underground lines and overhead lines shrinks considerably. I would further suggest that in a highly wooded environment full of birds, squirrels, and the occasional tornado, that is, an environment, such as Western Loudoun, that cost differential shrinks even further.

By law, the power company must show need. However, the power company’s own data, presented at its public information sessions held at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg failed to demonstrate that need. In fact, what that data demonstrated was that a single set of additional distribution lines hung on existing poles would satisfy the problem they were trying to solve with transmission lines.

I would suggest that a single set of additional distribution wires hung on existing poles in existing right-of-way would be the low cost alternative that the SCC is required to choose.

We, the Board of Supervisors, are in the process of changing the zoning in Western Loudoun to reduce the numbers of houses that can be built in the future by about 25,000. The public process for this action has officially begun and should be complete by late spring. This action clearly has a bearing on future need for these transmission lines.

Finally, when you leave here today to return to Richmond, as you drive down Route 15, turn right onto Route 704 – it’s just a mile or so south of the town. Drive up Route 704 to Route 7 and then return to Leesburg. As you drive, you will see exactly what makes Western Loudoun special and why the people who live here – people why may very well have invested their life’s savings on a home here – are so very, very passionate about these proposed lines.