Chickahominy Pipeline suspends beleaguered gas project
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Today Chickahominy Pipeline, LLC announced the suspension of its plan to construct an unregulated gas pipeline through five counties in central Virginia. The proposed pipeline would have serviced the as-yet-unbuilt Chickahominy Power Station, a 1,600-megawatt power plant, which was removed from the regional electric grid manager’s planning queue after it failed to meet development deadlines.
“It never made sense to invest in so-called ‘natural’ gas at a time when Virginia has committed to a clean, zero-carbon energy grid, much less to construct what would have been one of the largest gas plants in the state,” said SELC Senior Attorney Greg Buppert. “As the cost of clean energy continues to decline — and the cost of gas projects continues to climb — the Chickahominy Pipeline would have been a backwards-looking investment at odds with Virginia’s track record of leadership in the South.”
In 2021, the Virginia State Corporation Commission rejected Chickahominy Pipeline, LLC’s petition seeking approval to build the pipeline without commission oversight. The company’s request for reconsideration is still pending. The Southern Environmental Law Center represents Concerned Citizens of Charles City County, Hanover Citizens Against A Pipeline, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation in the case.
“The Chickahominy Pipeline would have carved right through the heart of Virginia,” said Catharine Tucker of Hanover Citizens Against A Pipeline. “We are glad to see it suspended and will remain vigilant about any further plans with the potential to harm communities like ours.”
In 2019, Virginia environmental regulators had approved an air pollution permit for the Chickahominy Power Station over the objections of local residents in predominantly Black communities in Charles City County, many of whom were not allowed to speak during a final hearing on the project.
“Chickahominy Pipeline, LLC had poor outreach to the individuals in the pipeline’s path, when building public trust and ensuring environmental protections are crucial for any proposal that has the potential to increase pollution and harm communities,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Environmental Justice Staff Attorney Taylor Lilley. “Should Chickahominy Pipeline decide to reopen the project, we hope that the company will return to the drawing board, engage with the local community, and transparently evaluate the impact the project will have.”
The Chickahominy Pipeline is just the latest gas pipeline to suffer setbacks in Virginia. In 2020, Dominion Energy canceled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline after losing many of its required permits in court. In 2021, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board denied a permit for the Lambert Compressor Station, which would have supported a proposed extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline called MVP Southgate.
“The Chickahominy Power project and its associated pipeline were ill-conceived and poorly planned from the start,” said Appalachian Voices Virginia Policy Director Peter Anderson. “Whether owned by a private utility or a publicly regulated utility, new gas transmission, processing, and combustion infrastructure must be abandoned within thirty years in order to respond adequately to the climate crisis. It’s not the time for new gas infrastructure, and Virginians will not accept the damage to their land, air, and water that comes along with it.”
Under the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the Commonwealth will completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from its power sector by 2050 — and new gas projects like the Chickahominy Pipeline are likely to be expensive stranded assets.
The pipeline would also have had serious on-the-ground consequences for landowners along its route — clearing, trenching, and blasting across hundreds of private properties. Oversight by the commission is essential to determine whether a project like this is truly necessary before landowners and the environment face this harm.
“Gas infrastructure like the Chickahominy Pipeline and the plant it was intended to feed pose real danger to our communities,” said Wanda Roberts of C5, a citizen group monitoring the project. “Charles City County residents have been demanding more accountability and transparency for years, and we are very glad to see this project finally suspended.”
Concerned Citizens of Charles City County (“C5”) is an association of citizens that formed in response to proposals to locate the Chickahominy Power Station and the C4GT power plant in Charles City County. These proposals have been advanced with limited involvement from local residents in predominantly Black communities near the sites of the proposed plants. C5 works with Charles City County residents to keep them informed by providing adequate notice of and the opportunity to obtain information regarding environmental issues that impact them. C5 works to empower citizens to act and make decisions with as much information as possible and to give citizens the opportunity to have their voices heard.
Hanover Citizens Against A Pipeline is an association of landowners who have been notified that their property is in the path of the proposed Chickahominy Pipeline and other residents of Hanover County and neighboring counties concerned about the project. This association’s mission is to support potentially affected Hanover County landowners, potentially affected landowners in neighboring counties, and other concerned citizens who oppose the construction of the proposed pipeline.
Appalachian Voices has been a regional grassroots advocate for healthy communities and environmental protection for over 20 years. The nonprofit organization is a leading force in Appalachia’s shift from fossil fuels to clean energy and a just future, with offices in Boone and Durham, North Carolina; Charlottesville and Norton, Virginia; and Knoxville, Tennessee. appvoices.org
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to “Save the Bay,” and keep it saved. CBF works to restore the Chesapeake Bay watershed and protect the lives and livelihoods of those living in and around the Bay through dedicated advocacy, education, litigation, and restoration efforts. With 300,000 members across the nation and offices in Annapolis and Easton, Maryland; Richmond and Virginia Beach, Virginia; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Washington D.C., CBF is the largest organization dedicated to restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Cbf.org