Virginia Data Center Reform Coalition to kick off with Dec. 1 press conference

Media Contacts:

Julie Bolthouse, Director of Land Use, Piedmont Environmental Council; 571-442-4068 

Kyle Hart, Mid Atlantic Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association; 202-400-1193

Resources from press conference:

MANASSAS, Va. (Nov. 21, 2023) – Nonprofit organizations, homeowners’ groups, and residents from all over Virginia have joined forces to form a coalition that is calling for industry-wide data center reform. On Friday, Dec. 1, at 11 a.m. at the Clearbrook Center for the Arts, 2230 Tacketts Mill Dr B, Lake Ridge, Va., this Virginia Data Center Reform Coalition is hosting a press conference to demand accountability from this industry and to speak with the media about the data center impacts faced by their communities.

The coalition is made up of more than 20 environmental, conservation, historic preservation, and climate advocacy groups, as well as representatives of communities and neighborhoods across the state. Together, they are urging the state to study the cumulative effects of data center development on the state’s electrical grid, water resources, air quality, and land conservation efforts, and to institute several common-sense regulatory and rate-making reforms for this industry. The press conference will highlight several ways the data center industry in Virginia has failed to prioritize community concerns. Among them: proposing mega-campuses in inappropriate locations, such as near historic battlefields and cultural resources, schools, and residential communities; consuming excessive amounts of water with little oversight; installing thousands of large diesel generators that threaten local and regional air quality; and compelling massive energy infrastructure upgrades paid for by ratepayers. In addition, speakers will discuss the significant threats data centers are posing to Virginia’s clean energy progress. 

As massive transmission line plans are released, water withdrawal permits filed, and numerous air permits for the operation of large diesel generators pile up all over the state, the volume of concerned organizations and communities continues to grow. More and more, land use decisions around data centers are occurring behind a veil of secrecy forged by nondisclosure agreements and VFOIA violations. 

The Virginia Data Center Reform Coalition is asking Virginia’s state government to step in — to require more transparency around land use decisions affecting the lives of Virginians and around energy and water usage that carries significant implications for both local communities and the rest of the Commonwealth. The coalition is asking the state to require that data center developers mitigate the negative environmental impacts of this industry and to shift the cost of new transmission lines and power generation onto the industry players, rather than on the backs of Virginia’s ratepayers.

Quotes from Coalition Members Available for Interviews:

“In the face of climate change and expanding our urban/suburban centers, we should be doing everything we can to protect our drinking water sources. Converting forested and rural lands for data centers means more pollution entering our waterways, and here in Prince William County, it goes against our commitment to protect the Occoquan Reservoir, a critical water source that provides drinking water to 800,000 residents in Northern Virginia.” Ashley Studholme, executive director at Prince William Conservation Alliance

Virginia has the largest data center market in the world, yet our regulatory oversight is behind other large markets in Europe and Asia that have also experienced data center demand exceeding available resources. The cumulative impacts of energy consumption, water usage, and thousands of backup diesel generators are not well understood, but already ratepayers are being asked to pay billions to expand electric infrastructure to generate and deliver massive amounts of power to the large hub in Loudoun.” Julie Bolthouse, director of land use of The Piedmont Environmental Council

“Without proper regulatory action, the rapidly-growing data center industry poses a serious threat to national parks in Virginia. Our national parks were meant to protect historic battlefields, precious ecosystems, and other priceless resources so future generations of Americans can enjoy them. As a result of poor planning and short-term thinking, massive data center projects have already been planned on the doorstep of several Virginia national parks, jeopardizing that vision. Our leaders must stand with national parks and the people who love them. They must work to enact common sense reforms that provide a fair structure for this industry, and protect our parks and our climate amid a changing Commonwealth.” Kyle Hart, Mid-Atlantic Program Manager for National Parks Conservation Association

Virginia has been at the center of many crucial events in American history. The Commonwealth has also been in the vanguard of the historic preservation movement, demonstrating the devastating impacts that ill–considered and poorly sited projects can have on irreplaceable historic resources. Because they require large footprints, data center proliferation has rapidly become the biggest single threat to historic battlefields in Virginia. Land use decisions made in haste and without proper concern for their impacts stand to irreparably damage national treasures such as the Manassas and Wilderness battlefields. It is time for a proactive and constructive conversation on how we can embrace modern technology without sacrificing our history.” David Duncan, president of the American Battlefield Trust

“Our young people’s future is at risk with uncontrolled growth of energy hungry data centers. Dominion says it can’t produce 100% renewable electricity by 2045, as required by the Virginia Clean Economy Act, due to the spread of these voracious consumers of energy. Reducing greenhouse gas pollution must remain our priority,” says Rev. Dr. Jean Wright, Co-Founder, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions (FACS) and Loudoun FACS Hub Lead

“Protecting the health of Virginians should be a top consideration in the expansion of data centers in the state.  Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion causes far-reaching human health harms including increased risk of stroke, heart attack, hypertension, asthma attack, new onset asthma and preterm delivery.  The ever-increasing demand for electricity to support data centers has been identified by the state’s largest utility as creating a potential need for new fossil fuel-fired electricity generation plants, at a time when Virginia is committed to a clean energy future. Increasing fossil fuel combustion to meet the energy needs of data centers is antithetical to Virginia’s clean energy goals as required by the Virginia Clean Economy Act, and poses risks to the health of all Virginians. Consideration of new data centers must include the health costs of  increased air pollution from fossil fuel combustion as will be required to meet the tremendous energy needs of these facilities.” Bob Kitchen, Vice-Chair of Advocacy Steering Committee Member, Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action

Representatives from several groups joined together at PEC’s o  ce on July 27 to kick o  a statewide data center reform coalition. Photo by Hugh Kenny
Several members of the Virginia Data Center Reform Coalition at an early meeting in Warrenton.