Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission Authorizes Data Center Study

aerial view of a huge boxy building next to a 6 lane road
Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC.

On Dec. 11, 2023, the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission passed a resolution authorizing a robust study into recent and expected trends within the data center industry and assessment of impacts on Virginia’s natural resources, historic and cultural resources, current and forecasted energy demand and supply, policies to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and local residents (specifically noise pollution, decreasing property values, and adverse visual impact). The study would also estimate the impact of the data center industry on local revenue, identify siting considerations and guidance that state agencies could provide to local governments, assess possible economic benefits of more geographically diverse data center industry growth, compare Virginia’s competitiveness with other states, and determine if Virginia’s data center tax exemption could be improved.

Although we are delighted to see this comprehensive study moving forward, we know enough about the impacts to know that policy changes are needed immediately; therefore, we are continuing to push for more transparency around energy and water usage, additional review of cumulative impacts at the state level, and adjustment of the rate structure to shift the cost of additional infrastructure resulting from global data usage away from Virginia ratepayers and onto the industry itself. These changes cannot wait and must be made during the upcoming General Assembly session, not after the damage is done.