Several weeks ago, just as the full effects of the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline were making themselves known across our state, I listened as a panel of experts addressed attendees at our annual Energy Summit about the critical importance of a resilient energy grid for North Carolina. We were still early in that crisis, but its impacts were already generating discussion about how our state might be affected if a similar attack were to succeed against our natural gas infrastructure.
Put simply, adaptable natural gas is nothing less than essential for North Carolina’s long-term success.
Natural gas makes a more dispatchable complement to renewables like solar to maintain a reliable flow of energy across our grid. Millions of North Carolinians count on natural gas to heat their homes and businesses and provide affordable, on-demand electricity that powers both lives and livelihoods. Our manufacturers – those critical engines of our success – depend on natural gas to run efficient combined heat and power systems and other technologies that help them manage the costs and complications of using energy at an industrial scale.
Yet our state’s access to this critical energy resource is even more vulnerable than our access to gasoline. And any disruption is likely to result in dire consequences – perhaps even more dire than those we experienced in the aftermath of the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline.
This is because our entire natural gas supply flows to us by way of the Transcontinental, or Transco Pipeline. And unlike gasoline, a ready emergency supply of natural gas does not exist in pumps and fuel tanks across our state. A catastrophic shutdown of the Transco pipeline would almost immediately disrupt the flow of natural gas to generators and to the suppliers serving end users in North Carolina.
To be clear, the Transco Pipeline has an excellent record of operation. If some unforeseen event did disrupt its flow, however, local economies throughout North Carolina would sputter to a stop, jobs would be impacted across industries, and an immeasurable degree of economic opportunity would be lost, much of it never to be recovered. More concerning, the threat to life could become severe, especially if a disruption occurred during an extreme weather event like the deadly winter storm that accompanied – and contributed to – Texas’ recent energy crisis.
Fortunately, state leaders can address our critical natural gas vulnerabilities by supporting a more diverse, more resilient supply system for North Carolina; especially one that provides a greater degree of pipeline redundancy. The MVP Southgate project – a proposed 75-mile offshoot of the Mountain Valley Pipeline that would run from southern Virginia into Rockingham and Alamance counties in North Carolina – could begin serving this need for pipeline redundancy as early as the spring of 2023.
It could, that is, if regulators would allow the MVP Southgate project to move forward. Officials at N.C. DEQ have twice denied developers needed water permits despite a determination by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the pipeline could be built safely and with limited adverse environmental impacts. To date, MVP Southgate stakeholders have made more than 1,200 route adjustments.
The NC Chamber believes it is an energy imperative for our state that the MVP Southgate project is enabled to move forward as intended. Recently, I sent a letter conveying our support for the project to members of the N.C. Senate, urging these leaders to work toward solutions that could bring the pipeline to completion.
North Carolina is expected to outgrow our natural gas capacity as early as 2023, and the N.C. Utilities Commission has recognized the need for more diversified natural gas infrastructure to facilitate this increasing demand. Once completed, the MVP Southgate project will support a growing customer base of residential, commercial, and industrial natural gas users in the communities it serves. Moreover, the pipeline is projected to infuse roughly $113 million directly into our economy, generate 1,100 jobs and $6.3 million in tax revenue during construction, and foster economic security and growth in both rural and urban areas along its route.
Our state has already lost one promising pipeline, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to the opponents of progress and energy security in our region. The NC Chamber believes we must do everything in our power to ensure North Carolina does not miss out on this opportunity. As we advance a forward-thinking, “all-of-the-above” statewide energy strategy, we will continue to urge our elected leaders to support MVP Southgate and other projects that foster a resilient, reliable, and affordable energy supply here in North Carolina.
And that, you can most definitely rely on.
Gary J. Salamido
President and CEO