Dominion Energy Virginia on June 27 provided an update to the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) on its project that includes the Surry-Skiffes Creek 500-kV Transmission Line.
As noted in the filing, by a November 2013 order, as modified by a February 2014 order and confirmed by an April 2014 order, the SCC approved and certificated the construction and operation by Dominion Energy Virginia of the electric transmission lines and related facilities proposed by the company in its application filed in June 2012. The project also involves the Skiffes Creek switching station and the Skiffes Creek-Whealton Line.
The orders were appealed by BASF Corp. and jointly by James City County, Save the James Alliance Trust and James River Association (JCC Parties) to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which issued its unanimous opinion in those appeals in April 2015, affirming the SCC’s approval and certification of the transmission facilities, the company added.
The court’s opinion also reversed and remanded – by a 4-3 vote – the holding in the SCC’s November 2013 order that the term, transmission line, includes transmission switching stations such as the Skiffes station under Va. Code § 56-46.1 F, which exempts transmission lines approved by the SCC under that section from Va. Code § 15.2-2232 and local zoning ordinances, the company said.
The court in May 2015 denied petitions of the SCC and the company seeking rehearing of that aspect of the opinion, and as a result, the company is required to obtain local land use approval from James City County to build the Skiffes station. The court issued its mandate and remand in June 2015, returning the case to the SCC for further proceedings, the company added.
The company noted that it must obtain permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to place fill material in the James River for construction of the transmission line towers and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 for resulting obstructions to navigation.
The company said that it filed a joint permit application for the Corps permits in March 2012 for the Surry to Skiffes Creek portion of the certificated project and a separate application for the Skiffes Creek to Whealton portion in June 2013.
In August 2013, the company submitted a combined JPA for the Surry-Skiffes Creek Line and the Skiffes Creek-Whealton Line, and that combined JPA superseded the permit applications for each line that had been submitted.
The company added that the Corps on June 12 issued a provisional permit to the company that was conditioned upon the issuance of a permit by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, as well as certification by the state Department of Environmental Quality that the company has obtained a Section 401 Water Quality Certification/Virginia Water Protection Permit.
The two Corps permits required for the placement of fill and obstruction to navigation prompt review under the National Environmental Policy Act, the company said, noting that the Corps has indicated that it will prepare an environmental assessment to satisfy that requirement. Among other things, the company noted that the Corps on March 30 published its updated “Preliminary Alternatives Conclusions White Paper,” which concluded, in relevant part, that based on its review, it appears that only Dominion’s proposed project and the Chickahominy-Skiffes 500-kV alternative meet project purpose and need, and are practicable.
The company noted that the Corps will make its final selection of alternatives when it issues the EA, which will accompany the permit decision.
The two Corps permits also prompt review under the Endangered Species Act, the company said. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service on April 12 concurred with the Corps’ conclusions regarding the Northern Long Eared Bat, indicating that the Corps would permit project construction without a time-of-year restriction on tree clearing. The company added that the Corps on May 11 sent out a request for the USFWS to update its concurrence for all species.
The company noted that the two Corps permits prompt review under the National Historic Preservation Act, adding that Section 106 of the NHPA requires the Corps to take into consideration the effect of permitted activities on historic properties. The company noted, for instance, that the Corps has hosted five consulting parties meetings to date to discuss alternatives to the certificated project, identification of, and impacts to, historic properties, and potential mitigation opportunities.
The company also said that it must obtain an authorization from the VMRC for encroachment on subaqueous beds of the state in James River. The VMRC considered and unanimously approved the company’s JPA at a June 27 public hearing.
The company further noted that it submitted an application to the USFWS for the removal of an inactive bald eagle nest on one of the 230-kV structures that is proposed to be replaced – that application is awaiting approval.
The company also said that consistent with the court’s opinion, it filed in June 2015 a special use permit application (SUP), a rezoning request, a substantial accord determination request, and a height waiver application for a switching station in James City County associated with the certificated project.