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Delegate Josh Thomas (D-21, Prince William County) [Photo: Thomas’ Facebook page]
A bill introduced by Delegate Joshua Thomas (D-21, Prince William County), aimed at restricting the construction of data centers near state and national parks in Virginia, hit a roadblock in the House of Delegates subcommittee on Thursday. Despite Thomas’s plea to advance the bill, it was ultimately tabled, leaving supporters disappointed and frustrated, reports The Center Square.

“My district is hurting. This issue has torn apart our community,” Thomas lamented before the committee’s vote.

Kathy Kulick of the HOA Roundtable highlighted the contentious nature of the issue and emphasized the potential conflict between economic interests and environmental concerns. Kulick pointed out the influence and intimidation of the data center industry on localities, highlighting the need for state-level legislation to guide land use change requests.

“Localities are being overwhelmed by the enormous financial influence and intimidation of the industry,” Kulick told Potomac Local.

Chap Petersen, representing residents in a lawsuit against the Prince William Board of County Supervisors over the PW Digital Gateway development, echoed concerns about the data center industry’s overwhelming impact on rural areas. Petersen criticized the General Assembly’s inaction, emphasizing the environmental cost and the need for immediate legislative measures.

“The data center industry is overwhelming the Rural Crescent in Virginia. The environmental cost will be incalculable,” said the lawyer and former Democratic State Senator from Fairfax. “The General Assembly has done nothing for years. To defer the issue for ‘more study’ is a joke.”

The ongoing legal battle over the PW Digital Gateway development, approved by Prince William supervisors in December 2023,  underscores the high stakes. Residents, supported by organizations like the American Battlefield Trust, argue that approving massive data centers near historical sites like the Manassas Battlefield National Park would irreversibly alter the region’s character and damage its historical significance, Insidenova.com reports. 

The rezoning vote in December cleared the way for two companies, QTS and Compass Datacenters, Inc., to build the nearly 100-foot tall data center buildings on what has been billed as the world’s most significant data center complex, on nearly 900 acres next to the battlefield, a tourist magnet, and the site of the first major Civil War battle in 1861.

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“Multiple Democrat-sponsored pieces of gun legislation aimed at strengthening firearm laws advanced in Virginia’s House of Delegates this week,” reports Morgan Sweeney at The Center Square. “A bill to watch this legislative session sponsored by Del. Dan Helmer, D-Fairfax, House bill 2 creates a class 1 misdemeanor for any person who imports, sells, manufactures, purchases, possesses, transports or transfers an assault firearm and prohibits anyone convicted of such violation from purchasing, possessing or transporting a firearm for three years from the date of conviction.”

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Manassas, battlefield, park, civil war
Manassas National Battlefield Park Visitor Center is located on Route 234 near Manassas, Virginia.

In an effort to advocate for policies safeguarding national parks, clean water, and combating climate change, the Virginia Conservation Network, in collaboration with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), is gearing up for the annual 2024 Conservation Lobby Day on Wednesday, January 31.

This significant event aims to unite environmental supporters from across the state, addressing the constant threats faced by Virginia’s national parks, particularly from the proliferation of data centers. The General Assembly is set to consider various bills in 2024 to tackle the impacts of data centers, including rising electricity costs and environmental pressures.

Virginia is home to the world’s largest concentration of data centers, with Northern Virginia hosting over 300 of them. Eastern Loudoun County, known as Data Center Alley, covers approximately 573 acres, while Prince William County is emerging as a hotspot with the recent approval of the PW Digital Gateway campus, featuring 27 centers on 970 acres next to Manassas National Battlefield.

The agenda for the Virginia Conservation Lobby Day is as follows:

– 7:30 am Arrive in Richmond
– 7:45 – 8:30 am Gather at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (815 E Grace St, Richmond, VA 23219) for coffee, light breakfast, and remarks from legislators
– 8:30 – 11:30 am: Lobby your Delegate and Senator with fellow conservation advocates
– 11:30 – 1:30 pm: Lunch at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church with remarks from agency staff members
– 1:30 – 4:00 pm: Lobby key committee members on data center reform
– 4:00 pm: Return home

Environmental enthusiasts are encouraged to RSVP with NPCA to secure their spot at the event. Additionally, a bus departing from Haymarket will facilitate transportation to Richmond.

The Virginia Mercury reports, “As data centers continue to proliferate across Virginia, the General Assembly this winter is poised to take up a host of bills intended to address their impacts, including increased electricity costs and environmental pressures.”

This Conservation Lobby Day allows citizens to engage with legislators, advocate for environmental action, and specifically address the challenges data centers pose. With Virginia being a global hub for data centers, the outcomes of these lobbying efforts could have far-reaching implications for the state’s environmental landscape.

For more information and to RSVP, visit the NPCA website or contact Karen Sheehan with the Coalition to Protect Prince William at [email protected].

This article aligns with our mission to deliver community-focused news and exclusive information you won’t find elsewhere. We appreciate your readership and value your membership. Thank you for being a part of our community.

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Delegate Ian Lovejoy (R-22, Bristow) updated his legislative priorities at the end of the first week of the 2024 Virginia General Assembly.

Lovejoy emphasized his focus on two key issues: limiting the siting of data centers near certain areas and addressing potential conflicts of interest among local elected officials involved in land use proceedings.

Siting of Data Centers in Residential Areas:

Lovejoy introduced an amendment to the Code of Virginia, specifically adding a new section to address the siting of data centers. According to the proposed amendment:

– Any local government land use application required to build a data center must be approved only for areas one-quarter mile or more from federal, state, or local parks, schools, and property zoned or used for residential purposes.

The amendment came after the Prince William Board of County Supervisors in  2023 approved a data center complex on 990 acres next to Manassas Battlefield National Park and another next to a densely populated neighborhood at Linton Hall and Devlin roads in Bristow.

Disclosures in Land Use Proceedings:

Lovejoy also proposed amendments focusing on disclosures in land use proceedings.

– Members of the board of supervisors, planning commission, and board of zoning appeals involved in land use proceedings must fully disclose any business or financial relationships with the applicant or title owner of the land in question.

– A disclosure includes relationships within the 12 months before the hearing, and any member with a business or financial interest or a specific relationship shall be ineligible to vote or participate in such cases.

– Penalties, as a Class 1 misdemeanor, are outlined for individuals knowingly and willfully violating these disclosure provisions.is the most severe class of misdemeanor offenses and may include up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.

The proposed amendments aim to enhance transparency in land use proceedings by requiring elected officials to disclose relevant relationships, thereby minimizing potential conflicts of interest.

Lovejoy is serving his first term as a House of Delegates member. He previously served on the Manassas City Council.

The 2024 General Assembly session ends on March 10, 2024.

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Roem [Photo courtesy Mike Beaty]
Virginia State Senator Danica Roem (D-30, Gainesville, Manassas) has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting her to participate remotely in the ongoing General Assembly session.

Roem has focused on legislation related to data centers, emphasizing the need for stringent approval processes. One of her proposed bills states that any local government land use application required for the siting of a data center must adhere to specific notice and noise abatement provisions. These provisions include notifying residents within a half-mile radius, scheduling and attending neighborhood meetings, and conducting sound studies to determine baseline and post-construction noise levels.

“I’m isolating at home in Manassas (albeit with my kitties, so not entirely alone). I plan to participate in committee and floor session remotely Monday,” Roem posted to X, formerly Twitter. “If I test negative Tuesday, I’ll mask up and return.”

In addition to her focus on data centers, Roem has filed bills addressing the availability of school meals to students at no cost. The proposed legislation requires each public elementary and secondary school to participate in federal meal programs, making lunch and breakfast available to any student who requests it, regardless of their ability to pay. The Department of Education would reimburse schools for meals served, with a maximum of one breakfast and one lunch per student per school day.

Roem’s bills also touch on the Community Eligibility Provision, aiming to maximize access to federal funds for school breakfast and lunch programs. Schools with a minimum identified student percentage may apply to participate in CEP, ensuring greater federal funding for meals served.

Roem is currently in her inaugural four-year term as a Virginia State Senator. Before her current role, she secured a significant victory in 2017 when she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.

During that election year, notable changes occurred as the seats for Prince William County’s General Assembly delegation shifted from a majority of Republicans to Democrats, marking a transformative moment in the county’s political landscape.

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Virignia State Capitol

“A Virginia Senate committee narrowly defeated legislation Wednesday that would expand the circumstances in which a drug dealer could be charged with felony homicide in connection with a user’s death,” reports WTOP-FM. “The bill, a priority of Gov. Glenn Youngkin and fellow Republicans, was pitched as a deterrent to criminals that would save lives amid the rising tide of overdoses deaths, particularly those attributable to fentanyl. But the Democrats on the committee who voted it down voiced skepticism that stiffer penalties, rather than an approach focused on substance abuse treatment, would effectively address the root causes of the issue.”

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Roem

Virginia Senator Danica Roem (D-30, Gainesville, Manassas) is encouraged about her bill to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) fees.

Roem, who has been advocating for FOIA reform throughout her four terms in office, first in the House of Delegates and now in the State Senate, highlighted the progress made during a session in the Senate's General Laws committee in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.

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Mundon King

Delegate Candi Mundon King (D-Prince William, Stafford) introduced two bills in the General Assembly Session that deal with transportation.

The first would cap the total amount of tolls drivers pay on the E-ZPass Express Lanes in the state to $200 per month. The bill would also allow disabled military veterans to use the lanes at no charge.

HB811 has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation. Delegates Nadarius E. Clark (D-Suffolk) and Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) are co-patrons.

King’s second bill, HB812, would bar the DMV from issuing any license plates that reference the “Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, or any other prominent Confederate leader.”

Virignia offers license plates commemorating Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a native Virginian, and a plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The House Transportation Committee meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. during the session through March 10, 2024.

Locally, Delegates Brianna Sewell (D-Prince William) and Paul Milde (R-Stafford) sit on the committee.

King also chairs the House Committee on Counties, Cities, and Towns in the 2024 General Assembly Session.

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Village Place Technology Park in Gainesville, approved by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors in 2022

“As data centers continue to proliferate across Virginia, the General Assembly this winter is poised to take up a host of bills intended to address their impacts, including increased electricity costs and environmental pressures,” reports Charlie Paullin at The Virginia Mercury. “Virginia is home to the greatest concentration of data centers in the world. While the centers can be found around the state, most are in Northern Virginia, which has more than 300. Eastern Loudoun County, where the facilities cover roughly 573 acres, is known as Data Center Alley, and Prince William is increasingly becoming a hot spot after local officials recently approved a campus of 27 centers that would sit on 270 acres.”

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