You don’t need to rely on environmentalists’ climate calculations to know the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is carbon budget buster. Just look at the numbers provided in the past month by Dominion Energy Virginia and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
On July 14th, Dominion responded to interrogatories filed in the matter of the power company’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) now being considered by its regulator, the State Corporation Commission. In its responses, Dominion provided estimated carbon-pollution emissions through the year 2042 for eight different scenarios, Plans A – H. Dominion disclosed that its 2017 carbon pollution emissions will be 40 million tons per year, and that every one of its eight alternative plans will increase carbon pollution over the next 25 years.
Climate scientists modeling what it will take to avoid the worst impacts of climate change tell us that we must reduce carbon pollution by 80% by 2050 to keep the earth’s global average temperature below a 3.6 degree Fahrenheit increase. Maybe you don’t think 80% by 2050 is necessary or feasible, but if you are willing to concede that as a society we need to begin reducing carbon pollution through investments in solar, wind and efficiency, then you have to be disappointed that the best Dominion can do in its current long range plan is a 5% increase in one plan that would rely on a new $20 billion North Anna 3 nuclear reactor (Plan H-from 40 million tons per year of CO2 in 2017 to 41.89 MTY in 2042). Other plans show even greater increases in carbon pollution maxing out at 34% in Plan A (from 40 MTY in 2017 to 53.80 MTY in 2042).
These are Dominion’s own numbers, provided in a legal proceeding before the Virginia State Corporation Commission. These numbers do not include any or very much of the carbon emissions from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline since Dominion already has long term contracts from existing pipelines for its existing gas-fired power plants, including the one under construction in Greensville County.
To determine the added carbon pollution from Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, we have the estimate from the pro-pipeline Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Issued July 21, FERC’s Environmental Impact Statement for the ACP, looking only at the carbon pollution from end users (new power plants, industrial uses, heating, etc), estimates that these emissions total 29.96 million tons per year. (FEIS, Vol 1, p 4-621.) This number does not include climate impacts of methane leaks from the gas wellheads, pipelines and compressor stations.
If you are the least bit concerned about climate change and recognize that some reduction in carbon pollution is necessary, then Dominion’s plans to increase carbon pollution over the next 25 years should disturb you. Recognizing that the FERC’s conservative estimate for the carbon pollution from end users of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is another 30 million tons per year, over and above the 40 million tons Dominion already emits annually, we are looking at more than a 75% increase in carbon pollution when all the science is telling us significant reductions are necessary.
This major increase in carbon is not just an environmental problem. Assuming society comes to grips with climate change and begins to mandate carbon reductions, Dominion Energy Virginia’s customers are going to get stuck with the bill when Dominion is compelled to reduce its emissions and prematurely shutter major carbon pollution sources like its new gas-fired power plants and its pipeline. As a monopoly, Dominion is guaranteed its money back with interest on projects approved by the State Corporation Commission no matter how unwise those investments may be in a carbon-constrained future.
In The Great Recession of 2008, we learned that financial experts can let greed blind them to economic realities, and we all suffered the consequences. Today, business leaders across Virginia as well as politicians like Terry McAuliffe and Ed Gillespie who laud the pipeline once again are failing to do basic accounting and due diligence that tells us the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be a carbon budget buster and a drag on future economic growth when we are forced to pay Dominion for stranded assets in the form of gas plants and a pipeline that they will find it necessary to retire early to address climate change. If the Atlantic Coast Pipeline gets built, there will be only one winner and that will be Dominion Energy. All the rest of us lose.