FERC wants more input on IW-Surry gas pipeline expansion

Published 8:15 pm Friday, November 4, 2022

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is seeking additional public input on the environmental impacts of a proposed natural gas pipeline expansion in southeastern Virginia.

Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, a subsidiary of Canada-based TC Energy unaffiliated with Columbia Gas of Virginia, is seeking federal approval for what the company has termed its “Virginia Reliability Project.” The project entails replacing an existing 1950s-era 12-inch pipeline that passes through the city of Suffolk and Isle of Wight, Surry and Southampton counties with a 24-inch one to meet growing demand for natural gas across the Hampton Roads region.

FERC solicited public comments from Feb. 22 through April 6, continuing to accept input throughout the project’s “pre-filing” period. According to an Oct. 25 FERC notice, Columbia has now officially filed its application with the federal agency, prompting a new public comment period that will extend until 5 p.m. Nov. 25.

FERC plans to compile all public input into a document that will inform its decision when determining if the project is in the “public convenience and necessity.”

Much like the state-level “certificate of public need” process Riverside Health Systems recently went through to secure permission to build a 50-bed hospital in Isle of Wight County, the federal Natural Gas Act requires companies to obtain a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” from FERC before they’re allowed to build new pipelines or expand existing ones.

Those who submitted comments during the pre-filing period or in response to FERC’s Sept. 8 notice of application do not need to file those comments again, the Oct. 25 notice states.

The public can comment by filing electronically at at www.ferc.gov/ferc-online/overview. For eFilings, users must have or create an eRegistration account.

The public also has the option of submitting comments on paper, referencing docket number CP22-503-000

If using the U.S. Postal Service, mail the letter to Kimberly D. Bose, secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First St. NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426.

If using any other mail service, address the letter to Kimberly D. Bose, secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 12225 Wilkins Ave., Rockville, MD 20852.

The expanded pipeline would connect to existing segments in Prince George and Greensville counties, and to the company’s Petersburg and Emporia compressor stations. According to the company’s website, the project is expected to generate a one-time increase of $7.7 million in local tax revenue.

If approved, construction of the pipeline would begin in mid-2024 and be operational by November 2025. It would deliver an additional 100,000 dekatherms per day, a measure of the heating value of 1,000 standard cubic feet of natural gas.

Landowners who received a copy of the Oct. 25 notice may be contacted by a pipeline company representative regarding the acquisition of an easement for the project, the notice states.

“The company would seek to negotiate a mutually acceptable easement agreement,” the notice states. “You are not required to enter into an agreement. However, if the Commission approves the project, the Natural gas Act conveys the right of eminent domain to the company. Therefore, if you and the company do not reach an easement agreement, the pipeline company could initiate condemnation proceedings in court.”

“Enhancing the system to meet existing and growing needs will create significant positive economic impacts across the region to offset the more than $4 billion lost in economic growth over the last five years due to a shortage of available natural gas supply,” states a company fact sheet.

A March 16 press release from the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter issued during the pre-filing period, however, contends there’s “no shortage of natural gas in Hampton Roads” and that the communities the pipeline would pass through are already experiencing “an overburden of existing fossil fuel infrastructure.”

“These new applications from the fossil fuel industry need a thorough review with FERC’s expanded criteria including — climate impacts from GHG (greenhouse gasses), impacts on vulnerable communities, and necessity,” Lynn Godfrey, the Virginia chapter’s community outreach coordinator, stated in the press release.

The proposed project would take a different path through the area than the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline Dominion Energy and North Carolina-based Duke Energy proposed in 2014 and scrapped in 2020. The TC Energy pipeline would pass near the towns of Dendron in Surry County, Ivor in Southampton County, and through Isle of Wight between Windsor and the county’s courthouse. The ACP would have passed near the towns of Boykins and Newsoms in Southampton County, bypassed Isle of Wight and passed near Suffolk’s Holland community.