Roanoke Gas and Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC on Thursday confirmed a partnership that Roanoke Gas said strengthens and broadens its ability to supply customers with natural gas.
Like Roanoke Gas, RGC Midstream is a subsidiary of Roanoke-based RGC Resources, a publicly traded company led by John D’Orazio, president and CEO.
The pipeline company reported Thursday that RGC Midstream has acquired a 1 percent interest in Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC and will become a shipper on the 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline if the project moves forward.
In August, during sworn court testimony in Union, West Virginia, Mountain Valley project manager Shawn Posey disclosed that the company had an agreement with Roanoke Gas but declined to comment further, as did Roanoke Gas executives.
In a news release Thursday, D’Orazio said the agreement “addresses the growing demand for natural gas in our region and enhances the reliability of our Roanoke Gas system.”
Roanoke Gas suppliers have included East Tennessee Natural Gas and Columbia Gas Transmission.
D’Orazio said the partnership with Mountain Valley will help bring natural gas to “unserved communities,” thereby yielding new potential for economic growth.
Thursday’s announcement included no mention of Franklin County, which has been identified by some county officials as a community that could benefit from having access to natural gas. Roanoke Gas and Franklin County have had discussions about the possibility of an interconnect with the pipeline but officials have declined to comment about those discussions, which have been closed to the public.
Mountain Valley has said it plans to apply this month to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a certificate that would allow construction and operation of the 300-mile, $3.2 billion project, which has stirred fierce opposition along its proposed routes but also garnered support.
D’Orazio declined to comment Thursday about the partnership. Instead, he referred questions to Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for the pipeline. She said the Mountain Valley project team and Roanoke Gas will evaluate over the next year to 18 months the potential for bringing natural gas service to Franklin County.
Cox confirmed, however, that there are plans for an interconnect that would provide another source of natural gas for the region. She said its location will be identified when Mountain Valley submits its application to FERC.
Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC is a joint venture of EQT Corp., whose EQT Midstream Partners has 54 percent ownership; NextEra Energy; WGL Midstream and Vega Midstream.
Cox said RGC Midstream will invest 1 percent of the total project cost. Mountain Valley has said project costs ultimately could range between $3 billion and $3.5 billion but has generally estimated costs at about $3.2 billion. At $3 billion, 1 percent would be $30 million.
Carolyn Reilly’s family owns a farm in Franklin County that could be affected by a pipeline route. She has been an active member of Preserve Franklin County, one of many regional groups opposing the pipeline.
Reilly said Thursday’s confirmation of the partnership of Mountain Valley and Roanoke Gas raises a host of questions, especially in the wake of lawsuits filed recently by Mountain Valley to gain access to private properties for pipeline route surveying.
As a partner in Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, Roanoke Gas could end up suing landowners who might be Roanoke Gas customers, Reilly said.
She also wondered where Roanoke Gas, or RGC Resources, will get the money to buy its 1 percent share.
D’Orazio responded in an email.
“Projects of this nature are typically funded through traditional debt and equity sources,” he said.