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Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

I wish to address an issue about the way large, corporate business is being conducted in our country. It used to be that the primary goal of many businesses was to provide their customers with the best services or goods that the businesses had to offer. Businesses used to compete to win the satisfaction of their customers. Fortunately for us, many of the small businesses in our local community still work this way.

Now, it seems that another goal has quietly stepped in to replace that of customer satisfaction. The new approach is to prioritize the needs of business shareholders before those of customers. Much too often, the customers of businesses are seen as a means to provide revenue for payments to shareholders. It was not lost on me that the quote from the CEO of Dominion Energy, in the infomercial article in a past edition of The Pocahontas Times (December 29, 2016), listed the first item of his company’s goals as that of providing for Dominion’s shareholders. The article went on to praise Dominion for being recognized for its outstanding business performance, as endorsed by Forbes.

We should all be aware that Dominion is selling its rate-paying customers and the people of West Virginia a bit short as it attempts to develop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Looking a little more closely at this project, I have found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the ruling body that permits the building of interstate natural gas pipelines, allows companies like Dominion to use funds paid by Dominion’s rate-paying customers to pay dividends to its shareholders for investments in pipeline projects. In fact, Dominion is allowed by FERC to pay a return of up to 14 percent to its shareholders from construction of the ACP, with money from its ratepayers.

An independent economic study of the project, prepared by Synapse Energy Economics, has shown that the ACP is not needed in order to supply gas to the power plants it supplies, and that those power plants can obtain gas from currently existing pipelines and storage facilities at a lower cost than they can from the ACP.

Dominion representatives, when asked if West Virginians will have access to some of the natural gas in the ACP, that will be bull-dozed through the mountains of West Virginia, have been informed that the gas will not be available to them. The gas is intended for power plants in Virginia and North Carolina, where there is a bigger, established market for the gas.

Thus, West Virginians will endure the degradation of their environment and their economy for the benefit of Dominion’s and Duke Energy’s power plants in other states, as the ACP is built. Also, FERC will allow Dominion to use eminent domain to take property from private landholders in order to construct the pipeline.

Now, let’s address the praise of Dominion by Forbes, for Dominion’s business performance, by way of its community mindedness and its contributions to charitable organizations. It appears clear to me that these are deep-pocketed lobbying efforts aimed at securing the good-will of the public.

My family and I look forward to continuing to trade with our local, small businesses, that have shown that they value their customers.

Thomas Epling

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