Press Release Dec 13, 2023

Massive Data Centers Approved to Tower Above Manassas National Battlefield Park

A data center complex is slated to take up more than 20 million square feet of space at the park's edge, the size of several Pentagons, obstructing the viewshed along the main trail at this Civil War battlefield.

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Today, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted to rezone 2,100 acres of land adjacent to Manassas National Battlefield Park, greenlighting development of a massive, disruptive data center complex on the edge of national parkland.

National park advocates showed up in droves to urge the board to vote against rezoning, citing the overwhelming negative impacts this heavy-duty industrial development, dubbed the Prince William Digital Gateway, would have on Manassas National Battlefield. The marathon public meeting on the issue lasted more than 24 hours.

This complex is slated to take up more than 20 million square feet of space, the size of several Pentagons, obstructing the viewshed along the main trail at this iconic national park. The project will consume significant water and increase polluted stormwater runoff within the Occoquan Reservoir and Chesapeake Bay watershed. The project’s electricity usage is estimated to be the equivalent of at least 750,000 homes, requiring massive amounts of energy from fossil fuels and contributing to climate change and air pollution.

The Prince William Digital Gateway project is part of a larger trend of irresponsible development in rapidly industrializing Northern Virginia, an area that lacks significant green space. As part of the Virginia Data Center Reform Coalition, the National Parks Conservation Association believes common sense regulations and guidelines are needed to prevent inappropriately sited data centers from threatening local national parks and our climate.

Manassas National Battlefield Park, established in 1936, preserves the site of two pivotal battles in the American Civil War. In recent years, remains of Union soldiers have been found at the park. In 2021, then-superintendent of the park Brandon Bies called proposals for data centers adjacent to the park “the single greatest threat to the park in nearly three decades.”

For years, conservationists in Northern Virginia and across the country have registered deep concerns about the impacts that Prince William Digital Gateway would have on the battlefield. Expert environmental staff for Prince William County even advised the Board against the project. Famed documentarian and director of “The National Parks, America’s Best Idea,” Ken Burns has spoken out about the need for smarter growth and siting data centers away from the battlefield.

Statement of Kyle Hart, Mid-Atlantic Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association:

“This vote is a tremendous failure on the part of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors – one that will have lasting consequences for generations of Virginians. Giving developers the OK to build massive data centers in the shadow of Manassas National Battlefield Park is an insult to the thousands of lives lost here in two of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. It’s a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of people who come from all over the world to visit the battlefield every year, searching for solace and meaning on these hallowed grounds.

“This decision should be a wake-up call for national park advocates and conservationists across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our leaders failed us here in Prince William, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With common sense reforms and regulations in place, data centers can be appropriately sited and built with far less risk to our priceless history or our climate. That did not happen today.

“This vote is a deep blow to NPCA’s efforts to protect Manassas National Battlefield Park from encroaching data center development, but the fight is not over. NPCA remains committed to ensuring the park’s precious ecosystems and remarkable history remain safeguarded for future generations.”

### About The National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

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