Proposed Chickahominy Pipeline map released; county officials complain about lack of information

By: - September 24, 2021 12:01 am

The planned site of the now-canceled Chickahominy Power Station, a proposed natural gas power plant, in Charles City County. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

A map of the proposed Chickahominy Pipeline through Louisa, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Charles City County was released this week, although officials from several counties complained they have been unable to obtain more details about the project. 

“We have attempted to reach out to the company’s representatives to get no response, and the only information that we have received from the company is what was required by the State Corporation Commission,” said Cari Tretina, chief of staff for Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas. “The only way Henrico County actually received any information about the pipeline was either from our residents who made us aware and also Louisa County.” 

Louisa County supervisors also described a dearth of information about the proposal at a Sept. 20 board meeting. 

“When I look at this map, little to none of the pipeline goes through my district, but I’ve already had plenty of people calling me anyway concerned about it, and rightfully so, because they don’t know who’s doing what and where they are and what they are,” said Louisa Supervisor Eric Purcell during the meeting. 

Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes said his biggest concern was whether the pipeline would be able to exercise eminent domain. 

“Do they have eminent domain or not?” he asked. “That’s a huge question that has to be answered … because that’s really going to affect our citizens.” 

The project first came to public attention this July when residents of the five counties received letters from Chickahominy Pipeline, LLC asking for permission to enter their property to conduct surveys for a possible 24-inch gas pipeline, which shares an address and registered agent with Chickahominy Power, LLC, a subsidiary of developer Balico, LLC, which is planning a proposed 1.6-gigawatt natural gas power plant in Charles City County. 

A map of the proposed Chickahominy Pipeline. (Henrico County)

Tretina said that sending letters to landowners before contacting county officials about a potential infrastructure project is “completely the opposite way that we’re used to engaging with other companies.” 

She estimated that if the pipeline is built, about 18 to 20 property owners in the northeastern part of Henrico would be impacted. 

If constructed, the pipeline would provide natural gas to the proposed Chickahominy Power plant in Charles City County, which is being developed by Balico, LLC. 

In a filing with the State Corporation Commission earlier this month, Chickahominy Pipeline told regulators it “had determined that it is impracticable and unfeasible to procure an adequate supply of natural gas from” incumbent utility Virginia Natural Gas for the power plant and was therefore seeking to buy it from a third-party provider “with upstream and midstream operations in Virginia.” 

The company has asked the SCC to rule that it doesn’t need the commission’s approval to build the proposed pipeline — which sparked some alarm at the Sept. 20 Louisa Board of Supervisors meeting. 

While a Chickahominy Pipeline representative was scheduled to speak to the board at the meeting, he was not present, and Louisa County Attorney Helen Phillips told the supervisors that “he advised that he had forgot to put it on his calendar.” 

Several supervisors and citizens expressed displeasure at the company’s absence. 

“We have a bigger crowd here than normal. I’m sure some of these folks came to hear about this,” said Vice Chair Duane Adams. “And we asked him to come, and he forgot it. Out of proper etiquette in mixed company, I won’t tell you the next thoughts that I have.” 

Louisa resident Steve Lucas said Chickahominy Pipeline had “been very secretive in what they’re planning to do.” 

“I don’t think they really care what you think,” he told the supervisors. “I think their object is to jam this thing through.” 

As the SCC prepares to consider the pipeline’s petition, regulators have extended the deadline for public participation in the case until Oct. 8 following requests from Hanover, Henrico and Louisa counties.

Chickahominy Pipeline did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether any public meetings would be held on the project.

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists.