On March 28, 2019, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that “Dominion Energy has bowed to pressure from Gov. Ralph Northam and others and has agreed to spend $870 million on energy efficiency programs over the next decade. Dominion President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell II told Northam about the company’s plans in a letter sent Tuesday, reversing the Richmond-based company’s previous position that its energy efficiency spending should be significantly less. Dominion pushed through a major overhaul of electric utilities in 2018 that could lead to substantial increases in customers’ bills. Those changes also gave the company new flexibility in accounting for costs that virtually guarantee its rates can’t go down. To get some skeptical groups and lawmakers to support or at least drop opposition to the legislation, Dominion also committed to submitting $870 million in proposed energy efficiency programs to state regulators over the next decade.”
The article reminds us that “at a recent hearing before state regulators, Dominion argued that the $870 million should include any lost revenue it would incur because of decreased electric usage. If approved, that could have effectively reduced actual spending on energy efficiency programs by about 40 percent or more. Dominion’s position faced pushback from the Northam administration, lawmakers and others who said the company was not living up to a deal it struck last year. …. Farrell said in his letter to Northam that Dominion views lost revenues ‘as an important provision for energy efficiency at the greater scale contemplated and note that this concept has long been recognized’ in state law. ‘However, we commit to an aggregate total of $870 million in regulated energy efficiency filings through 2028 exclusive of any lost revenues,’ Farrell said.”
Read the full Richmond Times-Dispatch article here.
The Appalachian Voice for February/March 2019 includes a second installment in their “People in the Path of the Pipeline” series. There are stories from people in the path of the Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, Mountain Valley Southgate, and Mountaineer Xpress Pipelines. Read the February 2019 set of stories here, and the earlier April/May 2018 stories here.
On March 25, 2019, Oil Change International released a new report, Atlantic Coast Pipeline – Risk Upon Risk, about the public health, ecological, and economic risks of the now $7.5 billion dollar ACP. As the transition to clean energy gathers pace, the risks and costs of this huge fracked gas pipeline project are growing rapidly in the face of major legal, regulatory, financial, and community challenges.
The ACP is now two years behind schedule and substantially over-budget. The latest update from Duke Energy estimates the project cost at between $7 to $7.8 billion – 37% to 53% higher than the original estimate of$5.1 billion – with the latest date for full operation now pushed back to 2021.
Lorne Stockman of Oil Change International says the ACP is facing a triple threat of challenges that combine to present serious obstacles for the project to reach completion:
- Extensive legal and regulatory challenges that are delaying construction and raising costs, which may lead to cancellation. ““The ACP is facing an onslaught of legal challenges and losses. Seven federal permits have been stayed, suspended or vacated; in fact, all construction on the pipeline is currently stopped. When — or if — construction will start up again is unknown. Environmental groups, Indigenous Peoples and others have brought at least nine court challenges to ACP permits and certifications, most of which are ongoing.”
- Fundamental challenges to its financial viability in the face of lack of growth in domestic demand for methane gas and increased affordability of renewable energy options. “In Dominion’s 2018 long-term Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), four out of five modeled scenarios showed no increase in methane gas consumption for power generation from 2019 through 2033. However, in December 2018, this IRP was rejected by Virginia state regulators, in part for overstating projections of future electricity demand.” “Over the next decade, it is likely that the demand for methane gas in Virginia and North Carolina will decrease further as renewable energy and storage technologies continue to rapidly decline in price and undercut the cost of running methane gas-fired power plants.”
- The Pipeline Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), an unprecedented citizen initiative, is positioned to ensure strict compliance with environmental laws and regulations, even in remote locations, if construction proceeds. [Three cheers for the CSI!]
These challenges and the accompanying risk are likely to further delay construction and raise the project’s price tag even higher. If completed, state utility regulators in North Carolina and Virginia are unlikely to justify passing the full cost of methane gas transportation contracts onto ratepayers.
Download the full Oil Change International briefing here.
There’s been a lot going on – here are some news items from our In the News page you may have missed (many additional interesting news articles on that page):
From Allegheney-Blue Ridge Alliance’s ABRA Update #222 for March 21, 2019:
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has announced its schedule for issuing a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Southgate Project, a proposed extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) into North Carolina. Specifically, the proposal is a 73-mile natural gas pipeline connecting with the MVP in Pittsylvania County, VA and extending to Rockingham and Alamance Counties in North Carolina. The Southgate Project would also include construction of a 29,000 horsepower compressor station in Pittsylvania County (about half the size of the proposed Buckingham compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline). The pipeline would transport 375 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. FERC’s March 14 notice of the FEIS schedule is:
- Issuance of Notice of Availability of the final EIS: December 19, 2019
- 90-day Federal Authorization Decision Deadline: March 18, 2020
The Southgate Project has encountered stiff opposition since it was first proposed in mid-2018. In September, the Alamance County Commissioners adopted a resolution in opposition to the project. The March 15 FEIS notice acknowledges that “major issues raised during scoping include project need, water quality degradation, environmental impacts, and private property rights and valuation.”
In addition to the one-day Spruce Creek Camp (see above), there are two other forthcoming events of note:
Dominion vs Nelson County in Federal Court, April 8, 2019:
For background information see our post on March 14, 2019.
Pipeline Air Force Drone Meet-Up, March 30, 2019:
For details see our post on March 7, 2019. See also the recent news article, Drones change the way advocates protect the environment.