Musings of a muse
by Marilyn Karp
Power to the people ... sort of
About this image

This is the sun setting behind our house. It was shot with a new camera that has a wide angle lens. It is a panorama, a series of images knitted together. Tony played with the sky to make the image more powerful.

This could be a fresco in a villa like the ones that Tiepolo did for the Palazzo Labia. People used to create these elaborate scenes on the ceilings of palaces and churches. Today the fresco is on your screen.

dramatic sunset with clouds lit up in shades of yellow. - Power to the people ... sort of - Techno-Impressionist Museum - Techno-Impressionism - art - beautiful - photo photography picture - by Tony Karp

Musing of a muse

On August, 9th 2007 I gave testimony before the State Corporation Commission. I read this letter that Tony wrote and when I finished the room broke into applause.

I'm hoping the downturn in the economy will save us from the power lines. If not the image you are looking at might be spoiled by 180 foot transmission tower that will leave an ugly scar on the landscape.

Power to the people Ö sort of

In January of 2007, I received a letter from Dominion Energy. This was curious as I was not one of their customers. Most of the people in this area buy their electricity from the local electrical co-op.

Basically, the letter said that, due to the explosive growth in this area, there would soon be a power shortage and, by 2011, there would be rolling blackouts in this area. Hereís a quote from the letter:

ďTo think of it another way, imagine what life would be like on a hot August afternoon when the thermometer reads 100 degrees and traffic lights, office elevators and air conditioners stop working.Ē

Pretty scary, huh? It almost sounds like what happened in California in 2001, when Enron forced rolling blackouts by purposely shutting down power plants and ended up raping the state and extorting billions of dollars in exorbitant electric rates that crippled the stateís finances for years. (Note: This is the same Dominion Energy that just a few years ago reported that they had adequate capacity for well into the foreseeable future.)

So what does Dominion Energy want to do to stave off this impending crisis? Not much. They just want to build a new set of power lines with 150 foot high towers running from West Virginia through the most beautiful, unspoiled, scenic areas of Northern Virginia, many of them hallowed historical sites, then on to the Northeast states, the final destination for this electrical superhighway.

It turns out that Dominionís predictions for growth in Northern Virginia, one of their given reasons for building the new power lines, is no longer accurate. The projected growth in this area has actually slowed to a standstill due to a failing real estate market, similar to the one in the late 1980s. With record foreclosures, most developers have stopped building at all but a few commercial sites. If this follows the last real estate boom-bust cycle, there probably wonít be any substantial growth in this area for ten to fifteen years.

So if Northern Virginia has more than adequate power, what is Dominion really up to?

Simple. Itís cheaper and easier to produce power in West Virginia than in the Northeast. Thereís plenty of coal and thereís little or no regulation on the pollution from coal-fired power plants in that area. All they need is a way to get the power from there to the customers in the Northeast.

Enter Dominionís electrical superhighway from West Virginia, through Northern Virginia, and then up to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and other points in the Northeast corridor. The power will be carried on towers 150 to 180 feet tall, visible for miles.

Dominionís opening gambit was very clever. They came up with a proposed route between two substations, one at the West Virginia border, and the other in Loudoun County in Northern Virginia. Instead of running the power lines in a fairly straight line between those two points, they came up with a route that veered south and passed through almost every densely-populated area along the way. It was a highly impractical route, passing through such things as a brand new Boy Scout camp, Civil War battlefields, housing developments, and within shouting distance of Skyline Drive. I would see these towers if I looked out the back window of my house.

I donít think they actually believed that this route could be followed. It would take years in the courts to settle lawsuits and secure the right of way for the power lines. But it had the intended effect Ė it scared the local residents into emergency meetings, putting up yard signs, and wearing ďBan the power linesĒ tee shirts.

What they really were after was to frighten the residents of the area so that when they came out with the route they actually wanted, everyone would breathe a sigh of relief that it wasnít passing through their backyard.

But the real crime is that the power lines, no matter what their route, will leave a scar across one of the most beautiful, unspoiled areas in the country. Itís a superhighway, passing through our area, with no off-ramps. The residents of Northern Virginia will get little, if any, benefit from this scam.

But they will get something that hasnít yet been mentioned Ė pollution. The new, unregulated power plants in West Virginia will belch yet more pollutants into the air where the prevailing winds will carry it, along with acid rain, along the same path as the power lines, adding insult to infamy.

So while the residents of Northern Virginia scurry around trying to demonstrate that they are becoming more energy-efficient, and trying to minimize the need for the power lines, Dominion just smiles and carries on.

Even though Dominionís letter to me talked only about Northern Virginia and the dire consequences in store if we didnít do their bidding, itís really about the ď240 mile high-voltage transmission lineĒ that they also mentioned in the letter.

In the end, itís all about money. Sorry, Northern Virginia, you just happen to be standing in the way.

August 9, 2007

Tony and Marilyn Karp

Questions for the SCC to ask Dominion Energy

1. What percentage of the power carried by the proposed lines will actually be for Virginia, and what percentage is for other states?

2. Why donít you run the power lines in a straight line between Meadow Brook and Loudoun instead of 40 miles out of the way?
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Marilyn Karp is Tony Karp's muse.
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