Federal judge rejects injunction request for Dominion’s James River transmission line
A federal judge rejected an injunction request that would have blocked construction of Dominion Energy’s Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line project over the James River, which has been opposed by preservation groups because of its proximity to Historic Jamestowne and other historic landmarks.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Parks Conservation Association, with the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, had sought the injunction to halt the river crossing portion of the project while a lawsuit they brought goes forward.
The suit seeks to force the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a more rigorous environmental review of the transmission line project, arguing that the corps did not follow the law as it put together a permit.
In an order Friday, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that the nonprofit groups “have not established a likelihood of any irreparable harm” if the project goes forward, though the judge said they had “made a powerful argument on the merits.”
The judge noted that Dominion has said it does not intend to build the 17 towers, some as high as 295 feet tall, that will carry the lines across the river until April, though the foundations for the towers will start being built this month.
“The source of the plaintiff’s irreparable harm — ‘mammoth towers’ — won’t begin to be built for at least another six months, leaving the parties ample time to fully brief the merits of the case,” he wrote.
In a statement, Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, said the group was disappointed by the decision but would continue to fight what she called an unnecessary project that “will rob future generations from experiencing this history as we all have, until now.”
The project, the group contends, could harm protected species like the Atlantic sturgeon and would “deface Jamestown and nearby national park sites like Colonial National Historic Park, the Colonial Parkway and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, which collectively protect more than 400 years of our shared American history.”
Dominion has said the project is crucial to maintaining reliable power on the Peninsula as it closes coal-fired generation units at Yorktown Power Station. PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization responsible for the electric gird in Virginia and all or parts of 12 other states, said the project is the “most efficient and effective solution” to fix reliability violations in the area.