The following text was sent out via email on February 15, 2023. Sign up for PEC email alerts →
Thank you to all who came to speak out against the Amazon data center proposal in Warrenton at last night’s public hearing. Other than the dismaying vote itself, what a great showing of solidarity and democracy in action!
More than 500 people attended and nearly 130 speakers expressed their opposition, many of whom stayed until the bitter end around 2 a.m. The turnout of residents from Warrenton and Fauquier County was historic, with all but three speakers urging the Town to deny this ill-conceived proposal.
We are deeply disappointed by the Warrenton Town Council’s decision. Despite every possible effort — including multiple town halls, countless opinion pieces and ads in the newspaper, a lawsuit over the emails the Town has claimed are exempt from FOIA, a retired NASA computational scientist and noise expert deeming Amazon’s noise study uncredible, numerous expert and layman findings that the application was incompatible with surrounding uses and incomplete, and hours of impassioned testimony from local residents, including none other than Robert Duvall — the Town Council still voted 4-3 to approve the special use permit. We appreciate Council members Semple, McGuire and Mooney who voted against approving the application and made efforts toward a more transparent public process.
One small consolation that came out of the evening is the passing of a motion to distribute the FOIA documents that were the subject of Citizens for Fauquier County’s lawsuit to all the Council members. This ensures Council members at least have the benefit of all the information as they are asked to make decisions going forward.
What comes next is not entirely clear, but we will continue to evaluate and prepare, along with our partners, Citizens for Fauquier County and Protect Fauquier. These organizations have been amazing grassroots representatives of the public interest, enabling and empowering thousands of citizens to participate.
What we do know is that the Amazon data center will require electric power, and Dominion’s preferred site for the substation that will provide that power is the Old Wire Factory property at 615 Falmouth Street. Unfortunately, this is likely to result in another data center development proposal on that industrially-zoned parcel within Warrenton Town limits.
The connection between data centers and the broader energy system in Virginia is just beginning to come into focus, not only locally but in national and international forums. The data center industry is under increasing scrutiny for its overwhelming impacts in Europe and other parts of the U.S. as well as Virginia. With Governor Youngkin’s announcement that Amazon will invest $35 billion in data center expansion, there will likely be much more pressure on communities statewide. Incredibly, at the same time, DEQ is considering exempting 100+ data centers in NoVA from state emissions standards to run polluting diesel back-up generators. The industry has grown so rapidly without guardrails that it is projected to cause grid reliability issues this year. However, sacrificing local air quality and polluting the environment is a shortsighted and negligent solution.
PEC will continue to shine a light on concerns related to data center siting in Virginia. There is a clear need to look more closely at secrecy in governmental decision-making, the burden to ratepayers, the taxpayer subsidies at play, the air quality pollution rising from the increased use of diesel generators, and ultimately, the health and quality of life impacts being borne by Virginia residents.
This is a huge issue and Fauquier County is at the frontline, but last night showed that our community will not back down. Thank you to everyone who sacrificed their Valentine’s Day plans to attend last night’s hearing. We cannot stress enough the importance of your presence and hope you’re able to enjoy your make-up plans.
Kevin Kask, AICP
Fauquier County Field Representative
540-347-2334 ext. 7046