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District court will decide whether to pull permit for Dominion transmission line

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District court will decide whether to pull permit for Dominion transmission line

Dominion Energy Virginia can keep its controversial and recently energized 500-kV Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line in place for now, a federal appeals court ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in a May 31 opinion remanded to the U.S. District Court the issue of whether the Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary must remove its transmission line during a newly ordered permit review.

The federal appeals court on March 1 reversed a key decision involving a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that allowed the utility to build several towers, up to 295 feet tall, across the James River near historic Jamestown, Va. The ruling came just days after Dominion Energy Virginia, known legally as Virginia Electric and Power Co., energized its 500-kV Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line.

The federal appeals court initially remanded the case to the district court with instructions to "vacate the permit and direct the Corps to prepare an environmental impact statement."

Dominion Energy Virginia asked the federal appeals court to reconsider whether vacating the permit is necessary while the Corps prepares the environmental impact statement. The court decided that "the best course of action is to remand the case to the district court to consider ... whether vacatur remains the appropriate remedy."

Therefore, the lower court will decide whether Dominion Energy Virginia must remove the energized line during the Corps' review.

Dominion said the appeals court's ruling is "good news for customers who live and work on the Peninsula."

"It's critical that we maintain electric reliability for the Virginia Peninsula. Keeping the existing transmission line energized while the Environmental Impact Statement is prepared is the responsible thing to do and provides safe, reliable power for the 600,000 people who live and work on the Peninsula," the company said in a written statement.

The U.S. District Court in late May 2018 dismissed lawsuits filed by historic preservation groups fighting to overturn the federal permit and stop construction on the transmission line.

The nearly eight-mile overhead transmission line extends from Dominion Energy Virginia's existing switching station near the Surry nuclear plant on the south shore of the James River to a new Skiffes Creek switching station in James City County. The project also includes a new, approximately 20-mile, 230-kV line from the Skiffes Creek switching station to Dominion's existing Whealton substation in Hampton, Va.