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Draft Virginia Legislation Would Designate Optimal Sites for LNG, Nuclear, Wind Facilities

Draft energy policy legislation under review in Virginia would direct the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) to identify not more than three sites in the state as "optimal" locations for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility, three for nuclear power plants and other sites for wind energy facilities. However, the measure could stir controversy since it would exempt such sites from provisions of land use plans or zoning ordinances that would otherwise apply to the projects.

The draft proposal was considered earlier this month by a special subcommittee on energy policy of the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission. Overall, the proposed legislation aims to establish an energy policy for the state.

The SCC "shall initiate a proceeding to identify one or more sites within the Commonwealth, without regard to the ownership of such areas or existing restrictions upon their use, that are best suited for the location and operation of an LNG facility," the draft legislation states.

Under the measure, the SCC would develop a system for scoring sites based on the extent to which they are suitable for the siting of the different facilities. for LNG "the scoring system shall address such attributes as docking facilities, proximity to natural gas transmission pipelines, compliance with applicable criteria established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the permitting of LNG facilities, and such other factors as the commission finds are relevant to determining the suitability of a site for an LNG facility."

Under the draft bill, the SCC would provide written notice of the results of the scoring "to all persons that own an interest in real property that is scored as a potential site for an LNG facility." Any person owning an interest in a scored site would be allowed to challenge the score given to its site in a proceeding before the state commission.

A site "shall be designated as an optimal site for an LNG facility only if the score given to the site indicates that it is an excellent location for the construction and operation of an LNG facility."

Once the SCC designates an optimal site for an LNG facility, the construction, operation, repair, replacement and development upon that site of an LNG facility, as well as associated improvements, would be exempt from any provision of a land use plan or zoning ordinance that otherwise would be applicable.

For wind, a scoring system would address such attributes as wind velocity, sustained velocity, turbulence, proximity to electric power transmission systems "and such other factors as the commission finds are relevant to determining the economic viability of a wind farm." The SCC would then conduct an investigation of the areas identified "where wind resources make the development and operation of a wind farm likely to be economically feasible."

For nuclear power, a scoring system would address such attributes as geological stability, proximity to water resources for cooling purposes and proximity to electric power transmission lines, "and such other criteria that the commission finds to be relevant in a determination of the suitability of a site for the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant."

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