With state certification now in doubt, Charles City gas plant project enters limbo

Transmission lines leading to a electric substation in Charles City County. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

The future of the proposed C4GT natural gas plant in Charles City County looks increasingly uncertain as the expiration date for a major state certification passes without significant construction and county officials ask plant developers to give back the land on which the facility is planned to be built.

Under the terms of the certificate of public necessity and convenience granted by Virginia’s State Corporation Commission to C4GT in 2019, state approval for the project was set to expire on May 3 “if C4GT has not commenced construction of the facility by such date.” 

Whether construction of the plant has begun remains unclear. Activity on the site has so far been limited to the building of a short gravel road, the installation of silt fences and the pouring of concrete for a pump house on Dec. 3, the date the project’s air permit from the Department of Environmental Quality was set to expire. 

DEQ determined that work met state criteria for the beginning of construction and the air permit remained in force. 

Since then, the site has seen little further activity. State Corporation Commission spokesperson Ken Schrad said the commission had not received any correspondence from C4GT, which is being developed by Michigan-based NOVI Energy, about the project’s certificate leading up to or since May 3. 

C4GT did not respond to a request for comment. 

Local government officials have also taken steps to retake control of the land on which the plant is intended to be built. At an April 27 meeting, the Charles City County Board of Supervisors voted to pursue reversion of more than 88 acres of land the county had conveyed to C4GT for the plant

An April 2016 amendment to an earlier agreement giving C4GT the exclusive option to purchase the county-owned land said if construction had not begun within 24 months of the closing date or at least $300 million in construction and improvements to the property hadn’t occurred within six years, C4GT would transfer the property back to the county and pay $150,000. 

The struggling project also faces a legal challenge from Virginia Natural Gas over a gas supply agreement between the two companies. Virginia Natural Gas has argued that C4GT is legally required to reimburse it more than $2.1 million in costs it racked up as part of the utility’s application to the state to expand its infrastructure primarily in order to accommodate the new plant. 

C4GT has failed to respond to any of the claims made in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. 

On May 6, Virginia Natural Gas asked the court to enter a default judgment in its favor because of C4GT’s failure “to appear, plead, or otherwise defend” itself against the utility’s claim. The company is asking the court to award Virginia Natural Gas damages of more than $2.1 million plus interest. 

Earlier this year, as reported by the Charlotte Gazette, the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors approved a conditional use permit for C4GT parent company NOVI Energy to develop a solar farm on more than 1,300 acres southwest of Charlotte Court House. In 2013, the company also developed a biomass plant in South Boston with Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative.