Report: $377M savings from pipeline

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Suffolk tap into the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a possibility, energy officials say, but they want to see strong economic development prospects before considering it.

“It is certainly possible to be able to tap into it,” Diane Leopold, president of Dominion Energy, said during a Wednesday phone conference. “We’ve been talking with the economic development departments. It has spurred a lot of interest.”

But Leopold said localities need to come to the table with a possible large end user to make a tap make sense.


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“It’s not so simple as to say, ‘Just put a tap here,’” she said. “You really need to develop prospects.”

The 540-mile natural gas pipeline will run from Harrison County, W.Va., to Robeson County, N.C., with a spur coming east from the Virginia/North Carolina state line to Chesapeake, running through Suffolk on the way.

Suffolk Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes said he’s excited about the prospect of additional natural gas supply to Hampton Roads, even if there’s no tap in Suffolk.

“I’m excited to see a solution down the road,” he said. “There’s definitely a need for additional natural gas to continue to attract manufacturing operations.”

He said he has been having conversations with Virginia Natural Gas and Dominion Energy about the natural gas supply. There is interest for industrial, manufacturing and distribution development and companies want to ensure the supply will be available, he said.

“The positive is we could see additional capacity come in for natural gas.”

Officials expect the project to dramatically improve natural gas availability in Virginia and North Carolina. Leopold said during Wednesday’s news conference that a report from Virginia-based consulting firm ICF International found that customers would see about $377 million saved in energy costs annually.

That’s money they can use for other needs like sending their children to college or buying a car, Leopold added.

In addition, the report says Virginia and North Carolina can expect a $218 million annual average increase in the total economic output of the states, $131 million in average annual labor income, and $23 million in average annual state tax revenue.

The energy savings alone also could fuel 2,200 new, permanent jobs in Virginia and North Carolina, the report said.

“The Atlantic Coast Pipeline may be the largest private economic growth driver in Virginia and North Carolina for the next decade,” Leopold said.

The natural gas will be used to produce electricity, which will take coal-fired generators out of operation.

“That makes lower electricity bills for consumers and cleaner air, too,” Leopold said. “The savings will be seen by every natural gas customer, too.”

Officials said it is difficult to predict the average savings per customer because there are a lot of variables.

“This project’s a game-changer for the economy of eastern North Carolina,” said Gary Salamido, vice president of government affairs for North Carolina Chamber of Commerce. He noted the current lack of infrastructure.

“This project will improve our economy,” he said.