Is Winter Coming For Virginia Pipeline Projects?

The Mountain Valley Pipeline route on Brush Mountain, July 18, 2018. (Heather Rousseau/The Roanoke Times)

The building season is here, but for developers of Virginia’s two hotly-contested natural gas pipelines, activity is back in the government agencies and courthouses.  The construction sites remain largely silent, delays running up the ultimate cost of the projects, including the cost of failure.

Here is my (probably flawed) attempt at a status report.  And you thought Game of Thrones is a complicated plot. 

Dominion Energy’s leadership told stockholders on March 25 that it is hoping to “recommence at least partial construction” on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in the third quarter of this year, and the Mountain Valley Pipeline is still talking about being in service by the end of this year on its website.  One national rating agency expressed concerns about the ACP several weeks ago, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.  A few days later another analyst told Forbes readers about the challenges facing both pipelines.

Just listing all of the permit challenges and lawsuits facing the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and ACP projects is difficult enough, let alone trying to describe their status.  A report back in January by Rob Rains of Washington Analysis LLC, which Bacon’s Rebellion could review but not share, listed battles over seven different kinds of permits for one or both projects, three lawsuits challenging the MVP and seven challenging the ACP.

The ACP at the federal level is still working to re-acquire right of way permits needed to build on U.S. Forest Service land, permits needed to build across waterways, permits needed to build across or under the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail, and permission to build where it might disturb endangered species.  It has state-supervised permits under the Clean Water Act for its Virginia sections.  It has its main FERC permit intact but is having to defend it in federal court.  It is suing Nelson County over local permit denials.

The MVP at the federal level also has its main FERC permit under legal assault, it also needs to regain permission to build across certain waterways, and it has right of way issues involving the Bureau of Land Management as well as the National Forest Service.  It also now needs restored permission to cross the Appalachian Trail.  It also has its Virginia-regulated Clean Water Act permits for its Virginia sections.  It doesn’t seem to have problems with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Nelson is ground zero, where the ACP (48 percent owned by Dominion Energy) plans to tunnel under the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It’s the Civil War Battle of Missionary Ridge all over again, with the pipeline developer desperate to hold high ground it thought safe.  The U.S. Fourth Circuit late last year remanded the National Park Service’s permit for a Blue Ridge Parkway crossing, and then in February the court opined that only an act of Congress could approve crossing the Appalachian Trail.

Dominion Energy slide for investors on Appalachian Trail crossing. Click for full view.

In the investor presentation Dominion discussed the timing of a possible Supreme Court appeal or effort in Congress over the Trail decision. An optimistic schedule would have a Supreme Court decision at least a year away. Analyst Rains is predicting the response instead will be a change in the permit process, a new joint oversight effort involving both the U.S. Forest Service and the Interior Department.  That will require a rulemaking but may carry less risk than taking the question straight to Congress.

The Fourth Circuit has also vacated the U.S. Forest Service’s special use permit for the ACP to cross its lands and has stayed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approvals because of alleged ACP impact on four endangered species:  a bee, a bat, a mussel and a crustacean.  It is that endangered species problem along 100 miles of its route that the ACP hopes to solve in time to restart partial construction this year.

That restart would involve just the eastern section of the project, from its intersection with the existing Transco pipeline (near that controversial compressor station in Buckingham) down into North Carolina, along with the planned spur into the Hampton Roads region.  The north and western section, connecting to the West Virginia gas fields by crossing the mountains, must await a resolution on the Parkway and Appalachian Trail.  That raises the possibility that only the eastern section is built, providing additional distribution east and south from that existing trunk line. 

Both MVP and ACP are also re-applying for their Corps of Engineers permits to build across various waterways, with the MVP challenging a 72-hour work limit to complete four of the larger projects.  Rain’s March 29 status report has both pipelines marked with yellow for caution, but that’s better than several others around the country marked in orange or red to suggest deeper peril.

Rains does not expect either developer will get much help from a new Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump in Texas last week, described in this report from National Public Radio.

Both Virginia pipelines still hold permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and, so far, those have survived challenges. The opponents are now pursuing appeals of those in the DC Court of Appeals, one step below the Supreme Court, with the petition challenging the ACP filed permit April 5.  The petition (here) combines a host of opponents, provides a summary of all the arguments being used – environmental, environmental justice and economic – and seeks that the permit be vacated, remanded to FERC, and all eminent domain activity cease.

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23 responses to “Is Winter Coming For Virginia Pipeline Projects?

  1. I think it always went to what the legitimate requirements are to justify the use of eminent domain – along with how much money the opponents had to turn over every stone that could stop the project(s).

    I know that you and others have said that you think ALL gas pipelines are, by definition, a “public necessity” but it’s starting to look like that even if that was a FERC “tradition” that the actual law is not that way.

    There is no legitimate “public necessity” here. It’s all about a business proposition to market natural gas – to earn investors a profit. It’s not like the Shipyard must have gas or warships won’t get built. And to be honest – anywhere in Virginia can get natural gas and propane by refillable tanks. You can find these businesses everywhere in Virginia in virtually every county.

    And businesses can certainly voluntarily locate where there are already ample supplies of pipeline natural gas and ANY locality can claim that since they don’t have pipeline access to natural gas that it’s a “necessity” for them to get it.

    All you’re doing with the ACP is claiming that some parts of Virginia have a “necessity” to have “access” to natural gas via pipeline rather than tank – purely a private business economic argument not a public necessity.

    Good luck on proving the “necessity” part.

    AND……that “public necessity” is what underpins eminent domain.

    without that justification – how can you justify damage to natural and recreational resources – public and private AND to FORCE property owners to sell their property to “investors” who will also own it as their private property?

    I think if I were a lawyer for Dominion – I’d be concerned if the opposition has the financial wherewithal to continue to take this to the mat legally. I think Dominion’s strategy all along is they felt they could easily outspend the opponents and that’s looking like it’s not true or that the opponents have a potent weapon for a lot less money.

    It will be interesting to see if this goes back to Congress and how they would seek to re-write the FERC and eminent domain laws to allow something like the ACP to go forward.

  2. The breadth of legal challenges is mind-boggling. In my 40 years of Virginia journalism, I don’t remember anything remotely comparable.

    If you have enough money to hire enough lawyers — and the pipeline foes have plenty– you can probably stop any infrastructure project from being built anywhere in the country.

    • Landowners are at a terrible disadvantage compared to these deep pocketed utilities. The rules are set up to ignore our property rights, to ignore our safety, to allow our areas to become sacrifice zones. Since it will do no good for me to use my resources to improve my property and my life, I will use them to attempt to keep others from having to live as I have for the last five years and from having to lose as I have. It goes to a basic value of our country. The bottomless funding of outside groups is not the motivation. It is far less than that available to utilities.

  3. Larry, uh, without natural gas the ships don’t get built. But ACP is not the only supplier. It could use oil or go back to coal if you prefer, but EPA said gas is best. Obama’s EPA!

    • Steve – if the gas was actually needed at the Shipyard – don’t you think that would be the leading argument for the ACP?

      So your argument is that there are already other suppliers and so far, ample suppliers of natural gas but it’s a “public necessity” that we have MORE?

      is that REALLY a public necessity?

      It’s basically a for-profit, investor-driven enterprise that intends to force other property owners to sell them their property so they can then make a profit from it’s use.

      And HEY – I’m a BIG supporter of Natural Gas – it’s the keystone fuel for solar – solar needs it for backup.

      but I also do not support taking other people’s property unless there is no choice in the matter and their land ends up being used for a direct public purpose like a road or a school, etc – NOT for other private property owners.

  4. Good reporting, Steve.

    Given the gross lack of effective and serious leadership in Virginia today, I have no confidence that anywhere near the right decision will be made on these pipelines. Indeed, it is more likely now more than ever that exactly the wrong decision be made, killing these pipelines that are so critical to Virginia’s future.

    Why?

    Today’s overweening reliance in Virginia on ideology, grievance, and racial politics instead of hard facts and good science needed to reach good results may well doom these critically needed pipelines.

    For example,

    It is now plain that simple minded reliance on 100% renewable energy alone, has no chance whatsoever of solving Global Warming, nor will it have any meaningful impact on the problem, locally, nationally, or globally. Meanwhile, our pursuit of that remedy threatens our economy, our electric grid and its reliability, and our landscape. This is plain to see on the ground everywhere. For example, the rising and alarming gas shortages in New State induced by Governor Cuomo’s killing of the state’s gas drilling business, as well as his refusal of permit new gas pipelines into the state. Hence Con Ed no longer allows applications for new connections to gas in some parts of the state, saying, “there is a lot of natural gas around the country, but getting it to New York is a strain.” And this is a growing problem, since there is a huge demand for natural gas in our future to replace retirement of other fossil fuel units. This shortage will only be doubled down should nuclear be retired too, in which case we will have dug ourselves into a hole from which we cannot climb out of, which is the course the one on which we may well now be foolishly headed.

    Fortunately, the tides show signs of turning for the better, thanks to the dwindling numbers of grown ups remaining in America. Like Lamar America, for example, as reported in today’s Wall Street Journal. He now is pushing to a heavy reliance on a renaissance of nuclear to replace retiring coal and oil plants, and for a “expanded use of natural gas and development of carbon capture technology to trap and then reuse carbon dioxide emissions.

    These new strategies are critically needed if we are to have any chance of diluting climate warming by reason of greenhouse gases. Importantly too Lamar Alexander fuels his proposed strategies with vastly expanded government funded research into advanced computing, said to be a key component of several related energy technologies, including new nuclear fusion, and gas recapture generators, solar battery advances, cheaper more efficient and reliable renewable generation, all as supplemented by a doubling of research funding of the Energy Department’s office of science, and national laboratories. See Gerald Seib’s One Republican’s Answer to New Green Deal in today’s WSJ.

    Senator Alexander calls his initiative “A New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy.” And, in my view, it cannot come fast enough. Our current policy is doomed to abject failure. Facts on the ground now prove that everyday.

  5. The money used to fight these pipelines mostly comes from within Virginia. It comes from residents who firmly believe that these pipelines are not needed and use of eminent domain is wrong. We are investing our personal time and money in this battle. We have help from some national organizations, but the effort is primarily led by us and paid for by us.

    I have realized that we have no real property rights today and that no one has any reason to work hard to build anything because our system will easily allow a big company to take and keep forever higher use of our land over ours. At Mt. Rush Farm we allowed ACP to survey the first time they asked. We fully participated in the processes and are on record in 2014 asking that the route within our property be moved at least to the edges of our fields, along the fence lines. This would reduce the disruption of our 117 year old business and mean that even if our cattle destroy the plastic markers that other cattle have quickly done away with, everyone would know where the pipeline lay and always be able to respect it without having to call for new marking. It would also move the line far enough to place our buildings, some dating from 1804, to the edge of the incineration zone rather than the middle of it. They insist on crossing the very center of our farm operations for 1.1 mile, even across the middle of the terraces my grandfather built to improve a field 50 years ago. The ACP could route on the edge of that field and all the others. It would allow us to fully respect the pipeline at all times with confidence of the location. It would also allow us to risk living there in retirement and to keep the business operational as I promised my father and grandfather from my youth.

    Easements signed before certification are seen by FERC as signaling confirmation of need and support for the project. We do not believe there is a need for this project and do not support it so we refused to sign an easement in advance of certification. After certification, we expected to hear from ACP quickly. The proposal we were sent did not address our issues and our attorney was not able to schedule a meeting with the company. We were among the first group of landowners sued for immediate take by ACP and it was granted. At that point, over a year ago, the company said it was too late. They would not move the line within our property as requested. They offered to move it 30 feet, but that left it still in the middle of our most active fields and was not enough to improve our safety. They insisted that they could not move it the 500 feet we requested. We were told my our attorney that the law only allows landowners to get fair financial compensation, nothing else. It seems that respecting landowners and compromising on location within a property should be considered, as well. A year has passed and there is no sign that construction is imminent, so it appears that ACP could still address our concerns.

    This blatant disregard for our property rights, refusal to make reasonable adjustments within our land has motivated me to fight as long as it takes – for the rest of my life, if necessary – to get the law changed and to get fair rules for landowners so others do not have to live as I have and lose as I have. No outside groups are funding me. No outside groups are motivating me. Dominion’s total disregard for our heritage business and our safety concerns provides the motivation.

    I actively recruit support of others across the nation. Property rights are central to American democracy. The ability to build a business and improve ones lot in life drove many of our fore-bearers to come to this country. Those who seek eminent domain must prove public need beyond a doubt. Landowners deserve to be made whole financially for the loss and the ability to fairly negotiate under clear rules for other considerations, such as the location within our land.

    Honestly, landowners deserve ongoing compensation for as long as the infrastructure is in our land. New utilities, such as cell phones, negotiate with landowners on infrastructure location, pay annual rent, pay local property taxes, provide liability insurance, and promise to remove infrastructure when it is no longer used. Since we require these conditions for other utilities, we need to treat all utilities fairly and apply the rules to all. The pipeline only provides us a one time payment, must continue paying property taxes, get no backup of liability insurance and are instead threatened with being sued if it can be determined we did anything to the company infrastructure, and they refused to promise to remove the infrastructure when it is no longer used. Further, they can even sell the infrastructure to anyone and we will have no say. They refuse to notify us before coming on our land so that we could explain any considerations for their safety since they insist on being in the centers of our fields. For example, during calving time cows are sensitive to actions toward calves.

    I will be fighting for change and I invite others to join me. The United States was founded to give everyone a fair chance to improve their situation but current laws allow certain utilities to trample on us.

    • Best you focus on cow dung in our streams, rivers, and bays, including the Chesapeake Bay. That cow dung is a real and big problem, has been for decades, and apparently now remains unaddressed in what is perhaps chronic and willful violation of existing laws. All as have been recently reported here by Don.

      But instead, some in Virginia, devote their all their energies to thwarting what are real solutions for state and global concerns, on which the future of all Virginians rest.

      • Mt. Rush Farm has addressed it. Our cattle watering wells are at risk from the ACP. If our wells are ruined, we could have to reverse direction. If society wants everyone to do this, it needs to help pay for it by either increasing farm income or other supports.

        • No, the solution is obvious. Those farmers who refuse to protect the public’s water downstream from their cattle, should be forced to give up their cattle, if necessary.

          • vaconsumeradvocate

            Then will we also require that frackers clean up water they use for fracking before reinserting it into soil? And every trace of coal ash to be removed? And every coal pile cleaned up by mining companies? Seems we allow the big businesses to get by without taking care of everything but somehow expect small business to toe the line.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            But you and your friends have had Virginia cow dung in your direct control on your properties for generations.

  6. Yep – it’s hard to conceive that folks would support the taking of land for someone else to use for their own business.

    The “leadership” should affirm the rights of private property owners unless it is needed for a truly public purpose – like a public road or school, etc.

    Allowing for-profit companies to take land from others is not American, it smacks of 3rd world type governance.

  7. “The breadth of legal challenges is mind-boggling”…Yes, and those of us who have studied the ACP and MVP pipeline projects have found the pipeline builders application submissions to federal, state, and local governments and regulators even more mind-boggling in errors, bad data, incomplete justifications, poor routing, and inadequate construction mitigation, which naturally result in litigation situations for so many property owners, farms, businesses and residents who do not wish to be harmed from these unnecessary projects. Thomas Hadwin, a regular contributor to Bacon’s Rebellion on energy utility issues, has previously noted that the ACP has not met the requirement for need even in its FERC application. Thomas provides a factual explanation of many of the legitimate problems with the ACP project that have led to the project getting stopped and hammered in litigation right here: https://www.abralliance.org/hadwin_ferc_submittal_4-12-2016/?highlight=thomas%20hadwin

    No one here is claiming that clean renewable energy is about to replace the existing need for oil and gas, but these particular pipeline projects are flawed, costly to the ratepayers, and domestically unneeded. Promising less expensive gas than current supply, the ACP will cost the ratepayers some extra $4 billion in charges than the cost of using gas from the currently underutilized (and fully paid for) Williams Transco pipeline that delivers gas to the same regions targeted by the MVP and ACP. Along with Gov. Northam meddling in the VA State Air Pollution Board permitting process, the VA DEQ offering inaccurate data in an attempt to color the Union Hill, Buckingham African American community as white, the continued fumbling by the ACP LLC continues to hold the project from moving forward and has attracted national and regional media attention. Now , 22 North Carolina legislators have understood the problems and have asked that the ACP be stopped. We can expect opposition to grow as the facts about this project continue to be brought to light.

  8. Nobody will ever trust Dominion so long as they can make unlimited political contributions to the General Assembly. In a state with a strict implementation of Dillon’s Rule the check on energy monopolies is the state legislature and the regulatory entities that legislature manages (e.g. SCC). However, in Virginia the legislature is compromised by unlimited campaign contributions from the regulated monopoly to the people who are supposed to provide the regulation.

    In an odd way I’d have a lot more faith in both Dominion and the justification for these pipelines if Dominion was prohibited from making contributions to any Virginia politician. Instead, my first assumption is that Dominion is fudging the justification with the aide and abetment of most of our state legislature.

  9. Many readers and commenters on Bacon’s Rebellion have advocated for the Rule of Law regarding various issues. The numerous court challenges regarding the new pipelines in Virginia have been effective because the law was not correctly followed in the issuance of the FERC certificate and the award of many other permits regarding the pipelines.

    Many shortcuts were taken in granting these permits due to pressure from higher officials at the federal and state level. The proof is on the record. Laws were developed to ensure that energy projects are developed in a way that protects our environment and serves the public benefit. The implementation of those laws were not followed in the approval of permits relating to the new pipelines.

    Unequivocal evidence exists that over 300 violations of erosion and sedimentation requirements occurred during the construction of the MVP. Yet, no enforcement action has been taken by the VA AG’s office or the VA DEQ that exists to protect the land and waters of Virginia. The US EPA is undertaking a potential criminal investigation of the matter.

    The fundamental issue in approving any new energy project is whether it is necessary. FERC has failed to evaluate this issue as required by the Natural Gas Act. Instead they have relied solely on the existence of contracts which their own guidelines say is an inadequate indication of need.

    FERC approved expansions to the capacity of existing pipelines serving Virginia and the Carolinas that are greater than what is offered by the ACP or the MVP. This added capacity is already in operation.

    Despite the adequate capacity serving the region, FERC approved the ACP and MVP projects, effectively removing customers that could have been served much less expensively by the previously approved expansions.

    This occurred because FERC failed to evaluate whether there was a true market demand for more pipelines, or if the new pipelines provided an economic benefit to the ultimate users of the gas. Any careful evaluation of the information available shows that we have ample supplies of gas to the region and it can be delivered far more cheaply using existing pipelines. Information on the record provided by Dominion supports those conclusions, although their public pronouncements do not.

    Southeast Virginia is a special case. Although we have expanded the capacity of pipelines serving Virginia, there is a bottleneck getting it to Hampton Roads. The ACP intends to remedy that by building a lateral to Chesapeake from the mainline of the ACP. With rising costs of construction, using the ACP to transport the gas would more than double the current price of gas to deliver it to southeast Virginia.

    I cannot understand how anyone can say that raising the cost of energy in southeast Virginia would help them increase economic activity there. Neither the shipyards nor any other business would want to increase activity in the face of increased energy costs. The PR narrative has eclipsed the facts of the matter. Everything I have said is based on information in the public record provided by the energy companies themselves or by other reputable sources.

    Hampton Roads would prosper if they undertook an aggressive energy efficiency campaign to free up gas supply in the region and reduce the cost of doing business. This would greatly increase long-term employment and make the region attractive to existing and new businesses.

    At the very least, a connection could be made to the abundant supplies in Transco, for example, that could be built for a fraction of the $2 billion that Virginia Natural Gas is obligated to pay the ACP for just 20 years of service. And that price is before the 50%+ increase in the cost of the pipeline is factored in.

    Dominion needs no additional gas supply for its large gas-fired units. They all have long-term contracts with existing pipelines that can deliver gas at less than 1/3 the cost of the ACP. They have no plans to build any new gas-fired combined cycle units.

    The entire argument favoring these new pipelines is that they are essential for us to have the gas we need, and that they will provide cheaper energy. Neither of those statements have been shown to be true, yet they still dominate opinions and discussions about our energy future here in Virginia.

  10. Except demand for natural gas is going through the roof worldwide, and that growing demand will continue here and abroad into the foreseeable future, particularly as green renewable energy is being exposed as only a weak, unreliable, and severely flawed solution to global warming, while natural gas becomes increasing important to our economy and to national security as well. Meanwhile, nuclear power is also increasingly seen as the failsafe solution that green energy can never be, even with battery support that remains illusive.

    • Actually I believe nat gas growth has slowed globally, including USA. Growth rate about 1-2% year, which is probably less than originally contemplated for the pipelines. The bigger issue is long term when the nuke pants need to be retired or rebuilt.

      • Given that renewable energy will never be the primary solution mid term (post 50 years out at best), the key solution is replacing as much coal as possible with gas initially and nuke short and mid term and likely long term too. Without mastering this key to effective and efficient and practical transition, we can forget any reasonable chance of reigning in greenhouse gas to extent it substantially impacts warming.

  11. Reed,

    According to the International Energy Agency, global demand for natural gas is expected to be 1.6% higher 5 years years from now compared to what it is today. This is not exactly “going through the roof.”

    China is expected to contribute 1/3 of that new gas usage. Some country’s gas usage is declining, including the US’s in 2017.

    The US is the world’s largest gas consumer. We have about 60% more consumption than Russia, more than 3 times what China uses, and 6 times greater than Japan’s consumption.

    However, growth in domestic gas usage is tapering off.

    According to an article in Power Magazine, “U.S. growth in gas demand has slowed, though, for many reasons. Gas generation has benefited as coal and nuclear power plants have been retired, but the advent of renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, and battery storage, is taking market share from gas.”

    “The story that we have is that from a domestic prospective for demand, there is not much growth left,” Matthew Hoza, manager of Energy Analysis for Lakewood, Colorado-based BTU Analytics, told POWER. “Power plants are more and more efficient. You compare heat rates of power plants today versus heat rates from power plants five years ago, and we’re using less natural gas. We’re expecting to see more gas-on-gas competition, pushing your less-efficient baseload plants out of the supply stack.”

    Hoza continued: “In our minds, the buildout of renewables is going to be a net negative for natural gas. We’re not going to wake up and overnight see that the whole natural gas market is changed, but incrementally, bit by bit, renewables are stealing natural gas market share. The bulk of demand growth will come from exports of LNG [liquefied natural gas]. That is the biggest source of growth that we see.”

    Rob Allerman, senior director of Power Analytics at PRT/Drillinginfo, which provides forecasts for energy companies, said the U.S. has plenty of natural gas supply, but domestic demand is not keeping up. He, like Hoza, told POWER that growth in gas demand “is going to be exports of gas out of North America. That will help alleviate the excess supply situation that we have.”

    The US Energy Information Agency said that utility-scale capacity growth will be led by wind (46%), followed by natural gas (34%) and solar (18%). Trump’s tariffs on solar significantly set back solar projects scheduled for this year.

    An additional 6100 MW of gas-fired combined cycle are planned to come on line this year (about 4 units the size of Greensville). Another 1400 MW of combustion turbine “peaker” units are expected to be added around the nation this year.

    Several of the large gas-fired plants are intended to be located around the gas fields. Two 945 MW units are planned in Lordstown Ohio. A 960 MW unit and a 1,182 MW facility are also planned for Ohio.

    A 830 MW combined cycle plant is scheduled in West Virginia at the site of a former coal mine. This will be West Virginia’s first gas-fired combined cycle plant.

    The problem with depending on exports to soak up our excess production is that even with our cheap gas, the cost of pipeline transportation and the $4-$6 /Dth required to liquefy and transport the LNG makes us noncompetitive at current world prices.

    Let’s assume $3 gas, and $2 to use the ACP to transport gas through South Carolina (lower than actual costs) to the Elba Island LNG export facility. Adding $4-$6 /Dth to make and transport the LNG, that makes $9-$11 gas available in Europe. Current European prices are below $8. It costs $2 more to transport LNG to Asia. That prices US LNG at $11-$13. Although prices were as high as $20 in China in 2014, current prices are about $6 after a warm winter and a surplus in storage.

    Economies are slowing from higher growth rates in the past and Australia, Qatar and Russia can provide gas at lower prices than we can export LNG. We should be cautious about assuming “through the roof” demand and over developing costly gas infrastructure.

    I know that you and many others see advantages in nuclear power. But you have to take into account that it is currently not cost competitive. Dominion has told the Connecticut legislature that its Millstone nuclear plant is at risk of not being able to compete in the marketplace and will need a subsidy to continue operation. The Wall Street Journal recently called the Millstone plant the most profitable nuclear facility in the country.

    Attempts to reignite the nuclear industry in the US have had difficulty. The colossal cost overruns and subsequent abandonment of the Summer project in South Carolina is an example of that. Vogtle Units 3 & 4 are still under construction. The two 1117 MW units still have a long way to go, scheduled for operation in November 2021 and 2022. The current cost estimate is $17.1 billion.

    For comparison, two units similar to the Greensville unit Dominion completed last year, would provide 42% more capacity than the new Vogtle units at 15% of their capital cost. You see why it is so difficult for nuclear units to be cost-competitive today.

    Besides nuclear facilities seldom come in on budget. The first two Vogtle units completed in 1987 and 1989 were estimated to cost $660 million, but eventually cost $8.87 billion. More than 13 times the original estimate.

    Nuclear units also work best when they can run steadily for 24 hours a day. This is no longer such a good fit for our increasingly dynamic energy system, where we are learning that it is cheaper to change demand in response to the available generation rather than the other way around.

  12. Tom – the problem, Tom, is that these issues have been so politicized, and there is so much money, huge amounts, at stake here, and so much competition and ideology now is so entrenched, that anyone trying to sell their point of view can easily find data to support their position, and tell part of their own biased version of a story without telling the whole story, and come out with reams of information, that lead them to sell as a sure thing whatever highly speculative result about the future that they want to sell you.

    I recall that back in the archives here we will likely find plenty of statements by you that the gas revolution would never occur, or continue or be sustainable with all kinds of statistics to support that view, such as that the great recession had wiped out the industry’s ability to recover, when in fact what happened was the exact opposite. American suddenly became the largest energy producer on earth, thanks to an monumental recovery of the fracking industry. Now you are back to repeating same story.

    Without impugning your good faith at all, I believe your story today to as false as it was proved to be earlier after you first started blogging here. This issue with gas is not one of demand, but with supply, and that demand for gas will continue and increase as wind and solar falter which they surely will, despite disappointing fracking results in some recent fields within the past year so, which, in practical affect, means little more than nothing given the speculative nature of these sorts of business since the 18th century.

    The industry here with long term growth problems, and highly speculative for the future is not gas, its solar and wind, for a multitude of reasons offered by a growing numbers of people worldwide, who know what they are talking about. This industry has been grossly oversold for nearly 50 years. This bad sales job continues.

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  14. Re: “demand for …..”

    demand for ANYTHING does NOT justify the taking of private property.

    The ONLY thing that justifies that is for THAT property to be used for the public directly -like a school or road.

    There is also “demand” for solar – and we do not – and should not – be “taking” private property for that either.

    Even cell towers of which there is huge “demand” have to be properly purchased from willing sellers.

    re: cow dung versus CSOs

    farmers have cattle, poultry, pigs, – cities have people – they BOTH put poop into rivers. (And poop on a hillside goes downhill to rivers when it rains – fences don’t stop it).

    farmers provide food for people – whatever they are “forced” to do – will result in higher prices for the people who poop in the cities and have their own costs – CSOs which they refuse to pay for.

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