North Carolina has declined permitting for the Southgate segment of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). That segment would come into the state from Virginia. The NC Department of Environmental Quality made that call, listing various objections to the project.
Here is the letter that denied the permit. Consider if you see a kitchen sink approach to the denial.
Check this concept: The NC DEQ denial means that the State of North Carolina does not have self-confidence in its own processes to regulate the construction.
Already there have been assorted political commentaries about the decision. ECC will not address those except to point out an interesting parallel: In the medical industry there are “pre-existing conditions.” In this NC DEQ decision there are likely “pre-existing opinions.”
Enough on that.
About the MVP.
The MVP is a natural gas pipeline system of about 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. It will be regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The pipe would transport natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations that have burgeoned in the last two decades. There is lots of economic growth where those resources have been developed.
The MVP Southgate segment spans approximately 75 miles from southern Virginia into central North Carolina, right. (Source)
A main customer for the gas from the Southgate extension would be PSNC, a gas company once owned by Scana, and now by Dominion Energy. PSNC has been around for a long time.
With the recent cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline the MVP is really the only competitive pipeline option left for consumers. There is no additional capacity for eastern end of state and that can be bad for industry, the economy, and consumers.
Natural Gas Has Various Uses
Natural gas is not a one-dimensional product. That is not being properly reported or apparently factored in the NC DEQ denial. Should be. All perspectives about an important energy project should be heard. Consumers would do well to know the various uses of natural gas and how this decision affects the state and citizens.
People may naturally think of utility companies as the main gas customer. Many gas generation plants have been built in the past ten years to make power.
Some environmental groups decry gas pipelines, but the environmental issues are more nuanced than that. Gas as a fuel to make power has about 40-some percent of the footprint of coal. So, as a replacement fuel for coal, gas looks good. Nuclear, on the other hand, has zero carbon. Even better. All relative.
Gas is used in many homes. Heating and cooking. Gas has supplied reasonably-priced heating options … important for low and moderate income households. The NC DEQ decision, by default, indicates that choosing gas for home use should not be an option open for consumers.
The NC DEQ decision has economic development implications. Industries that employ North Carolinians rely on gas in manufacturing … pulp/paper, metals, chemicals, stone, clay and glass, plastic, and food processing. More than 80 percent of natural gas is utilized by industry versus home use. As employers and industry get strapped on fuels that can affect jobs and competitiveness.
Importantly, North Carolina has sent a signal to economic developers and businesses about whether the state is open for business; in a virus-related downturn, too, when our neighbors need help. Other states will welcome new industry with open arms. Will the NC leader who wants his or her personal stamp on that step forward, please? (CNBC, take note in your annual state/business attitude survey.)
Bottom line: Does North Carolina as a state not support industry that needs gas as energy?
MVP fundamentals are there. Customer demand, FERC approval, a US Supreme Court ruling, anticipated Army Corp of Engineers permitting where needed, good communication with stakeholders, and the great majority of the pipeline is already installed. This project was no surprise. A lot of homework had been done well.
ECC cares about consumers and the consumer (voter?) viewpoint. In this case, the utilities are only one small facet of the pipeline project. Other industries, consumers, and employees are being told by the NC DEQ that some choices on fuels has been made for them.