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Regulators Asked to Thin Out Duplicate Gas Pipelines

Pipeline opponents want regulators to thin out redundant or duplicate pipelines from Marcellus and Utica gas fields to nearly the same destination markets. Photo by the Dominion Monitoring Coalition.
Pipeline opponents want regulators to thin out redundant or duplicate pipelines from Marcellus and Utica gas fields to nearly the same destination markets. Photo by the Dominion Monitoring Coalition.
August 13, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. – Opponents of pipeline construction want federal regulators to say which of several near-identical natural gas pipelines don't have to be built.

Energy companies are applying to build two 42-inch gas pipelines from northern West Virginia to southern Virginia. A third pipeline is on the drawing board.

Attorney Joe Lovett, executive director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates, says all the pipelines go from the same gas fields to the same markets, or connected markets.

Lovett's group has requested the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) perform an overall Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which he says will force regulators to decide which of these projects is simply duplication.

"It would essentially be like allowing three different companies to build three different interstate highways, instead of finding out how best to get the traffic out of the region," he says. "I think FERC will do that, and I think it should."

The companies argue there is sufficient demand in eastern Virginia, North Carolina and other areas along the east coast to justify bringing Utica and Marcellus shale natural gas. They say the pipelines would serve separate markets, and would need separate lines.

Lovett says once the gas is in Virginia, gas companies could reach various markets through existing pipeline networks. But he says pipeline companies have an incentive to build lines they don't actually need – and if the gas goes to regulated utilities, the cost would automatically be passed on to consumers.

"The pipeline companies have an economic model that allows them to charge gas companies to put their gas in the pipeline," he says. "So they have an incentive to build their own pipeline so they can charge fees for that."

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine asked FERC to consider making the pipelines share a path, or even a single large pipe. Documents filed by the agency indicate FERC staff is weighing that option, although gas companies oppose it.

FERC may rule on an EIS and the pipeline applications this fall.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA