January 19, 2023
Senate Committee on Local Government
Senate Room 3, The Capitol
1000 Bank St
Richmond, VA 23218

Dear Chair Lewis, and Senators Hanger, Stanley, Favola, DeSteph, Dunnavant, McPike, Howell, Spruill, Morrissey, Bell, Hashmi, Kiggans, Reeves, and Hackworth:

We are writing to you today on behalf of the undersigned 18 environmental and historic preservation nonprofit organizations. We write today on behalf of our millions of members and supporters nationwide and in Virginia. We stand united in firm support of Senate Bill 1078 introduced by Senator Chap Petersen.

Senator Petersen’s bill would prohibit the construction of an industrial data center “within one mile of a national park or state park or other historically significant site.” Data centers are large warehouses that store computers and data. They are generally owned by the largest and wealthiest corporations in the world like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. They are a necessary part of our 21st century lives, but they require a massive amount of land and have many significant and negative impacts on the areas where they are built and operate, such that their location is a matter of statewide importance when they threaten important national and state resources.

For example, with the Prince William Digital Gateway, an extremely controversial proposal in Prince William County, developers are seeking to build 27 million square feet of data centers – the equivalent of 150 Wal-Mart Supercenters – less than 100 yards from Manassas National Battlefield Park and Conway Robinson Memorial State Forest. This proposal was called the greatest threat to Manassas National Battlefield Park by former Superintendent Branndon Bies and is opposed by 30 environmental and historic preservation organizations. Unfortunately, this type of proposal is becoming all too common.

Our organizations have been closely tracking several data center proposals across the state that pose a direct threat to national parks and historic resources due to their close proximity to these resources. In Prince William County two different data center proposals threaten Manassas National Battlefield Park and Prince William Forest Park. Another proposed data center complex threatens Wilderness Battlefield, part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. And yet another proposal threatens the newly established Culpeper Battlefields State Park near the Brandy Station Battlefield. Several of these threats landed Manassas National Battlefield Park and Brandy Station Battlefield on Preservation Virginia’s 2022 list of Most Endangered Historic Places. Historians like Ken Burns have spoken up against some of these threats, as have dozens of environmental and historic preservation organizations. Despite this, many of these proposed data center complexes have marched through the local approval process.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is blessed with 22 National Park Service sites and 41 State Parks that drive nearly $2 billion in economic spending. These are resources that Virginia’s citizens count on their statewide elected officials to help protect. Constructing data centers directly adjacent to these sites threatens the visitor experience, irreplaceable natural and cultural resources ,and the tremendous economic benefits they provide the Commonwealth. This threat has clearly been a growing problem in the past several years, and it is time for the Virginia General Assembly to work to protect these historic resources from this industry. It is for these reasons that the undersigned organizations urge you to support SB 1078.


American Battlefield Trust
Jim Campi, Chief Policy and Communications Officer

Clean Fairfax
Jennifer Cole, Executive Director

Coalition for Smarter Growth
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director

Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Mike Murray, Chair, Executive Council

Coalition To Save Historic Thoroughfare
Frank Washington, Director

Great Falls Group of Sierra Club
Ann Bennett, Land Use Chair

Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
Andrea McGimsey, Executive Director

Journey Through Hallowed Ground
Bill Sellers, President and CEO

Manassas Battlefield Trust
Scott Neese, President of the Board

National Parks Conservation Association
Kyle Hart, Mid-Atlantic Program Manager

Piedmont Environmental Council
Chris Miller, President

Preservation Virginia
Elizabeth Kostelny, CEO

Prince William Conservation Alliance
Court Squires, Executive Director

Prince William Wildflower Society
Claudia Thompson-Deahl

Sierra Club, Virginia Chapter
Gustavo Angeles, Acting Director

Southern Environmental Law Center
Morgan Butler, Senior Attorney

Virginia League of Conservation Voters
Michael Town, Executive Director

Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area
Alexander M. Nance, Executive Director