Business, Energy, State Government

PSC approves Hope Gas pipeline project for Morgantown area

MORGANTOWN — The state Public Service Commission has approved Hope Gas’ plan to build a new pipeline to serve the Morgantown area.

The PSC granted Hope a certificate of public convenience and necessity for its Morgantown Connector Project (MCP). Its order mirrors in large part the proposed order Hope submitted on Dec. 21.

The order notes that Hope is experiencing a decline in supply capacity it has in excess of its peak-day requirements. Also, Morgantown Energy Associates and other Morgantown-area customers want to increase their supply levels. In order to meet the demand, Hope has proposed to enter into a 15-year contract with Columbia Gas for gas to be supplied to a new Hope-Columbia interconnection near Wadestown.

The order says the PSC “agrees that the proposed MCP, as well as Hope’s decision to interconnect with Columbia at Wadestown and acquire additional upstream firm capacity on Columbia, are reasonable, necessary, and in the public interest.”

Hope has said it needs to begin construction by Nov. 1 in order to have the line in service by Nov. 1, 2025, when that year’s winter demand begins. It said the start date allows for tree clearance outside of the restrictions to accommodate bat and bird habitats.

The pipeline is planned to run a total of 30 miles from Wadestown in western Monongalia County eastward to the edge of Morgantown and then northwest to site near Osage, at an estimated cost of $177,437,169.

Hope estimates that the project will generate about 600 jobs, which will make up about half the project cost. Other major costs are the 30 miles of pipeline and five measurement and regulation stations.

The new line would begin at Hope’s interconnect with a Columbia Gas line near Wadestown. Using new and existing Hope right of way, it would run 25 miles to the Western edge of Morgantown to connect with other proposed Hope facilities (called Black Night) west of I-79 and Harmony Grove. Hope says about 5.5 miles of that right of way is in northern Marion County.

From Black Night, the line would use existing and new third-party rights of way to go five miles northwest of Granville to a station called Mineral, northwest of Osage.

Hope notes that about 14.5 miles of the project are parallel to existing Hope right of way or to other lines, to allow for grouped utilities and making the most of an existing corridor. “This route was selected considering proximity to homes and buildings, topography suited for the size of the pipeline, sensitive resources and the associated crossings, and tie-in locations at Wadestown, Black Knight, and Mineral.”

The project would include 30 miles of 16-inch diameter steel gas line and “up-rating” of 5.6 miles of existing 12-inch line to accommodate the increased pressure and new gas supply.

Hope is not proposing any rate hikes at this time for the pipeline but says it intends to recover costs in future base rate and purchased gas adjustment cases.

FOIA response

Hope sought a protective order concerning certain highly detailed maps and drawings, project costs that should remain confidential because certain project work remains subject to a bidding procurement process, and discussion of estimated revenue from certain services Hope might provide.

PSC staff objected, and the PSC ordered Hope to disclose the overall project cost — the $177 million — but withheld judgment on the rest pending a Freedom of Information Act request. The Dominion Post accordingly filed one, and Hope filed its objections.

In its order, PSC again largely mirrored the response Hope proposed in its Dec. 21 filing.

PSC denied the request to produce maps and drawings, saying portions describe existing utility plants and equipment and are exempt from FOIA, while Hope has already provided a public map of the proposed route.

Regarding project costs, PSC noted that Hope will be seeking construction bids to union contractors, which will not be complete until the third quarter of 2024, and disclosure “would give other third parties, presumably those bidding in the procurement process, a ‘business advantage’ over Hope, and potentially expose Hope and its customers to higher project costs.”

Because that concern will end once bidding is complete, PSC ordered that the information remain confidential until that time, and Hope will then provide a public copy of the accepted bids matched against a public copy of the original estimates.

The order discusses two types of revenue estimates: new revenue Hope might earn through sales to other producers that buy its gas and services; and new revenue from increased levels of delivered gas, known as maximum daily volume (MDV).

Regarding MDV, Hope said anyone can guess at those figures using Hope’s publicly available rate figures. So, PSC agreed that Hope will provide MDV revenue estimates within 10 days of the PSC’s order in a closed filing.

Regarding producer revenues, Hope asserted and PSC agreed those are trade secrets that would give others a business advantage over Hope and are protected under FOIA, and disclosure is therefore denied.


TWEET @DominionPostWV