The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC project.
FERC announced availability of the draft EIS on Dec. 30 for the natural gas infrastructure project that will reach from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina.
Comments on the draft EIS must be received in Washington, D.C., on or before April 6. Once the final EIS is issued, the FERC Commissioners will take into consideration staff’s recommendations when they make a decision on the projects.
The comment period is longer than usual given requests from various environmental groups and elected officials.
The draft EIS also includes review of the related Supply Header Project (SHP). The purpose of the SHP is to provide customers access to the Dominion South Point hub in Pennsylvania along with other interconnecting natural gas suppliers, which would allow access to multiple gas suppliers and markets to facilitate access to low cost natural gas.
FERC staff concluded that both natural gas infrastructure projects included in the draft EIS would result in some adverse impacts. However, with the exception of impacts on forest vegetation, would be reduced to less-than-significant levels. The partner companies have agreed to take various mitigation measures, FERC said.
Dominion (NYSE:NYSE) subsidiary Dominion Transmission Inc. along with Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) subsidiary Piedmont Natural Gas are seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from FERC to construct, operate, and maintain 333.1 miles of 42-inch-diameter mainline Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Sponsors of the project point to the increased reliance on natural gas for power generation in the region.
The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project would also include 186 miles of 36-inch-diameter mainline pipeline; 83.3 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 38 valves in the three-state area.
The purpose of the ACP is to deliver up to 1.5 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to customers in Virginia and North Carolina.
Among other things, DTI is to 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). DTI is also requesting authorization to abandon in place two existing gathering compressor units at its existing Hastings Compressor Station in Wetzel County, West Virginia.
FERC said the EIS has been prepared in compliance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other applicable federal and state standards.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture – Forest Service (FS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) – Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources participated as cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS.
Further, the Forest Service may use the EIS when it considers amendments to Land and Resource Management Plans for the proposed crossings of the Monongahela National Forest and George Washington National Forest.
Although the cooperating agencies provide input to the conclusions and recommendations presented in the draft EIS, the agencies will each present their own conclusions and recommendations in their respective records of decision or determinations for the projects.
FERC staff and cooperating agencies must comply with both the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act prior to allowing any construction to begin.
Volume I of the draft EIS is a concise 742 pages. If approved, construction of the pipeline project could begin in late 2017.
In September 2016, Atlantic Coast Pipeline signed a construction contract with Spring Ridge Constructors, LLC. Spring Ridge is a joint venture that includes subsidiaries of Quanta Services (NYSE:PWR) and Primoris Services Corp. (NASDAQ:PRIM).
Environmental groups pan environmental review
Several environmental groups promptly issued a statement on Dec. 30 blasting the draft EIS.
“Dozens of local groups and public advocacy organizations today condemned federal regulators for ignoring evidence that the proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline is not needed and puts lives, communities, drinking water supplies, private property, publicly owned natural resources and the climate at unacceptable risk,” the environmental groups said in a statement.
The foes claim there is enough gas supply in Virginia and the Carolinas to meet consumer demand through 2030, given only incremental upgrades of existing infrastructure. This would negate the need for a $5bn pipeline project for “fracked” gas the opposition groups said.
The statement is signed by representatives of the Sierra Club in Virginia, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), Appalachian Voices and others.