Category Archives: Economy

Virginia Has a Pipeline Problem

On November 2, 2018, the Washington Post published on its website an op-ed by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican and a conservative – an op-ed opposing Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. In Virginia Has a Pipeline Problem, Cuccinelli, who was Attorney General from 2010-2014, says he is not opposed to natural gas pipelines, and is not opposed to eminent domain for “appropriate and necessary projects. But I am opposed to captive monopoly customers shouldering the cost and risk of Dominion projects that are rubber-stamped without anyone at any level asking whether the pipeline provides value to Virginians.”

He points out that every Dominion customer in Virginia will “pay hard cash for this unneeded project when the utility bill shows up, thanks to a poorly regulated monopoly scheme that Dominion and its political cronies have constructed.”

He reminds readers that “Dominion Energy Virginia testified before the Virginia State Corporation Commission in September that the company has not analyzed how much the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cost its customers. That answer is, frankly, shocking, especially after a non-Dominion expert testified that the pipeline would raise power bills by $2.5 billion over the next 20 years. Dominion intends to charge its customers for all of its Atlantic Coast Pipeline contract costs, regardless of whether it actually uses the pipeline.”

And he says, “From my view as a former Virginia attorney general, the process that allows Dominion to do business this way is broken, and Virginia consumers will be left holding the bag.”

Read the full Cuccinelli op-ed here. It will appear in the print edition of the Washington Post on Sunday November 4, 2018.

Dominion Announces Yet Another ACP Price Rise

In a November 1, 2018, article in Yahoo Finance, Dominion’s Tom Farrell announced yet another cost increase for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from a range of $6.0 to $6.5 billion to a range of $6.5 to $7.0 billion, excluding financing costs. “Atlantic Coast Pipeline is pursuing a phased in-service approach with its customers, whereby we maintain a late 2019 in-service for key segments of the project to meet peak winter demand in critically constrained regions served by the project. ACP will be pursuing a mid-2020 in-service date for the remaining segments of the project. Abnormal weather and/or work delays (including delays due to judicial or regulatory action) may result in cost or schedule modifications in the future.”

The original cost projection for the ACP was $4.5 billion and the original expected in-service date was the end of 2018. Numerous independent studies (here, here, and here, for example) have shown that, despite what Dominion says, there are no “critically constrained regions” needing the gas.

Tom Farrell’s Op Ed vs Reality

Thomas F. Farrell, Dominion CEO, has an op ed column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch for October 20, 2018, Powering Virginia’s future with clean, affordable, and reliable energy. As one might expect, it is filled with misleading and erroneous statements. For a reality check, read Blue Virginia’s detailed commentary on and corrections of the op ed column.  Here are three of Blue Virginia’s multiple corrections to Farrell’s piece:

  • “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a great example of the type of investment it takes to affordably and reliably power Virginia’s homes and businesses, while also making our energy cleaner.” (This is utter rubbish. In fact, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a massive, multi-billion-dollar boondoggle that is not needed, will likely end up “stranded” in a few years, and which absolutely will NOT make “our energy cleaner,” as fracked natural gas must have “methane losses…kept below 3.2 percent for natural gas power plants to have lower life cycle emissions than new coal plants over short time frames of 20 years or fewer,” and that “methane leaks offset much of the climate change benefit of natural gas.”)
  • “While the project is overwhelmingly supported by the communities where it’s being built, it has encountered opposition.” (Any serious evidence that this project is “overwhelmingly supported by the communities where it’s being built?”)
  • “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will save consumers money on their natural gas and electricity bills” (In fact, according to Will Cleveland of the Southern Environmental Law Center,the pipeline contract that Dominion has signed on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will actually increase customer costs by about two billion dollars”)

A Thumb on the Scale for ACP?

Writing in Bacon’s Rebellion on September 26, 2018, Steve Haner reports on the Virginia State Corporation Commission hearing on Dominion’s two-year integrated resource plan. Despite Dominion’s vehement objections, Gregory Lander was allowed to testify, and although his testimony may still be stricken, everyone in the room heard it.

Haner reports that if Lander’s testimony is correct “the entire integrated resource plan filed by the giant utility, a process ordered by the General Assembly to plan the utility’s future, had a fundamental flaw. One single input in a model had a ripple effect in its choices for future generation, some of which it hopes to support with the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. …. The five future generation configurations included in the integrated resource plan used the model with different inputs, many of the variations dealing with future carbon regulation. According to Lander, and this was apparently confirmed in interrogatories, the cost of transporting natural gas through the ACP to Dominion generators was simply left out. SCC staff witnesses pointed to the same omission.

“The commodity cost for gas was plugged in, but the cost of getting that gas to the plant was not. This omission made the choice of natural gas more cost-competitive and perhaps skewed the model in favor of gas. It put a huge thumb on the scale.

“It is the transportation charge for the gas which will include the cost recovery, plus profit, for the construction of the project. Lander claims that will add up to $3 billion to ratepayer costs over 20 years. Opponents claim gas from the ACP will be more expensive than from existing pipelines. Lander was an expert witness hired by Appalachian Voices, an anti-pipeline group.”

Read the full article here.

ACP Threatens “Alcohol Alley”

An article in the July 3, 2018, Belt Magazine discusses how “Alcohol Alley” merchants say the Atlantic Coast Pipeline threatens their industry.

“Whether it’s a glass of estate Chardonnay on the grounds of Afton Mountain Winery or a Full Nelson IPA on Blue Mountain Brewery’s sprawling patio, the breathtaking Shenandoah views are a common ingredient in the region’s various alcoholic beverages. Terrific views sell booze, and many of Nelson County’s producers have capitalized on the landscape to power on-site appeal at their facilities. Virginia doesn’t track tap room & tasting room sales volumes across categories of alcoholic beverage, and besides, it’d be impossible to extrapolate how much of that revenue was directly due to the scenery. But on-site sales are a crucial source of revenue for small alcohol producers across the country, and the ACP’s impending construction in the Rockfish Valley may threaten that.”

The article discusses the importance of unspoiled scenery to Nelson County’s alcoholic beverage industry, which employs some 425 locals directly, and helped to bring in almost $200 million in tourism expenditures in 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available). All this would be threatened by Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline.