While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has repeatedly and officially recognized the public need for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the 2021 winter season provided further proof.

Severe cold and heavy snow and ice affected much of the United States in February 2021, increasing demand for natural gas even as the adverse weather conditions affected production. As a result, many local distribution companies and customers faced limited supplies and higher-than-usual costs for natural gas to heat homes and run business operations.

In Southwestern Virginia, the historic weather’s effects strained existing supplies of natural gas. Roanoke Gas Company, a local distributor serving 55,000 households, saw its wholesale price for natural gas exceed $21 per dekatherm. The price jump resulted in a $3 million additional cost for natural gas over eight days. Even though the company passes the cost of gas directly to customers – without markup or any profit – it is taking steps to mitigate customers’ financial hardship by spreading the increased cost over up to two years.

“This is a real-time, real-world example of the need for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the gas it will supply our customers and others throughout the United States,” said Paul Nester, president and chief executive officer of Roanoke Gas Company. “If the MVP had been in service, we believe we would have saved our customers significant commodity gas costs by delivering gas from the prolific and affordable Appalachian Basin.”

This source of natural gas was consistently priced in the $4 per dekatherm range, Nester said.

MVP initially aimed to enter service in 2018, but opponents have repeatedly filed lawsuits to delay completion. Such an agenda carries real costs to the public, and the risks of high prices and unreliable access will persist so long as opponents continue to block MVP’s completion, Nester wrote in a letter to the Roanoke Times.

MVP is designed to provide up to 2 billion cubic feet, or 2 million dekatherms, of natural gas to end users in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states. Its capacity is fully subscribed through contracts of at least 20 years; upon entering service, the 303-mile project will have four interconnects for deliveries, as well as two taps in southwestern Virginia to help Roanoke Gas Co. meet existing and future demand for natural gas. Total project work is more than 92 percent complete.