Virginia regulators to discuss Dominion transmission projects

virginia transmission lines elp

The Virginia State Corporation Commission, in a July 5 order, directed its staff and Dominion Virginia Power to confer and determine if they are in agreement as to whether certain projects proposed by the company are “ordinary extensions or improvements in the usual course of business.”

As noted in the order, Dominion Virginia Power in March filed with the commission a petition requesting from the commission a declaratory judgment determining whether the company is required to obtain certificates of public convenience and necessity for three electric transmission line projects.

As TransmissionHub reported, commission staff, in May 6 comments filed with the commission, said that it believes that the projects each require a certificate.

All of the projects for which the company seeks a declaratory judgment would modify existing transmission lines that were previously built within the company’s service territory under certificates approved by the commission, and none of them would require any new right of way (ROW) or conductor, staff said.

The projects are:

Line #541 Project – Fauquier County

This project, which does not require any new right of way, is an existing single circuit 500-kV electric transmission line. To address a National Electric Safety Code clearance issue, the project would replace one “COR-TEN” angle tower, about 147 feet in height, with two galvanized steel H-Frame structures, about 122 feet and 152 feet in height, the commission added. The existing conductor would be reused. The project would cross wetlands at Remington Junction, about three-quarters of a mile southwest of the company’s existing Remington substation. The commission also said that the company estimates that the total cost for the structure replacement is about $1.5 million, and it is scheduled to be completed by May 31, 2017.

VDOT Relocation Project 1 – City of Norfolk

Dominion’s Lines #2038 and #135 are existing single circuit 230-kV and 115-kV, respectively, electric transmission lines jointly located on double circuit structures. To accommodate the expansion of an Interstate 264 ramp by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the project would replace and relocate four double circuit structures for Lines #2038 and #135. Four existing painted double circuit engineered steel poles, ranging between about 105 feet to 125 feet in height, would be replaced with four double circuit galvanized steel poles, ranging between about 100 feet to 165 feet in height. The existing conductors would be reused, the commission added. The project, which does not require any new ROW, is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 31, 2017. The company estimates that the total cost for the relocation, which would be funded by VDOT, is about $2.6 million.

VDOT Relocation Project 2 – City of Virginia Beach

Dominion’s Lines #2019 and #245 are existing single circuit 230-kV electric transmission lines jointly located on double circuit structures. To accommodate the expansion of another Interstate 264 ramp by VDOT, the project would replace six double circuit structures for Lines #2019 and #245 with four relocated double circuit structures. Six existing painted double circuit engineered steel and concrete poles, ranging between about 95 feet to 117 feet in height, would be replaced with four double circuit galvanized steel poles, ranging between about 105 feet to 165 feet in height. The commission also said that the existing conductors would be reused. The project, which does not require any new ROW, is scheduled to be completed by Feb. 1, 2021. The company estimates that the total cost for the relocation, which would be funded by VDOT, is about $2.9 million.

According to the July 5 order, Dominion Virginia Power on May 13 filed a reply to staff’s comments, asserting that the projects constitute “ordinary extensions or improvements in the usual course of business” for which a certificate is not required.

The commission listed various sections of the Code of Virginia that apply to electric transmission facilities, including one that states that whenever the commission is required to approve the construction of any electrical utility facility, it is to give consideration to the effect of that facility on the environment and establish such conditions as may be desirable or necessary to minimize adverse environmental impact.

The commission noted that the pleadings filed by the company and staff address the potential legal import of those statutes and the commission’s recent decision involving another transmission line rebuild separate from the projects at issue in this case (referred to as the Barnhardt decision).

The commission said that the Barnhardt decision delineated the lines of jurisdictional demarcation – between localities and the commission – for purposes of transmission approval: for lines greater than 138 kV, commission approval is required and such approval preempts local authority; for 138-kV lines, the electric utility – at its choice – must obtain approval from either the locality or the commission, but not both; and for lines less than 138 kV, the locality and commission have approval authority.

However, those jurisdictional boundaries are separate from the commission’s authority and discretion regarding the issuance of certificates. That is, the commission added, if the commission finds that a transmission facility – regardless of voltage – is an ordinary extension or improvement in the usual course of business, then a certificate is not required.

Among other things, the commission said that the projects do not need a certificate if they are “ordinary extensions or improvements in the usual course of business.”

Dominion Virginia Power, the commission said, has filed proof of notice and the commission has not received public comments on the petition.

The matter is continued pending further order of the commission, the commission said.

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