Gas systems expansion part of Virginia governor's proposals

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell called for an expanded natural gas system as one of seven legislative proposals aimed at making the Old Dominion the Energy Capital of the East Coast. The proposal would allow gas utilities to expand systems as necessary when a project developer commits to at least a 5-year contract, he said at a Jan. 5 press conference in Richmond.

US Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Offshore Energy Management Director Tommy P. Beaudreau have said a lease sale off Virginia was not included in the proposed 2012-17 US Outer Continental Shelf program because the state does not have enough infrastructure to support nearby offshore oil and gas activity.

McDonnell said gas utilities in Virginia presently can’t invest in infrastructure construction costs above the amount that will be paid for gas use. The bill, which will be introduced by Daniel W. Marshall III (R-Danville) in the House of Delegates and Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) in the Senate, also will increase gas use potential across the state, spur economic growth and create jobs, and expand Virginia’s gas markets, the governor said.

The proposal is part of a package that also includes improving the regulatory approval process for electricity transmission lines, increasing energy efficiency programs, expanding renewable energy research and development, providing renewable energy certificates for thermal heat produced by biomass or other renewable energy resources, creating an alternative fuel vehicle conversion fund, and requiring coal mine operators to submit mining plans to the state’s mining regulator before beginning operations.

McDonnell also included budget requests of $300,000/year to support the Virginia Oil & Gas Division’s public safety oversight of the increasing number of wells, pipelines, and associated facilities in the state; and $500,000 during fiscal 2013 for R&D to assist private sector development of wind energy in the federally designated area off the state’s coast.

The proposals reflect an “all of the above” energy strategy for Virginia, the governor said. “Only by aggressively developing all types of energy and removing bureaucratic hurdles to this development will we be able to meet our energy needs and reduce our nation’s dependence upon foreign sources of energy,” he maintained. “We will aggressively pursue state-based strategies to improve American energy independence and cost reductions in observance of the federal government's total lack of a coherent Energy policy.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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