The State Corporation Commission has determined that Chickahominy Pipeline LLC is a public utility, which means SCC approval is necessary before the company can construct and operate an 83-mile natural gas transmission line across several Central Virginia counties.
Chickahominy Pipeline had filed a petition on Sept. 3 arguing that it is not a public utility because it is transporting but not selling natural gas to its own affiliated company, Chickahominy Power, which intends to build a gas-fired, electric-generation facility in Charles City County.
Chickahominy Pipeline plans to interconnect with an existing interstate natural gas pipeline in in Louisa County. Gas purchased from a wholesale supplier would then be transported by the line through Louisa, Hanover, Henrico and New Kent before reaching the Charles City power plant site.
The SCC agreed that the pipeline company will own and operate a facility through which natural gas will be sold and used for the purpose of heat, light or power. Thus, a certificate of public convenience and necessity is required before constructing facilities for use in public utility service.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represented Concerned Citizens of Charles City County, Hanover Citizens Against A Pipeline, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation in the case.
“The Chickahominy Pipeline would be a backwards-looking investment in so-called ‘natural’ gas at a time when Virginia has committed to a clean, zero-carbon energy grid,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “The Commission’s full oversight of this climate-warming project is necessary to protect the public interest.”
“Since 2019, Charles City County residents have been demanding more accountability and transparency because we believe that communities should be able to protect themselves from dangerous infrastructure like this pipeline and the gas plant it is intended to feed,” said Wanda Roberts of Concerned Citizens of Charles City County.
“We’re very grateful that the Commission agreed with us that the Chickahominy Pipeline cannot operate without regulatory oversight, and we ardently hope these unpopular projects are cancelled,” Roberts said.
A bone of contention from critics is that environmental regulators approved an air pollution permit in 2019 for the plant over the objections of local residents in Charles City County, many of whom were not allowed to speak during a final hearing on the project.
“It is contemptible that Chickahominy Pipeline developers tried to avoid the Commission’s process and deny Virginians a voice in a major project in their backyard. This victory means people living in the path of the pipeline will have a greater say in a proposal that threatens their way of life,” said Environmental Justice Staff Attorney Taylor Lilley at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “Because the Commission asserted its jurisdiction over the Chickahominy Pipeline, there will be a more thorough state and public review that could prevent harm to the environment and nearby communities, while taking environmental justice into account.”
The pipeline would also have serious on-the-ground consequences for landowners along its route, clearing, trenching, and blasting across hundreds of private properties. Oversight by the SCC is essential to determine whether a project like this is truly necessary before landowners and the environment face this harm.
“We are grateful to everyone who worked so hard to defeat the dangerous prospect of unregulated gas transmission through the heart of Virginia,” said Catharine Tucker of Hanover Citizens Against A Pipeline. “We remain vigilant to address any further efforts on the part of Chickahominy to pursue this unnecessary pipeline.”