News | February 17, 2022

Chickahominy Pipeline ‘hits pause’ on a gas project cutting through central Virginia

Communities across the South are celebrating significant setbacks for several gas pipeline projects.

“The Chickahominy Pipeline would have carved right through the heart of Virginia,” said Catharine Tucker, a member of citizen group Hanover Citizens Against A Pipeline.

Instead, this week 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. The plant was removed from the regional electric grid manager’s planning queue after it failed to meet development deadlines, leading to the developer’s announcement that it would “hit pause” on 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.

Wanda Roberts, C5

It’s welcome news for both Virginia’s climate and communities.

“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.”

Chickahominy Pipeline, LLC’s attempts to get the project off the ground have proven beleaguered. The developer filed a petition seeking approval to build the pipeline without oversight by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, only to have that petition rejected last year. SELC represents Concerned Citizens of Charles City County, Hanover Citizens Against A Pipeline, Appalachian Voices, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation in the ongoing case.

“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.”

Wetlands and forest cover Weyanoke Point on the James River in Charles City County, Virginia. ©Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

In 2019, Virginia environmental regulators 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 pipeline would have had serious on-the-ground consequences for landowners along its route — clearing, trenching, and blasting across hundreds of private properties.

“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 at odds with the progress Virginia is making to decarbonize its grid.

Indeed, the Chickahominy Pipeline is just the latest gas pipeline to suffer setbacks in Virginia.

Gas pipelines threaten Southern people and places.

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.

And earlier this year, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated two critical permits for the Mountain Valley Pipeline itself.

“We are glad to see the Chickahominy Pipeline suspended,” said Catharine Tucker of Hanover Citizens Against A Pipeline. “We will remain vigilant about any further plans with the potential to harm communities like ours.”