Roanoke Gas decision should consider need

Roanoke Gas decision should consider need

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Successful businesses do not assume new commitments without solid financial reasons. That’s true of any business, and more so for those as closely regulated as Roanoke Gas Co.

In pre-filed testimony to the State Corporation Commission late last month, Roanoke Gas President Paul Nester laid out his company’s case for its commitments to buy gas from the Mountain Valley Pipeline once the project is completed. Among the agreements is one of paramount importance to Franklin County.

That’s Roanoke Gas’ plans to expand its service footprint into our county via its tap at the Mountain Valley Pipeline at Franklin’s Summit View Business Park. Plans are to build a gate station to handle gas from the pipeline that traverses the Summit View property.

This project would represent a key sales and marketing difference-maker for future prospects at Summit View and the surrounding area. Having a reliable, reasonably priced source of natural gas at this site can make the difference between success and failure in landing future prospects for the business park as well as the county.

At issue with the State Corporation Commission is not a question of Roanoke Gas’ growth. Instead, it’s a question of how much.

At a hearing this week in Richmond, the growth topic was on tap to be explored. The SCC pegs the annualized growth rate for the gas company at 2%, while the Roanoke-based company says it’s closer to 10%. Also at issue is the 1% investment of a Roanoke Gas sister company in the outfit building the pipeline.

Whatever the growth rate might be, business for Roanoke Gas is up, according to the company. In addition to new homes, other recent natural gas sales being generated by Roanoke Gas include Eldor Corp., an automobile parts manufacturer, and Ballast Point Brewing Co., both located in Botetourt County. The company also says it’ll sell more gas once the expansion of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech/Carilion’s complex in Roanoke is completed. Meanwhile, in Franklin County, Roanoke Gas’ gate station poises the company for additional business on our turf.

We’ll leave it to the State Corporation Commission regulators to determine whether Roanoke Gas merits its requested 9% increase in its base rate.

The rate case before the SCC involves costs linked to ongoing infrastructure investments by Roanoke Gas, as well as increased costs in maintenance and operational expenses. Those investments in infrastructure do include the gate station at Summit View. However, it’s our hope that any SCC ruling will take into account the public need to serve additional firms with a dependable supply of natural gas, including businesses and industrial customers for the gas company’s planned Summit View facility in Franklin County.

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