A Virginia bill to study the impact of data centers in the state has been voted down by Republicans.
This week the House Subcommittee voted 3-2 to recommend laying the bill on the table, essentially postponing the discussion indefinitely. Republican Delegates Tony Wilt, Kathy Byron, and Chris Head, all representing districts south of Prince William County, voted to table the bill. Democrats Charniele Herring and Don Scott voted against tabling, while Republican Bobby Orrock abstained.
Introduced earlier this month, the joint resolution bill – SJ 240 Study; Department of Energy; impacts of data center development; report – directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the impacts of data center development on Virginia's environment, economy, energy resources, and ability to meet carbon-reduction goals.
The joint resolution was introduced to the Virginia Assembly by Democratic Prince William County Delegate Danica Roem and Democrat Virginia Senator Chap Petersen, representing large areas of Fairfax County.
During the hearing, the American Battlefield Trust and Virginia Conservation Network spoke in favor of the resolution, while data center lobbying group the Data Center Coalition said it had concerns that the scope of the study “far exceeds” the Department of Energy's portfolio.
The study would evaluate:
- The impacts of data center development in Virginia, including impacts on electricity supply and demand, ratepayer impacts, and Virginia's ability to meet its climate goals.
- The progress that data centers have made in sourcing their energy needs from renewable energy sources.
- The effects of cryptocurrency mining.
- The impacts of concentrated data center development on air quality, wildlife, and water resources.
- The role of Virginia's tax incentives in producing benefits for certain localities at the expense of other taxpayers and impacted residents.
Once the evaluation is complete, the report would offer recommendations on whether Virginia should continue to provide incentives for data centers, and if such incentives should be tied to renewable energy or local economic development goals. The report would include a recommendation on whether cryptocurrency mining should be prohibited in Virginia.
The bill would require the DOE to complete its meetings by December 31, 2023.
“We believe these elements are far beyond the purview of the department, we hope you'll defeat the resolution,” said the DC Coalition’s Miles Lori.
Mary Ann Ghadban and Page Snyder, the landowners who led the initial moves to create the PW Digital Gateway project, also spoke against the bill.
Senator Petersen’s other data center bill introduced this month, which would prevent data centers being placed near national or state parks or other ‘historically significant' sites, has been rereferred to Rules.
January also saw Delegate Roem introduce two more data center bills; one around stormwater and one around transmission lines. A subcommittee recommended reporting with amendments for the transmission bill, while the stormwater bill was voted to be laid on the table in a 6-1 vote.