The Bulletin

Natural gas developer asks SCC to rule it doesn’t need state approval to build Chickahominy Pipeline

By: - September 8, 2021 12:02 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 pipeline company linked to a planned natural gas plant in Charles City County is asking state regulators to rule that it doesn’t need their approval to build a pipeline to channel gas from existing lines to the facility. 

Chickahominy Pipeline, LLC “has determined that it is impracticable and unfeasible to procure an adequate supply of natural gas from” utility Virginia Natural Gas, its lawyers wrote Friday in a petition to the State Corporation Commission. Consequently, the company plans to buy natural gas from a third-party provider “with upstream and midstream operations in Virginia.” 

Besides Virginia Natural Gas’ intrastate line between Northern Virginia and Tidewater, Columbia Gas, Transco and East Tennessee Natural Gas operate interstate pipelines across the state. 

Under state law, the SCC is responsible for regulating gas service provided by public utilities as well as “non-utility gas service,” a term defined as the sale and distribution of gas by someone other than a utility to two or more customers through underground or aboveground pipelines. 

In its filing with the commission, Chickahominy Pipeline argues that it “does not need commission approval to construct the pipeline because (a) Chickahominy will not serve two or more customers; and (b) Chickahominy is not a ‘public utility’ that requires a certificate of public convenience and necessity to construct the pipeline.” 

Chickahominy Pipeline “has arranged for the purchase of natural gas from a natural gas supplier that will be transported to its certificated facility by Chickahominy,” the company contends. “These are transactions involving private parties over which the commission has no authority to require regulatory approval.” 

The facility, Chickahominy Power, has been under development since 2016. While the Charles City County Board of Supervisors embraced the project, granting it a local permit that same year, the plans have also provoked sharp backlash from some residents of the county and surrounding areas, as well as environmentalists committed to a transition away from fossil fuels. 

Another proposed natural gas plant known as C4GT had been planned to be built just over a mile from the Chickahominy Power site but was cancelled earlier this summer due to financing difficulties. 

Chickahominy Pipeline has asked the SCC to issue a ruling by Nov. 1, 2021.

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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.