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Pointing finger of blame at FERC, Dominion pulls 120,000 Dt/d gas project

Highlights

'No reasonable justification for delay': Dominion

Project would move Appalachian gas to eastern Ohio

Washington — Dominion Energy Transmission on Friday withdrew its application for the 120,000 Dt/d Sweden Valley pipeline expansion, saying delay at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has harmed the project and the shipper has chosen to walk away. The project was designed to add an outlet for Appalachian gas production by constructing a new lateral on the Dominion system that would deliver into Tennessee Gas Pipeline in eastern Ohio.

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Of those projects with final environmental reports in hand and that are ripe for authorization from the commission, Sweden Valley has been waiting the longest.

Dominion's decision to pull the project comes amid uncertainties over whether an impasse over greenhouse gas considerations is impacting FERC's ability to act on smaller pipeline projects that are not affiliated with LNG projects.

Sweden Valley received a positive environmental assessment from FERC on August 31, 2018, finding approval would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the environment.

Dominion said it had expected a certificate order from FERC no later than November 10, 2018, in order to meet a planned in-service date for the fully contracted firm service November 1, 2019.

'UNPRECEDENTED DELAYS'

It told FERC in a filing Friday that as a result of its inaction, the project "has been adversely impacted," adding that the "project customer has opted to terminate the requested transportation service of November 1, 2019," it said.

Dominion contended there was "no reasonable justification for the delay in approving this project."

"Unprecedented delays in the approval process for natural gas infrastructure across the US harm the economy, consumers and the environment," it said, adding such delays are blocking billions of dollars in economic investment, driving up costs and depriving energy users of access to lower carbon natural gas.

FERC's rules on ex-parte communication make it difficult to discern the precise reasons for delay of a project.

There has been a divide at FERC, however, over how far the commission should go in considering indirect upstream or downstream emissions associated with a natural gas project.

GHG DEBATE AT FERC

The majority at FERC in a May decision affecting a Dominion compression project chose to narrow the agency's consideration of such emissions to more limited circumstances and to stop an approach in which FERC for a period included upper bound maximum burn estimates.

That shift had drawn objections from the panel's two Democrats, Richard Glick and Cheryl LaFleur. The commissioners have at times differed on other aspects of project reviews.

A decision on the certificate order for Sweden Valley (CP18-45) was originally listed on FERC's meeting agenda in December, but the item was struck from consideration by Chairman Neil Chatterjee, alongside an order on Venture Global's 10 million mt/year Calcasieu Pass LNG project and a related 23.5-mile, 2 million Dt/d pipeline. The LNG project was later approved in February, under a partial agreement on GHGs that won LaFleur's support. But Sweden Valley continued to idle.

The Sweden Valley project entails about 1.7 miles of 20-inch-diameter pipeline lateral in Ohio, 3.2 miles of 24-inch-diameter looping pipeline in Pennsylvania, equipment upgrades and a new metering and regulation station. It would add a new point of interconnection between the Dominion system and Tennessee Gas Pipeline in Tuscarawas County, Ohio.

In criticizing the inaction, Dominion has said the project "faced zero public opposition, has obtained all necessary right-of-way access through mutual landowner agreements and was located within or adjacent to existing facilities and pipeline corridor."

-- Maya Weber, maya.weber@spglobal.com

-- Eric Brooks, ebrooks@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Christopher Newkumet, newsdesk@spglobal.com