by James A. Bacon
To Joan Moore, executive director of the Brunswick County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), the opening of the $1.2 billion Brunswick County Power Station means more than the thousand construction jobs that pumped money into the local economy for a year, more than the 40 permanent operating jobs, and even more than the $5 million in annual tax revenue, a sum roughly equal to what the county collects from real estate property taxes.
What really gets her excited is the $300 million natural gas pipeline, made possible by Dominion Virginia Power, that will provide industrial volumes of natural gas to Brunswick County and four other Southside jurisdictions.
Local jurisdictions could not afford to finance construction of a pipeline solely for the purpose of recruiting industry. But now, says Moore, Brunswick County and neighboring jurisdictions can compete for a large category of business that it could not before. Brunswick, which is 57% African-American, has suffered economically in recent years from a shrinking population, the decline of U.S. manufacturing and the shutdown of the St. Paul’s College, a historically black university.
Construction of the natural gas-fired power plant required Dominion to cut a deal with the giant Transco pipeline to build a high-capacity extension to Brunswick County. With help from a $30 million grant from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, the Brunswick IDA is piggybacking on the Transco line to add additional capacity at incremental cost to serve local industry.
Brunswick County has access to natural gas but not in large enough volumes to attract industrial customers that use gas as an energy source or feedstock. Thanks to the grant, the new pipeline will provide roughly 100,000 decatherms (100 million cubic feet) per day over and above the supply that Dominion has contracted for, said Jim Eck, Dominion vice president for business development. As a rule of thumb, a big industrial user will consume 5,000 decatherms per day.
Among the facilities expected to benefit from the new supply of natural gas is the Mid-Atlantic Advanced Manufacturing Center (MAMaC), in neighboring Greensville County, which has 1,600 acres, abuts Interstate 95 and enjoys CSX Corp. rail access. Industrial volumes of natural gas will make MAMaC far more competitive, said Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarksville, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Dominion’s search for a location to build a new gas-fired plant was the catalyst. When deciding 2011 and 2012 where to locate the plant, the electric utility narrowed the choice to between Brunswick and Chesterfield County. To serve the Brunswick power station as well as an anticipated gas-fired station next door in Greensville County (still in the regulatory approval process), Dominion would have to cover the cost of building a 100-mile pipeline from Transco’s trunk line in Pittsylvania County by reserving capacity of 250,000 decatherms a day for Brunswick and 250,000 decatherms to the Greensville plant.
Brunswick County applied for the $30 million grant from the tobacco commission. “The idea was to build a larger pipe than Dominion needed,” said Dan J. Poteet, senior manager-generation business development.
The Tobacco Commission’s grant caused a brief flap in 2014 when the Associated Press ran an article suggesting that the commission awarded the grant to induce Dominion to locate in Brunswick County. Dominion was listed as a beneficiary of the grant application, although the money was paid to Transco “to lower the construction cost” of the pipeline. The AP article noted that “Dominion is without peer in terms of political sway in Virginia and routinely gets friendly legislation passed with broad bipartisan support.” The article was picked up by a Washington Post columnist who cited the incident as evidence that the tobacco commission “serves at times as a kind of slush fund to help the politically connected.”
At the time, Dominion officials insisted that the company never lobbied for the grant, and that the grant was only one of several factors the company considered when deciding to locate in Brunswick County. In any case, the $30 million will not benefit Dominion shareholders. The company would have built a power plant, upon which it would be allowed to generate a return on investment, one way or the other. By contrast, the cost of purchasing and transporting natural gas is passed on to ratepayers in a fuel adjustment clause. Dominion officials have projected that the Brunswick plant will result in $1 billion in fuel savings over the life of the plant, which could generate power over the next 40 to 50 years.
Meanwhile, Brunswick County officials are delighted with their new corporate citizen. Said Joan Moore: “Dominion has been one of the greatest business partners ever to work with the county.”There are currently no comments highlighted.