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Fact of the Matter: Dominion's Pipeline Jobs Claim "Deceptive"

Dominion Energy has taken to the airwaves to gain public support for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a controversial 600-mile project that will send natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia and North Carolina.

One much-televised ad features Brian Simpson, a heavy equipment operator and member of the International of Operating Engineers, Local 147.

“For me, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline means a good, steady job with benefits,” he says. “It’s a chance to provide for my family and save a little money to send my daughter to college. It’s not just for me. It’s for the union, laborers, teamsters and welders.”

The scene shifts to footage of Simpson talking to two colleagues at a construction site. A narrator says, “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: 17,000 jobs.” The logo of the pipeline appears on the screen with white print underneath it saying, “17,000 JOBS..”

That’s a lot of jobs and the figure, as it’s cited in the commercial, is greatly exaggerated and misleading.

The source of the number, according to a Dominion spokesperson, is a 2014 report prepared for the energy corporation by Chmura Economics and Analytics, a Richmond-based company. The report contains some major qualifications about its job estimates that Dominion doesn’t share in its commercial.

Chmura estimated the pipeline would support 17,240 “cumulative jobs” in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina during its six-year development and construction phase from 2014 through 2019. That doesn’t mean 17,240 people will find pipeline-related work during those years, as the ad implies. “Cumulative jobs” is a measure of the number of people projected to have pipeline jobs each year multiplied the number of years the development and construction phase is expected to last.

In other words, if someone was hired for a job that lasted for six years, that would count as six cumulative jobs.

Chmura estimated that the pipeline will spur an annual average of 2,873 actual jobs during its development and construction phase. Multiply that number by the six-year duration of phase, and you come up with 17,238 “cumulative jobs” which, when rounded off, matches Dominion’s ad claim.

Dominion’s ad doesn’t explain the multiplication behind its jobs estimate or even offer viewers a footnote explaining it’s referring to cumulative jobs.

Now, let’s break down the prediction of 2,873 annual. Chmura projected 1,462 would be in Virginia, 738 in North Carolina and 516 in West Virginia. Of the actual jobs, Chmura predicted 1,556 would be “directly” created by the pipeline - such as laborers, equipment operators and contractors. Chmura forecast another 1,248 new jobs would indirectly spin off the construction - such as suppliers, restaurant and store workers to handle increased local business, and workers in the housing and hotel industries.

Once the pipeline is built, the numbers get much smaller. Chmura predicts the project will support 271 jobs a year in the three-state region after 2019. Eighty-two of jobs will go to an in-house operations staff and the rest will be outside workers whose jobs spin off the pipeline.

We asked to Jen Kostyniuk, a spokesperson for Dominion, whether the corporation’s unqualified ad promise of 17,000 jobs in the ad is misleading. She said Dominion is “very comfortable” with the ad and, if anything, the 17,000 jobs “underestimates the impact” of the pipeline.

Kostyniuk said there was no need to explain in the ad that Dominion is talking about cumulative jobs over six years. She said it’s “common knowledge” that employment figures in the construction industry are presented in terms of cumulative jobs.

Bottom Line

Dominion Energy, in it’s much-played TV commercial, said twice that the pipeline would produce “17,000 jobs.” It didn’t reveal that the figure means “cumulative jobs,” a number produced by taking the anticipated average yearly workforce of 2,873 and multiplying it by six - the number of projected years to develop and build the project.

We disagree with Dominion’s assertion that it’s “common knowledge” employment figures in construction are expressed in cumulative jobs. To the contrary, few viewers could be expected to know Dominion is talking about cumulative jobs and, without that explanation, the corporation’s claim is inflated and deceptive.