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Natural gas company steps aside

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Frontier's departure frees up localities to provide natural gas on their own.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

A private company that sought to provide natural gas service to the Twin Counties has stepped aside as a Carroll County government-led project proceeds.
Frontier Natural Gas had sought to fill the natural gas gap when Atmos Energy failed to provide service for years.
Frontier had petitioned the State Corporation Commission to install a natural gas system in the Carroll County and Hillsville area, where there is an existing access port in the Patriot pipeline.
However, the private company encountered resistance from the leaders of Carroll and Grayson counties and Galax, who said they had plans to undertake the natural gas service idea themselves.
The localities argued in filings with the SCC that Frontier’s project was “not in the public’s interest” for various reasons.
The pipeline "is expected to be available to serve the same industrial, residential and commercial customers in Carroll County, which are identified by Frontier as potential customers for its phase I project," local officials argued in the SCC filings. "Given that Grayson County expects to be providing natural gas service to customers in Grayson County by way of extension of the Carroll County pipeline in the foreseeable future, there is no need for Frontier to provide substantially the same service."
Given this thinking among the local officials, Frontier announced in a news release Monday that it would withdraw its request to serve the Twin Counties for now.
Frontier Virginia — a sister company to the one in North Carolina, and related to Independence Oil and Gas — decided to end its year-long efforts to get the regulatory approvals from the SCC, company officials said.
“Constructing a brand new system in a previously unserved area involves risk, h Frontier President Dave Shipley was quoted in the news release. "Success depends upon good working relationships between the utility and government officials, private industry, landowners and community leaders. Without their cooperation and support, the risk was too great for us to proceed.”
Shipley added that Frontier officials ended this project “reluctantly.”
“Our proposal would have paved the way for area residents and businesses to receive natural gas service for the first time,” he said in the news release.  “It is unfortunate for the residents in these communities who have been waiting for natural gas."
Frontier continues with plans to provide gas service to Alleghany County, N.C. Shipley called the possibility of coming to Virginia “a natural fit.”
“We would welcome the opportunity to provide natural gas service here, with the support of local officials and industry, in the future,” Shipley said.
Carroll County officials plan to build gas service lines to supply the Mohawk plant in Hillsville as a job and business retention project.
Last Thursday, the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority took care of some gas pipeline business.
County Administrator Gary Larrowe said permit applications had been submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Marine Resource Commission regarding boring under Little Reed Island Creek for the pipeline.
Both the marine commission and the state Department of Environmental Quality have signed off on that project, Larrowe said, and the IDA voted to pay the marine commission’s $100 fee.
Larrowe said he was pleased that Frontier had bowed out, which frees up the localities to provide natural gas to customers.  "We’re working hard to create our own destiny."