An editorial in The News Leader noted that Gov. Ralph Northam yet again short-circuited the Virginia regulatory review of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Shortcuts have already been taken in the enforcement of Virginia’s water quality statutes. Now there has been interference with the citizen board reviewing the air quality permit for an ACP compressor station.
I led a department that was responsible for obtaining permits for multi-billion dollar utility projects in another state. The regulatory process followed at both the federal and state level for the ACP has ignored crucial issues. The need for the pipeline was never established. Dominion admitted to the State Corporation Commission that it never studied whether a new pipeline was needed in Virginia. The only evidence of need provided to FERC was contracts signed by subsidiaries under the total control of the holding-company owners of the pipeline.
We can have all of the gas we need in Virginia without new pipelines. Existing pipelines are expanding in capacity by more than the new pipelines provide. The editorial suggested that there are not enough people affected by the pipeline to get the attention of our state government. That’s not true. Dominion’s utility serves about two-thirds of our state population. Virginia Natural Gas serves one of our largest population centers. The ACP will add billions to their customers’ energy costs over the next 20 years. All of the large gas-fired power plants that were said to need the ACP have been cancelled. Dominion announced they plan to build no more. They will off-load the costs and risks of the pipeline onto their ratepayers, who will be expected to pay in full for the reserved capacity on the pipeline, even if only some or none of it is used.
Virginia families and businesses who will be asked to pay billions extra for something they don’t need should get the attention of our political leaders. Paying more for energy won’t create more jobs or increase economic development. Is more profit for a few companies more important than the well-being of Virginians? Let’s get our state’s energy planning on the right track.