Deadline for pipeline comments to the US Forest Service is fast approaching
The deadline to make your voice heard regarding the construction of natural gas pipelines in the Mon and Jefferson national forests is fast approaching. Friday, February 13th is the last day that the US Forest will be accepting public comment on allowing Dominion Resources to survey for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on the Monongahela National Forest and on Mountain Valley Pipeline’s surveying on the Jefferson National Forest.
Elise Keaton, Outreach and Education Coordinator for the Greenbrier River Watershed Association said she and others have attended all of the open house events for both Dominion and EQT, the consortium behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline. They’ve done this both to stay informed and to inform the public about their opportunities to take part in the process.
“We’ve been engaging with folks, having them be sure and submit their comments to the forest service regarding the pipeline in general,” said Keaton. “It sounded like the forest service was curious to hear, for the Jefferson National forest, how folks felt about it generally.”
“Have they had the same feeling with the Mon forest?”
“Well I think the comments to the Mon forest – the deadline is the same,” said Keaton. “I think several hundred people that I’m aware of have been engaged and have talked about sending in comments, so hopefully they’re hearing from a lot of community members.”
“What kind of information should people be sending to the forest service if they still want to get in under this deadline?”
“We’re encouraging folks just to tell the forest service the importance of the forest to people individually,” said Keaton. “Two of the main concerns we want to be sure we raise fragmentation of habitat for certain species; they need a continuous habitat in order to do well and survive and when you fragment their habitat it disrupts their breeding and how they survive. A large swath through the forest would certainly fragment habitat, so that’s a technical issue we’re concerned about.”
“And they tourism continues to be an issue. You know, folks are concerned that if the forest is disrupted, it won’t encourage folks to come here and enjoy that pristine landscape and a lot of folks are concerned about that.”
Comments made to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the proposed pipeline projects are usually couched in economic terms. But Keaton said environmentally minded comments will hold more sway with the forest service.
“The forest service is land that is intended for resource management,” she said. “So we want to make sure that as a community we raise the issues about maintaining the resources including our timber and our water resources, making sure that we consider those as they might be disrupted by the pipeline.”
Keaton said that the level of public involvement in the pipeline projects is having an effect on the pipeline companies.
“One other indication that they’re responding to a lot of engagement from the community is the introduction of a piece of federal legislation that would shorten the FERC application process,” she said. “I don’t know the bill number right off the top of my head, [but] essentially it would take the timeline down from 2 years to 1 year, and we feel as though that’s in direct response to the fact that we’re organizing very heavily on the ground. And that gives us time to get ahead of these projects and really engage our communities.”
Residents of Pocahontas County will have an opportunity to engage with the County Commission on Wednesday Feb 11th when the commission meets to discuss issues related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. The commission will consider a letter of opposition or support of the ACP to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. They will also discuss their response to the Mon National Forest regarding the comment period that expires on Feb 13th. The meeting begins at 5pm at the courthouse in Marlinton.