A group of 20 environmental and climate groups will this week launch a coalition to rein in the data center industry across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Virginia Data Center Reform Coalition will call for limits to data center development at a press conference on Friday, December 1.

The group will argue that giant campuses have been built in "inappropriate locations," where they consume excessive amounts of water and make demands on the energy infrastructure which could derail Virginia’s progress to clean energy.

– Virginia Data Center Reform Coalition

"The coalition is urging the state to evaluate 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," says the Coalition's announcement.

The group is asking the state to study the cumulative effects of data center development, and will flag up instances where they say the industry has "failed to prioritize community concerns."

Current issues include plans for new transmission lines to feed data centers, water withdrawal permits, and air permits for diesel backup generators. The group claims that ratepayers are paying for massive energy infrastructure upgrades, and asks that these costs be shifted onto industry players.

They also call for transparency, saying that "land use decisions around data centers are occurring behind a veil of secrecy forged by nondisclosure agreements and VFOIA [Virginia Freedom of Information Act] violations." 

In statements, coalition members set out their concerns before the press conference: “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," said Julie Bolthouse, director of land use of The Piedmont Environmental Council.

"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.”

Rev. Dr. Jean Wright, co-founder of the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions (FACS), warned against energy use: “Our young people’s future is at risk with uncontrolled growth of energy-hungry data centers. Dominion says it can’t produce 100 percent 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.”

“Without proper regulatory action, the rapidly-growing data center industry poses a serious threat to national parks in Virginia," said Kyle Hart, Mid-Atlantic program manager for National Parks Conservation Association.

"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,” said Ashley Studholme, executive director at Prince William Conservation Alliance.

The Coalition's press conference will take place on Friday, December 1, at the Clearbrook Center for the Arts, in Lake Ridge, Virginia.