Commentary: Reasons in Favor of Gas Merger

Commentary: Reasons in Favor of Gas Merger

This week, I want to spotlight the application of Washington Gas (WGL), which provides our natural gas to combine its operations with AltaGas, a Canadian diversified energy infrastructure business.

What happens with Washington Gas, which interestingly was chartered by Congress in 1848 to provide gas lamp service to the U.S. Capitol, is of importance to me in my role representing my constituents, many whom are customers in one of the older portions of the company’s service territory of over one million customers. This includes much of Northern Virginia, parts of the state’s Northern Neck, as well as the District of Columbia and portions of Maryland.

Approval of this application by the Virginia State Corporation Commission and its counterparts in the District and Maryland will assure us that we will continue to be served by a company providing safe and reliable service. Customers will also get continuity in the strong commitment to resolving customer issues in a fair and timely manner. Also, I’ve seen firsthand the dedication to being actively and positively involved in the life of the communities in which it does business, and am glad to see its intention to continue those important endeavors following the merger.

It is also reassuring that their headquarters will remain in Washington, D.C., and that their environmentally-friendly Springfield Center will stay open to serve, with easy access, the company’s Virginia customers. Other facilities, including walk-in offices, I am assured, will remain in their current locations.

WGL Energy will expand its clean and efficient energy offerings. AltaGas will establish new headquarters for its U.S. power business in WGL’s service region, and combine with WGL Energy Systems leadership. Also important to recognize is its commitment to operate under current union bargaining unit agreements, and continue to offer job growth opportunities for its many dedicated employees in the region.

The new combined company is committed to maintain safe, reliable, and affordable utility service without increasing rates as a result of this transaction, serving 1.65 million customers across the U. S. and Canada. I am confident it will put customers and communities first, by providing innovative energy-related services, including natural gas, electricity, renewable energy, distributed generation, energy efficiency, and natural gas storage and transportation.

Another nice plus is that WGL Energy will increase its commitment to making a difference in the lives of its customers, employees, and the communities it serves. For 10 years after the close of the merger, AltaGas would make $1.2 million in charitable contributions and traditional local community support per year in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, a 20 percent increase over the highest of any of the past five fiscal years for WGL.

Positive as well is that the company will provide $450,000 for a study to access the development of renewable gas facilities in the Washington region. This complements a pledge to develop, or cause to be developed, 5 MW of either electric grid energy storage or Tier 1 renewable resources.

WGL’s generous philanthropy is further enhanced by its decision to provide $1.5 million of supplemental funding, over the five years following the merger, to the Washington Area Fuel Fund, to furnish emergency gas utility bill assistance to qualifying low and moderate-income customers.

For all of these good reasons, I am optimistic that the merger of Washington Gas and AltaGas is a good thing for our community, the consumers and Virginia as a whole.