Columbia Gas to Invest $150M in Additional Natural Gas Infrastructure Upgrades

The Progress-Index

CHESTER — Columbia Gas of Virginia will invest an additional $150 million over the next five years as part of the continuation of the company’s natural gas infrastructure modernization plan approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The plan extends the ability of Columbia Gas to accelerate the replacement of aging natural gas infrastructure across its service territory between 2016 and 2020.

“With the approval of the next phase of our modernization initiative, Columbia Gas has the ability to continue the process of upgrading older portions of our underground pipeline system,” said Brent Archer, Columbia’s president. ”This program is ultimately about our customers, and our ability to provide them with energy infrastructure that assures the highest levels of integrity and reliability.”

On Aug. 3, Columbia Gas of Virginia filed the extension request with the Virginia State Corporation Commission in accordance with the SAVE Act (Steps To Advance Virginia’s Energy Plan) which establishes a regulatory framework for Virginia’s natural gas utilities to invest in replacing older infrastructure and recovering the costs for such replacements in a timely manner.

“During the initial phase of our SAVE program Columbia Gas has been able to improve our distribution infrastructure with new state-of-the-art facilities which served our customers well during the harsh winter weather experienced last year,” said Phil Wilson, vice president and general manager of operations for Columbia Gas. “By continuing our accelerated program of replacing aging facilities we can continue to improve public and customer safety.”

The types of facilities eligible for replacement under Columbia’s SAVE plan include older infrastructure constructed using cast iron, bare steel and early vintage plastic pipe, as well as other materials that are nearing the end of their operational lives.

The Plan also minimizes the financial impact on customers by phasing in the cost of the program over a multi-year period. The cost impact of the program on residential customers in 2016 is expected to be 94 cents per month.

Columbia Gas operates more than 5,000 miles of distribution infrastructure in Virginia to provide service for its more than 252,000 customers.

Columbia Gas of Virginia has also filed to reduce natural gas prices in time for the peak winter heating season. The proposed prices would result in a 10.26 percent decrease in total monthly customer bills when compared against the same period last year. The proposed prices would take effect Nov. 30.

The proposed total residential monthly bill is $114.05 when compared to the December 2014 total monthly bill of $127.09 and is based on a seasonal usage level of 100 Ccf. A Ccf is the measurement used for natural gas usage and is the equivalent of 100 cubic feet.

“The availability of abundant domestic natural gas continues to have a direct positive impact that benefits our customers,” said Brent Archer, Columbia’s president. “This proposed price reduction means our customers will save an average of $13 per month compared to last winter. That’s good news to share as we enter the peak winter heating season.”