Rotating blackouts could occur on the Peninsula as early as 2017

Posted at 12:45 PM, Mar 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-23 12:45:39-04

Yorktown, Va. – Rotating blackouts could begin on the Peninsula if state legislators don’t act fast in approving a new overhead transmission plan.

Under new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, Dominion’s Yorktown Power Station is closing due to its severe emission of mercury and other toxic materials. They have been given an exemption until April 2016, which means they have to act fast.

Back in February 2014, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved the new line project. But they are awaiting permit approval from the Army Corps of Engineers. Previous filings have been made in March 2012 and August 2013, with subsequent meetings following. If the permit proposal is not granted they will have to start from ground zero—a project that has already spanned three years.

Dominion has urged that if these filings aren’t approved by August 1, 2015 electric service to the Peninsula, Middle Peninsula, and Northern Neck of Virginia would be seriously compromised. In the case of permit denial, there are four standing lines that will suffice on most days but when they won’t Dominion will rotate blackouts in the area.

In their current plan, the Skiffes Creek transmission line project would cross the James River—a transition from a coal-based system to an overhead electronic system that will cost up to 155 million dollars.

Bonita Harris, Media/Community Relations Manager for Dominion VA/NC Power, assured that Virginia has some of the lowest rates in the eastern region. She continued, “There is no other opportunity that is more economical than this,” when asked about the Skiffes Creek project.

Project completion takes at least 18 months. If construction begins in August 2015, it is expected to be complete by December 2016. Even with these project dates, Dominion would have to request another extension as their current exempt ends in April 2016 and power wouldn’t be carried through the lines until January/February 2017. No extension can be given beyond April 2017 under Mercury Air and Toxics Standard regulations.

Undoubtedly there seems to be a delay. Dominion officials say their original end date wasn’t until 2019, but due to arising regulations it was moved up to 2017, creating an immediacy.

An official from the US Army Corps of Engineers assured there is no delay. They said, “Our process can take some time as we have specific congressional mandates to follow—especially when historical properties are involved.” So, unfortunately the backlash of this inevitable delay falls on the customer.

The Supreme Court has yet to make a decision on whether the SCC’s approval of the project will uphold.

McKinley Strother, WTKR Intern