Senators hope Berkshire Hathaway invests in West Virginia natural gas projects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A week after Berkshire Hathaway Inc. announced its purchase of Dominion Energy Inc.’s natural gas transmission and storage assets, a group of West Virginia senators are asking the company to consider investing in natural gas projects in West Virginia.

Ten Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett on Monday regarding a possible investment and the impact of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project’s cancellation.

“We think your wager is a wise one and share your belief that natural gas will be a mainstay in the production of American power for decades to come,” the legislators said. “The gas that sits beneath our feet is rich and plentiful, and our people are ready to go to work.”

Duke Energy Corp. and Dominion Energy announced July 5 the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline because of delays and legal uncertainties. The 600-mile pipeline would have gone from Harrison County, West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina.

Berkshire Hathway’s $9.7 billion deal with Dominion Energy was announced the same day. The agreement includes more than 7,700 miles of pipelines and around 900 billion cubic feet of natural gas storage.

Sen. William Ihlenfeld, D-Ohio

“That gave us reason for hope,” Sen. William Ihlenfeld, D-Ohio, said on Tuesday’s “MetroNews Talkline.”

Ihlenfeld said the state will benefit if Berkshire Hathaway utilizes its new investments, adding he believes the company will do such.

“You get excited that he’s coming and he’s purchased these assets, but we have to be patient,” he said. “It’s a long-term play, and when you look at the expectation among industry experts, they see that natural gas is going to help grow from 34% of total electricity generation to 39% by 2050.”

Ihlenfeld added Buffett also likes “a crisis.”

“He sees right now that the oil and gas industry is in a real rough patch, and you’ve seen a variety of companies have filed bankruptcy recently in this sector,” the senator said. “He has seen an opportunity to purchase assets that are at a discount price, and he sees the long-term revenue potential for this, and that’s why he came in and made this purchase.”

Supporters for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline argued the project would have resulted in thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.

“We want to try to regenerate that possibility with Warren Buffett coming in,” Ihlenfeld said.

As part of its deal with Dominion Energy, Berkshire Hathaway has assumed around $5.7 billion in existing debt.

Other senators signing the letter include Minority Whip Corey Palumbo of Kanawha County; Stephen Baldwin of Greenbrier County; Paul Hardesty of Logan County; Glenn Jeffries of Putnam County; Richard Lindsay of Kanawha County; Bob Plymale of Wayne County; Michael Romano of Harrison County; Ron Stollings of Boone County; and Mike Woelfel of Cabell County.

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