Fourth Circuit: NC Customers Don’t Have to Pay for Virginia’s Underground Lines

Donald Lee Purdue

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a FERC ruling that NC customers should not bear the incremental cost of placing Dominion’s transmission lines in Virginia underground. The Fourth Circuit agreed with FERC that the North Carolina customers did not receive any benefit from placing the lines underground.

The Fourth Circuit agreed with FERC’s finding that the decision to underground the lines was made for reasons that did not benefit North Carolinians. Virginians testified at a public hearing that they believe undergrounding would result in better aesthetics and the avoidance of electromagnetic radiation. The Virginia legislature also adopted legislation insisting the lines be placed underground.

These facts, and the lack of evidence of any benefits accruing to North Carolina customers, led the Fourth Circuit to affirm the FERC’s departure from the general rule that improvements to an integrated system are presumed to benefit the entire system.

The case is Northern Virginia Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. v Federal Energy Commission, Case No. 17-1262 (4th Cir. December 20, 2019).

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