On July 21, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. That document is available online at https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/07-21-17-FEIS.asp. FERC’s overview of the document is copied below.
Following are links to several news accounts of the release of the Final EIS:
Environmental report on pipeline favorable for developers, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/21/17.
One pipeline through VA clears hurdles; another in PA gets fined for violations, Bay Journal, 7/23/17.
Release of final analysis paves way for decision on proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Nelson County Times, 7/21/17.
Pipeline environmental statement: Most impacts will be ‘reduced to less-than-significant levels’, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/21/17.
Final environmental statement on pipeline released, Waynesboro News Virginian, 7/21/17.
For information on the Final EIS for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (issued in June 2017), please see this Water Central News Grouper post.
For information on natural gas developments in Virginia overall since 2014, please see this Water Central News Grouper post.
FERC’s OVERVIEW AND MAIN CONCLUSIONS OF THE FINAL EIS
Accessed at https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/07-21-17-FEIS.asp on 7/25/17.
FERC Staff Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Supply Header Project (CP15-554-000, -001; CP15-555-000; and CP15-556-000)
Issued: July 21, 2017
The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) has prepared a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the projects proposed by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) in Docket Nos. CP15-554-000 and CP15-554-001; Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc. (DETI) in Docket No. CP15-555-000; and Atlantic and Piedmont Natural Gas. Co., Inc. (Piedmont) in Docket No. CP15-556-000.
Atlantic seeks a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Certificate) from the Commission under section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) and Parts 157 and 284 of the Commission’s regulations to construct, operate, and maintain 333.4 miles of 42-inch-diameter mainline pipeline; 186.3 miles of 36-inch-diameter mainline pipeline; 83.4 miles of 20-inch-diameter lateral pipeline; 1.4 miles of 16-inch-diameter lateral pipeline; 3 new compressor stations totaling about 130,348 horsepower (hp); 9 meter and regulating (M&R) stations; 11 pig launcher and receiver facilities; and 41 valves in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina as part of its proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The purpose of ACP is to deliver up to 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to customers in Virginia and North Carolina.
DETI seeks a Certificate from the Commission under sections 7(b) and 7(c) of the NGA and Parts 157 and 284 of the Commission’s regulations to construct, operate, and maintain 37.5 miles of 30-inch-diameter pipeline; one M&R station; six valves; and four pig launcher or receiver facilities; and modify four existing compressor stations to provide an additional 69,200 hp in Pennsylvania and West Virginia as part of its proposed Supply Header Project (SHP). DETI is also requesting authorization to abandon in place two existing gathering compressor units at its existing Hastings Compressor Station in Wetzel County, West Virginia. The purpose of SHP is to provide customers access to the Dominion South Point hub in Pennsylvania along with other interconnecting natural gas suppliers, which allows access to multiple gas suppliers and markets to facilitate access to low cost natural gas.
Atlantic and Piedmont seek a Certificate from the Commission under section 7(c) of the NGA and Part 157 of the Commission’s regulations to lease capacity on Piedmont’s existing pipeline distribution system as part of their Capacity Lease Proposal. The purpose of the Capacity Lease Proposal is to provide service to North Carolina markets using additional transportation capacity on the Piedmont system. Because ACP, SHP, and the Capacity Lease Proposal are interrelated and connected actions, we analyzed them together in a single comprehensive EIS.
The EIS has been prepared in compliance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), under the Council on Environmental Quality regulations for implementing NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] Parts 1500–1508), and the FERC’s regulations at 18 CFR 380.
The conclusions and recommendations presented in the EIS are those of the FERC environmental staff. Input from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service (FS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources as cooperating agencies was considered during the development of the conclusions and recommendations in the EIS. The FS may adopt and use the EIS when it considers the issuance of a Special Use Permit to Atlantic for the portion of ACP that crosses the Monongahela National Forest and George Washington National Forest, and amendments to Land and Resource Management Plans to allow Atlantic to cross the forests. The cooperating agencies will present their own conclusions and recommendations in their respective permit authorizations and/or Record of Decision for the projects.
The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of ACP and SHP would result in some adverse effects, such as impacts on steep slopes and adjacent waterbodies and associated aquatic resources; forested vegetation; Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, Roanoke logperch, Madison cave isopod, clubshell mussel, small whorled pogonia, and running buffalo clover; and karst, cave, subterranean habitat and the species associated with these habitats. Implementation of Atlantic and DETI’s respective impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as their adherence to staff’s recommendations in the EIS would further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts. Most, but not all of these impacts, would be reduced to less-than-significant levels. These determinations are based on a review of the information provided by Atlantic and DETI in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests; field investigations; scoping; literature research; alternatives analyses; and consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, and other stakeholders. Although many factors were considered in our determinations, the principal reasons are [the following]:
*Atlantic and DETI would minimize impacts on the natural and human environments during construction and operation of their facilities by implementing the numerous measures described in their respective construction and restoration plans;
*all of the proposed facilities would be constructed and operated in compliance with federal standards, requirements, and thresholds including U.S. Department of Transportation materials requirements and EPA air emissions standards;
*Atlantic would complete a Construction, Operation, and Maintenance Plan that includes additional measures to minimize impacts on environmental resources on National Forest System lands, and the FS’ Special Use Permit process for Atlantic’s easement over federal lands would provide terms and conditions for construction and operation;
*a high level of public participation was achieved during the pre-filing and post application review processes and helped inform our analysis;
*environmental justice populations would not be disproportionately affected by the projects;
*Atlantic and DETI would implement a steep slope management program and slip avoidance, identification, prevention, and remediation plan to minimize erosion and landslide potential in steep slope areas;
*the horizontal directional drill crossing method would be utilized for most major waterbodies, the majority of other waterbodies would be crossed using dry crossing methods, and Atlantic and DETI would be required to obtain applicable permits and provide mitigation for unavoidable impacts on waterbodies and wetlands through coordination with the USACE and state regulatory agencies;
*the FERC staff would complete the process of complying with the ESA prior to any construction, and the FWS would issue biological opinions that include additional conservation measures, as needed, to assure that ACP and SHP would not jeopardize the continued existence of any species under their jurisdiction and would not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat;
*the FERC staff would complete the process of complying with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and implementing the regulations at 36 CFR 800 prior to allowing any construction to begin; and
*environmental inspection and monitoring programs would ensure compliance with all construction and mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations and other approvals.
In addition, the FERC staff and cooperating agencies developed site-specific mitigation measures that Atlantic and DETI should implement to further reduce the environmental impacts that would otherwise result from construction and operation of their projects. The FERC staff determined that these measures are necessary to reduce the adverse impacts associated with the projects, and in part, are basing conclusions on implementation of these measures. These additional measures are listed as recommended conditions in section 5.2 of the EIS.