"Regulators Should Choose Between Duplicate Gas Pipelines"
CHARLESTON, W.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) to perform an overall Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which he says will force regulators to decide which of these projects is simply duplication.
"That means it has to look at these proposed pipelines, and compare it with the other pipelines in the region to determine how to most efficiently get the gas from northern West Virginia," he says. "It's not just let the pipeline companies do whatever they want."
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 need separate lines.
Lovett says once the gas is in Virginia, gas companies could reach various markets through existing pipeline infrastructure. 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.
"Everybody's racing to get their own pipelines built so that they can be the beneficiaries of the payments to get the gas to market," he says.
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 say FERC staff is looking at that option, although the companies oppose it.
FERC may rule on an EIS and the pipeline applications this fall.