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The fans and critics of Virginia data centers

In this Dec. 20, 2018 photo computers at Chemical Abstracts Service store data.
Julie Carr Smyth
In this Dec. 20, 2018 photo computers at Chemical Abstracts Service store data.

Northern Virginia is the global hub of data centers. But that notoriety is causing friction in some communities.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors is considering a huge data center next door to the Manassas Battlefield. That’s a proposal that is raising alarm bells among people who are concerned about urbanization of rural land. Others say data centers bring in huge revenue for local governments. Kyle Hart is a program manager at the National Parks Conservation Association.

"It was an extremely significant location that caused it to become the site of two of these different battles," Hart explains. "Unfortunately, in today's modern times as the DC area continues to grow, that puts Manassas National Battlefield at sort of the forefront of really bad development ideas."

Earlier this year, members of the General Assembly considered a bill that would have asked state regulators to take a closer look at data centers for things like stormwater runoff and a potential drain on the power grid. That bill was opposed by Governor Glenn Youngkin, local governments, industry captains and one labor group said this in a committee hearing.

"Lou Spencer, United Association Local Union Number 5. We oppose the bill because we really enjoy building data centers. Thank you."

Next door in Fairfax County, the Board of Supervisors is considering new rules about where data centers can be constructed and what kind of requirements are needed.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.