A cohort of 12 Virginia lawmakers, including four representing areas of Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, are pressing Gov. Ralph Northam and the State Corporation Commission to reject permits for a Virginia Natural Gas expansion project that will bring gas from Prince William to a new power plant in Charles City County.
The project, called the Header Improvement Project, requires the construction of 24 miles of new pipeline, of which about 9 miles will run through Prince William and Fauquier counties, as well as two new compressor stations, one in Nokesville and the other in Gidley.
The pipeline will connect with the Transco pipeline in Prince William and transport gas to the privately owned C4GT power plant planned for Charles City.
The Northern Virginia police academy in Nokesville, which provides training to thousands of Northern Virginia police officers and deputy sheriffs, has also warned that the pipeline’s construction could disrupt its operations, delay the graduation of Northern Virginia police recruits and harm its high-speed driving course.
In their May 11 letter to Northam and SCC spokesman Ken Schrad, lawmakers said the project will worsen the climate crisis through the emission of greenhouse gases and further contribute to the impacts of the crisis in Virginia where sea levels are rising and extreme weather events are becoming more common.
The letter was signed by four Prince William area delegates – Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-51st, Del. Lee Carter, D-50th, Del. Danica Roem, D-13th, and Del. Dan Helmer, D-40th – as well as four others from Northern Virginia: Del. Kaye Kory, D-38th, Del. Imbraheem Samirah, D-86th, Del. Patrick Hope, D-47th, and Del. Mark Keam, D-35th, all from Fairfax County.
Four lawmakers from the central and southwest regions of the state, Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-10th, Del. Sam Rasoul, D-11th, Del. Sally Hudson, D-57th, and Del. Dawn Adams, D-68th, also signed on.
“During today’s climate crisis our state administration must recognize that Virginia does not need nor can it afford the negative impacts this fossil-fuel project will bring to communities,” the letter said.
Emails to Northam's office for comment on the letter had not been answered as of Thursday afternoon.
Lawmakers added that Virginia’s “unprecedented rise in sea level,” severe droughts, struggling fisheries, and severe rain events “demonstrate that the effects of climate change are already apparent.”
The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation, including natural gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition to their environmental concerns, lawmakers said the project is too financially risky to move forward. Lawmakers cited reports that a glut of natural gas in the United States has increased supply and driven down gas prices, “suggesting Virginia does not need any new gas infrastructure.”
Lawmakers also cited an April 14 report from the World Economic Forum that said energy usage in America has fallen to a 16-year low as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“It is clear the HIP pipeline and the C4GT gas plant it is to service would most likely face significant economic setbacks that will only burden municipalities and VNG ratepayers,” the letter said.
In testimony to the SCC on April 21, Kenneth Yagelski, director of Gas Supply for AGL Services, a parent company of VNG, said that “due to uncertainty in the gas supply and financial markets caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, C4GT has indicated that they will require a slight delay.”
However, VNG is still requesting that the project move forward as planned with a target in-service date of Dec. 31, 2022. A public hearing on the project began Tuesday, May 12, at the SCC building in Richmond. It is not known when the SCC will issue its decision on the pipeline project.
VNG spokesman Rick Delehaya said in an email that the project willprovide a source of natural gas to four Virginia energy producers, C4GT, Columbia Gas of VA, Virginia Power Services Energy and VNG, who will in turn “provide energy to their businesses and consumers throughout Virginia.”
A project fact sheet provided by VNG said the new gas project will “aid in continuing reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Virginia by supplying domestic natural gas as an electric generation source.”
VNG said the natural gas that will be transported to energy producers is “clean and reliable.”