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"The Art of the Self-Deal' Study Looks at Pipelines' Costs For Ratepayers

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Opponents worried about water quality are pressing state officials to block two huge natural gas pipelines. (Twitter/Virginia Interfaith Power & Light)
Opponents worried about water quality are pressing state officials to block two huge natural gas pipelines. (Twitter/Virginia Interfaith Power & Light)
 By Dan HeymanContact
December 4, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A recent report finds huge planned gas pipelines could cost some ratepayers many times what they would otherwise pay.

"The Art of the Self-Deal" looks at federal filings for four proposed lines. Kate Addleson, director of the Sierra Club in Virginia, said Dominion electric customers would pay 3.5 times more to fuel power plants with gas from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline than from current lines.

She said the Mountain Valley Pipeline could cost Con Ed ratepayers $60 million extra per year. Addleson said federal rules allow energy companies to pass on the high cost of the new lines plus a hefty profit if they say the system of current pipelines is too small to meet demand.

"The truth is that it's just not. The existing pipelines are not currently being used to capacity,” Addleson said. "These companies can create the illusion of demand by selling the pipeline's capacity to their own subsidiaries."

The corporations backing the projects argue they're needed to fix a bottleneck slowing the flow of Marcellus gas to the market. They say there is rising demand in North Carolina and along the Virginia coast.

Addleson said current pipelines could carry much more gas with a few, comparatively small additions and connections. On the other hand, she said, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline by itself could double the carbon footprint for Virginia's electricity - at a time when the state and the nation already are moving to less polluting options.

"Electricity demand has been flat,” she said. "We are continuing to use more energy efficiency and conservation measures, as well as ramping up the use of renewable energy."

The Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines would run hundreds of miles across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina - and cost billions. Backers say the pipelines would reduce energy costs and spark economic growth, but Addleson said, they put water quality and property at risk.

"As folks have to see higher electric bills, the detrimental impacts on property values, the loss of public lands - at the end of the day, this is not a good deal,” she said. "There are cleaner, safer ways to meet our needs."

"The Art of the Self-Deal" is from Oil Change International, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club. The report says in 2016, federal regulators approved enough new pipeline capacity to carry a quarter of U.S. production.

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