SC gas pipeline operator seeks big rate hike, costs that could flow into your power bills

Post and Courier
May 2, 2024

By Tony Bartelme

Carolina Gas Transmission is seeking a roughly 85 percent increase in rates to supply utilities and industries in South Carolina with natural gas.

The requested hike potentially adds tens of millions of dollars in costs to transport natural gas here — costs that eventually flow into consumers’ power bills.

It also comes amid the more visible and heated debate over plans by Dominion Energy and Santee Cooper to build a gas-fueled plant in Colleton County.

Opponents of the gas plant said the pipeline rate case is another example of the financial risks of relying too much on natural gas to generate electricity.

“Bottom line is that the consumer eventually has to pay for it,” said Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

Whether the rate increase goes through or not, Carolina Gas Transmission’s proposal also offers a small window into the arcane and highly technical business of sending massive amounts of natural gas through a spiderweb of pipelines across the Carolina Gas Transmission supplies as much as 70 percent of South Carolina’s natural gas through its pipeline network.

Dominion and other utilities fights rate increase

 Carolina Gas Transmission is a major pipeline player here with more than 1,500 miles of pipelines crisscrossing South Carolina and Georgia. All told, 70 percent of the natural gas consumed in South Carolina flows through its system.

The company doesn’t charge residents and businesses. Rather, its customers are utilities, including Dominion, and municipalities that run gas systems. It’s similar to a trucking company that supplies Amazon and Walmart warehouses. But instead of appliances and home goods, it transports huge volumes of gas. Dominion owned the Virginia-based company until 2020 when Berkshire Hathaway scooped it up.

The pipeline industry is heavily regulated, with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, responsible for deciding whether rate hikes are reasonable.

Carolina Gas Transmission filed its rate hike request last year, triggering an extensive review by FERC that is ongoing.

In statements to The Post and Courier, Carolina Gas Transmission said the increase is long overdue.

Its current rates date back to a settlement in 2011. Since then, the company built new lines, added safety and reliability features, and upgraded its system to prevent cyberattacks.

But the utilities that use the pipeline system are fighting back.

In a formal protest filed with FERC, Dominion called the requests “troubling.”

The Greenwood Commissioners of Public Works testified to FERC that a “shocking 85 percent increase” would add $900,000 in costs to its operations, which support more than 18,000 customers.

Patriots Energy Group, which handles gas supplies for gas authorities in Chester, Lancaster and York counties, said the hike could nearly double its gas transmission costs, a potential $5 million hit that it described as “staggering.”

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