News & Articles

Resolution supports $1.8B hydroelectric pump storage system project

Posted on Aug 10, 2017

BLAKE STOWERS | Bluefield Daily Telegraph


TAZEWELL, Va. — Tazewell County officials have passed a resolution of support for the creation of one or more hydroelectric pump storage systems in Southwest Virginia.

Senator Ben Chafin, R-Russell, helped to write the bill in support of the hydroelectric pump storage systems.

Chafin spoke to the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors alongside Dan Poteet with Dominion Energy on Tuesday night.

“It’s great to be here before you tonight,” Chafin said. “I’m here to talk to you a little bit about the pump storage project and reacquaint you with that project. And to seek your approval on this project. It’s an exciting project for all the coalfield counties. As you know, Delegate Kilgore and I, each carried the bill that passed the General Assembly this last session. We found it in the public interest to allow the creation of one or more pump storage, hydroelectric facilities in coalfield counties in Southwest Virginia. We have a utility that is actively exploring locations for this type of facility in Southwest Virginia. So, we are quite excited that this is going to come to fruition.”

Several counties in the region have agreed to support Dominion Energy in the project across the coalfields of southwest Virginia. The company is currently looking at a number of sites in the coalfield counties for the project, which would create hundreds of jobs during the multi-year construction phase, and approximately 50 permanent positions. The hydroelectric storage power station will cost more than $1.8 billion to build, and would provide millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the locality that is ultimately selected for the development.

Chafin said the new projects will bring a lot of revenue to Southwest Virginia.

“It will bring a lot of investment to Southwest Virginia,” Chafin said. “It will allow investment to our coalfield counties in a way that we have not seen in quite some time. And it will allow our coalfield counties to share this revenue. That’s what we’re here seeking tonight, is your favor, your blessing on the project. We’d like you to embrace the project and say that it is good project and would be welcome in the coalfield counties.”

Chafin also asked the board to bless the concept of revenue sharing.

“I have gone to counties, all the time, I hear the same stories,” Chafin said. “The counties say we never get this. We don’t get any benefit out of it. I know that the Virginia City Plant that is in St. Paul and Wise County. It’s like a city. It’s a wonderful thing. But, it’s sitting just a few hundred yards from the county line with Russel County, but all the revenue goes to Wise County and the town of St. Paul. We came up, the legislators, came up with the idea that we want this to be a revenue share. We don’t think it would be happening without the efforts of the General Assembly, running forward, making it more streamlined, getting it through the legislative process.”

Chafin said he hopes this is the beginning of one of many projects where counties can be a part of the revenue sharing. “We hope that everybody can help get a piece of the action and everybody be a winner,” Chafin said. “The investment that will be made to build this facility and whatever county is chosen will be a significant investment. And will help some of the losses that were sustained over the last eight or nine years, in the down tick of the coal industry.”

According to Chafin, approximately 1,500 or 2,000 new jobs will be brought to the area during the construction phase of the project.

Eastern District Board of Supervisor Charlie Stacy asked if a renewable source was a part of this particular project during the presentation. “The way I understood it, it has to be a renewable source, so one way or the other, whoever gets picked is getting wind or solar. Is that going to be in close proximity to the facility? Where does the renewable have to go?”

Chafin said the renewable source can run in a different county. “It has to be in the coalfield counties,” Chafin said. “The renewable component of this can be in a different county, but the beauty of it is, from our standpoint is when we drafted the legislation we were careful and encouraged to include the idea that there might be more than one of these (facilities). We might be able to get more than one of these down the road. This particular facility acts as a giant battery.”

According to earlier reports by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, hydroelectric pump storage facilities act as large batteries that store energy in the form of water. During off-peak energy hours, when demand is lower, less expensive energy is used to pump water from a reservoir at a lower altitude up to a reservoir at a higher altitude. The water is stored in the upper reservoir until an on-peak period, or period of high demand. At that point, the water is allowed to flow downhill to a power generation facility where it spins turbines. The turbines activate generators that produce electric power that is then delivered to the electric grid.

Poteet said within this region, the Regional Transmission Organization basically governs Dominion Power. “Within that group is PJM, PJM represents 13 states,” Poteet said. “Within PJM they have different regions or service territories. For the past several years, the Dominion zone has been the largest growing in need of electricity in the United States.”

Southern District Supervisor Mike Hymes said the presentation regarding the hydroelectric pump storage was very interesting.

“I am hopeful our county will be selected for one of these projects,” Hymes said. “I am still concerned about this technology being a competitor for coal and gas fired power generation, but I hope the electric demand will increase so this technology will be needed. As I said to the Dominion representatives last night, our county has several county owned areas that we could use as sites for solar energy installations.”

Chafin said officials were able to get this bill out without opposition. “So, I believe that if there had been some thoughts that some how it was not good for coal those would have surfaced, Chafin said. “Also, as David said, it’s going to take a lot of coal to produce the energy to pump that water up there (within the facility) too.”

Dominion Energy is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of approximately 26,200 megawatts of generation, 15,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline, and 6,600 miles of electric transmission lines.

— Contact Blake Stowers at


Article originally posted online @

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Tazewell County pushing for Sunset agreement

Posted on Jul 2, 2017


A decision on whether or not its vote is reversed could come from the Virginia Coalfield Coalition next week.

Seth White, who serves as chairman of the coalition said the 16 member board was looking at either July 11 or 12 as dates for a called meeting.  Board members Ronnie Shortt, Joe Fawbush and Richard Leonard had asked for the called meeting to reconsider the group’s vote to impose restrictions on Sunset Digital’s purchase of Optinet.

The coalition is a non-profit group that was created to oversee a 38 tower 4G network in seven counties in southwest Virginia. The group voted 8-3 with five members absent to approve the deal that has Sunset purchasing Optinet from Bristol Utility for $50 million.

The coalition has asked to transfer the 4G cell tower network to Scott County Telephone Cooperative. They also asked for $250,000 from Sunset to allow Scott County Telephone Cooperative to purchase the equipment to operate the network.

Sunset has said shifting the 4G to Scott County Telephone Cooperative is unacceptable and providing the company six strands of unlit fiber is impossible. White told David McGee of the Bristol Herald Courier that what the coalition is asking is fair.

He said Sunset has not tried to negotiate with the coalfield group. During its June 28 meeting, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors approved Mike Hymes’ motion to ask the county’s representatives on the VCC, White and John Absher to do what they could to move the deal forward.

Hymes’ motion, which was seconded by Charles Stacy stated the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors hereby authorizes and directs the County Administrator and the County Attorney to draft a letter to our representatives on the CPPD and particularly those who work on VCC to work diligently to move the Sunset – Opti-Net project deal forward and not be an impediment to it.’

Hymes said  Tazewell County really needs strong 4-G Broadband in Southwest Virginia and he does not want to lose the opportunity. While White and Absher are the county’s representatives on the VCC, both also serve as does Stacy on the 32 member Cumberland Plateau Board.

Published by SWVA Today –

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Hymes Announces Re-Election Campaign

Posted on Jun 23, 2017

I am excited to officially announce my candidacy for re-election to represent the residents of Tazewell county once again on the  Board of Supervisors.  It has been my honor to serve the citizens of the Southern District of Tazewell County for more than a decade.  During this time, I have worked diligently to move our county forward despite the difficult economic times plaguing our region.  My focus has always been on growing our county’s economy, while carefully managing the taxpayer’s money. 

We have lowered the property tax rate three times, reduced the merchant’s capital tax on local businesses, and created a website allowing citizens to see firsthand how their tax dollars are spent. This has been accomplished while increasing our funding for education and public safety.

I am especially proud of the small business growth within our county.  The number of entrepreneurs working to establish businesses in our county has increased.  In the coming year, I will work to establish a small business roundtable for the purpose of learning how county government can best meet the needs of small businesses in our county.  It is critical to our local economy that we grow and market strong sustainable small businesses that attract interest from both local residents and travelers throughout the region.

lowered the property tax rate three times, reduced the merchant’s capital tax on local businesses, and created a website allowing citizens to see firsthand how their tax dollars are spent. This has been accomplished while increasing our funding for education and public safety.

Tazewell County should embrace our creative entrepreneurs and give them the support needed to be successful.  I pledge to continue to be a strong advocate for diversifying our economy by marketing local tourism, nurturing our small business, and providing a business friendly environment for economic growth in our county.  By providing a low tax rate, a world class education system with strong workforce training options, superior healthcare options, and a robust network of broadband, we can attract the jobs needed to keep our children home.

I want to continue serving the residents of Tazewell county and finish several projects –

  • Increase the county’s focus on increasing broadband access for our unserved, and underserved areas. 
  • Budget funding for increased residential access to our natural gas resources. It is not fair that we are shipping gas to other states while our local residents are denied access.
  • Follow up on the Virginia Tech radon study, and fund additional studies’ on our local healthcare issues.
  • Increase funding for Education and educators.
  • Grow and diversify our job base so that our children can return to live and work in Tazewell County.
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Hymes visits Remote Area Medical, Reaffirms support for providing health coverage for 30,000 Southwest Virginians

Posted on Jul 20, 2014

Offers Marketplace Virginia as one possible solution

Mike Hymes, from Tazewell County’s Board of Supervisors, visited Remote Area Medical at the Wise County Fairgrounds this weekend and issued the following statement:

“We are the richest nation on earth and yet for thousands of people, the only health care they will get is provided by volunteers in muddy tents at a county fairground. The sheer number of desperate people I saw huddling against the rain at RAM makes it clear we need to find a way to provide health coverage for the 30,000 uninsured working people in Southwest Virginia.”

“I support Marketplace Virginia, the bipartisan plan that will allow the 30,000 uninsured people in our region access to affordable health coverage. It’s a Virginia way to address this health care crisis without Washington interference. These are working people, and Marketplace Virginia, to which they will also contribute financially, will not only ensure a healthier workforce, but also help our rural hospitals stay open.”

“The volunteers and medical professionals with Remote Area Medical provide an invaluable service to the people of Southwest Virginia. I applaud them for selflessly donating their time to help our families, friends and neighbors get necessary, and in some cases, lifesaving medical care. My son and his wife, a dentist, and members of our church have volunteered at RAM in Buchanan County, and I have seen the positive difference that this program makes in the lives of not only the patients but also the volunteers.”

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Mike Hymes Calls For Full Transparency Regarding Tobacco Commission Revelations

Posted on Jun 29, 2014

(Tazewell, VA) — It was reported in the media last night that emails released by the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission (Tobacco Commission), “…outline plans hatched by Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, to offer Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, D-Russell, a senior job with the commission once he resigned from the Virginia Senate.” This is a job that was created especially for Senator Puckett.

“As a member of the Tobacco Commission, Ben Chafin needs to disclose his involvement with the Commission’s plan to give Phil Puckett a job,” said Mike Hymes. “Not only should Chafin release all his Tobacco Commission phone records, emails and computer records, he should also release all his private communications and meetings he had with Delegate Kilgore and members and staff of the Commission regarding his role in trading a job for a Senate seat.

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