SCC approves first biogas project under new law
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) has approved the first biogas supply infrastructure project under the Virginia Energy Innovation Act, a new state law adopted in 2022. On January 23, 2023, the SCC approved Roanoke Gas Company’s application to build a facility that will upgrade anaerobic digester gas from the Western Virginia Water Authority’s wastewater treatment plant to renewable natural gas (RNG) and inject it into the company’s grid for distribution to customers.
The new law allows utilities to recover costs from customers for biogas projects that will achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions. Cutting emissions of methane, the primary component of natural gas, is particularly important because methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Appalachian Voices, participated in this SCC proceeding to scrutinize the climate benefits the company promised. Through careful vetting of the company’s data, Appalachian Voices successfully showed that the company had exaggerated the project’s climate benefits.
“We are disappointed with the Commission’s analysis,” Peter Anderson, Virginia Policy Director at Appalachian Voices, said. “As the Commonwealth begins to address methane emissions, we must be vigilant to ensure that proposals like these actually do what they claim, and that customers are protected where purported environmental benefits are merely speculative and unproven. When the risk is on captive customers instead of project developers, we count on the SCC to protect the public interest.”
Although the Commission ultimately determined that the project will result in some greenhouse gas emission reductions and approved the project, it is critical that the SCC rigorously assess the climate claims made in future biogas project applications under the new law. “We support projects that offer climate benefits at a reasonable cost to utility customers. However, through our participation in this case, we were able to show that the company’s claims of climate benefits conflicted with the available data,” said SELC Associate Attorney Claire Horan. “There is a real risk that some biogas projects will be touted as environmentally friendly but will instead increase greenhouse gas emissions. We plan to continue advocating for thorough evaluations of these projects at the SCC to ensure that utility customers are only asked to pay for projects with significant climate benefits.”
About Appalachian Voices
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.