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Whitehead: We don’t need the MVP Southgate Extension - not even at the Southern Virginia Mega Site

Whitehead: We don’t need the MVP Southgate Extension - not even at the Southern Virginia Mega Site

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The blue line is the eastern terminus of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Pittsylvania County. The green line is the proposed route of an extension into North Carolina.

The Southern Virginia Megasite at Berry Hill doesn’t need the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate Extension, and neither do the residential and commercial customers of Dominion Energy, formerly Public Service North Carolina (PSNC).

Despite claims by Chris Saxman of the Virginia Foundation for Research & Economic Education, Brydon Ross of the Consumer Energy Alliance, and Barry DuVal of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the proposed MVP Southgate offers no benefit to the Megasite.

The Megasite already has reliable access to natural gas via a Southwest Virginia Gas “gate” where businesses can connect to the supply of gas from an existing Williams Transco pipeline. Mountain Valley’s application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) includes no plan to build an expensive and redundant gas gate of its own at the Megasite or anywhere else in Southern Virginia.

It’s true that the proposed Southgate route would pass through the Megasite, but without a connection point it would offer no benefit. On the contrary, the pipeline would require a 100-foot-wide temporary construction right of way and a 50-foot permanent right of way, precluding other industrial construction.

There is no unmet demand for gas here. Saxman, Ross, and DuVal could better promote Berry Hill by pointing to the existing gas gate and an abundant gas supply, ready to meet manufacturers’ needs.

In 2018 when Mountain Valley solicited buyers for gas delivery in North Carolina and Southern Virginia, PSNC was the only company to sign on, thus obligating its customers (now Dominion’s customers) to pay the cost of the contract — even though other pipelines, including Williams Transco, already provided surplus gas transportation capacity to PSNC.

Neither Southwest Virginia Gas nor Columbia Gas, the only two gas distribution companies licensed to serve Pittsylvania County and Berry Hill, signed on with Mountain Valley.

Mountain Valley and PSNC have argued that MVP Southgate would provide “system reliability.” Yet they offer no evidence Transco is unreliable or that Transco cannot meet customers’ needs in the future.

Mountain Valley and PSNC initially promoted MVP Southgate as a way to access fracked shale gas from West Virginia and offer the best deal to its customers, along with the advantages of having an additional gas source. However, due to improvements in Williams Transco’s system, these arguments are no longer true.

Since those assertions were made, Williams Transco has expanded to connect to shale gas sources and has re-engineered its pipelines to carry gas from north to south, as well as south to north. Through this bi-directional system, PSNC (Dominion) has access to shale gas in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as Transco’s traditional sources in the Midwest, and the Gulf Coast. Mountain Valley, in contrast, has a single source of gas in West Virginia.

In addition, gas prices have now equalized; shale gas no longer offers cost savings. Comparison shopping now means looking at differences in transportation costs. Former gas and electric utilities executive Thomas Hadwin, using rates published with FERC, calculated that the cost to customers for gas transportation on the new pipelines, MVP and Southgate, is more than double those for the Transco system.

In a Sept. 17 letter to FERC, Williams Transco wrote that “the Commission has completely overlooked the advantages that a Transco alternative would have over the Southgate Project. … Transco most certainly would be able to meet the market needs of the Southgate Project with significantly less environmental impact, lower cost, and greater security and resiliency” with a “major savings for ratepayers” of at least 40%.

There are no cost savings and no need for Mountain Valley to deliver gas anywhere along the proposed MVP Southgate route through Southern Virginia and North Carolina. Virginians and North Carolinians don’t need the Southgate pipeline at all, certainly not at the Mega Site at Berry Hill

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