Virginia needs Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Published 10:54 am Friday, February 26, 2016

by Barry Duval

In the Virginia Chamber’s Blueprint Virginia business plan for the commonwealth, we called for a balanced, sustainable energy policy that supports economic development and job growth while meeting the growing needs of our population and business community.

Demand for natural gas as a fuel for power generation is expected to triple over the next 20 years in Virginia and North Carolina. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would help meet that demand by connecting us with the abundant supply of natural gas in West Virginia. It makes good business sense, and it will help Virginia comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

The CPP’s framework identifies natural gas as a key “building block” that makes up the “best system for reducing carbon pollution.” The commonwealth will continue to generate about a third of our power from nuclear for the foreseeable future.

Despite the Obama administration’s continued assault on coal power, it continues to make up a substantial portion of our energy supply. Dominion and others are making significant investments in solar and wind power generation.

But it would not be wise for us to disregard the historic boom in natural gas that’s taking place right now in the United States and not adapt to the abundance of this clean, affordable energy source.

Residents and leaders in Hampton Roads support the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline because it will bring a ready supply of energy to a region that has reached the capacity of its current natural gas infrastructure.

Energy-intensive manufacturers weigh many factors when deciding where to locate, including the presence of a skilled workforce, regulatory climate, taxes, and transportation infrastructure.

Before getting to those categories, however, they start by looking at where they can have access to the fuel to run their business. Regions that don’t have that access won’t be considered.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project will support the transition of Virginia’s fuel mix from coal-fired power stations to natural gas plants with half of the carbon emissions.

The ACP project will implement best-in-class control measures for reducing fugitive emissions of methane.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America says the natural gas transmission industry has reduced the number of pipeline leaks by 94 percent in the past 30 years and prevented 122 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions as a result of pipeline integrity and maintenance programs and continued investment in new pipeline facilities.

The shift to natural gas is critical for the development of solar and wind generation, which only works at this point in conjunction with a flexible fuel that can be quickly turned on when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

The Sierra Club’s own staff attorney Casey Roberts acknowledged as much earlier this year, saying, “The grid is moving toward resources that are more flexible. Natural gas plants can be turned off and on more quickly… having more demand-response on the grid is really helpful for integrating more wind and solar.”

State and federal policymakers overwhelmingly agree that the use of natural gas is essential to lowering carbon emissions and meeting the federal Clean Power Plan.

Not only will the Atlantic Coast Pipeline help meet the growing demand for low-emissions natural gas, it will also support the development of renewable energy by providing the fuel needed for backup generation.

BARRY DUVAL is president and chief executive of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. His email address is This column first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.