HAYMARKET, Va. - Your Amazon Prime subscription may not be the only way you are supporting the company. Some people in Virginia are upset that they may be helping foot Amazon's electric bill after a years-long battle over power lines needed to operate a data center in Prince William County.
The Amazon facility will consume a huge amount of electricity and while residents say they won one huge battle when it comes to how the site in Haymarket will get its power supply, they are not happy that they will have to share the cost of it.
Dominion Energy had a number of proposed routes for an above-ground power line. Some of the options included going through a Civil War battlefield and a historic neighborhood founded by freed slaves. People who live here were concerned for their homes as well.
The Coalition to Protect Prince William County recently won the fight to force the power lines to be buried underground, but they still have a bitter taste in their mouths about how they will be paid for.
“We ended up in an almost five-year-long battle,” said Elena Schlossberg, director of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County. “Citizens, grassroots up against two goliaths – Amazon and Dominion Energy – who have billions. And we are raising money with Girl Scouts doing lemonade stands … But still, Amazon has walked away having to pay for nothing. In fact, they get a deal from Dominion Energy on their electric rates.”
The State Corporation Commission regulates Dominion Energy and had to approve the project. It will cost more than $170 million to bury the power lines to Amazon's data center and that cost will now be spread among all of Dominion's 2.5 million customers in the form of a new monthly fee.
This is apparently typical for any infrastructure project. Virginia State Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax and Prince William), who helped make sure the power lines would go underground, considers this a win.
“The constituents came to me and said, ‘Tim, make sure the power lines get buried,’ and that is what we did,” said Hugo. “Again, this is the way it's done in every case in Virginia and many other states. Infrastructure is born across the whole price structure.”
However, Schlossberg said they missed a major chance to set a precedent.
“It would have been precedent-setting,” she said. “It's never been used before. But we felt like these bulk-load customers are taking advantage of people like us who are paying for their massive extension cords.”
Dominion Energy said in a statement that the power lines will benefit all customers in the region.
This week, Bloomberg came out with a new report saying that a pattern is developing, citing the situation in Haymarket along with some issues in Ohio. The concern is as Amazon’s Cloud grows, everyday people are having to help foot part of the bill.
Politicians across the country have been making a bid for Amazon to select their state or city for its second headquarters. It is important to point out that a new headquarter will bring thousands of jobs. However, a data center filled with computer servers is quite different and very few employees are needed.
How much the rates will be going up for Dominion customers is still to be determined by state and federal regulators.