FERC holds scoping meeting in Elkins on Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project
A large number of people, including those from Highland, Pocahontas and Randolph Counties, attended a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission scoping meeting on March 23rd in Elkins to give comments to FERC concerning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project. In this first story from the meeting we’ll hear more detail about the process by which FERC will analyze the ACP and other pipeline projects.
Kevin Bowman, a environmental project manager within the FERC’s office of Energy Projects, DG2E led the meeting. This division is responsible for the environmental review of the interstate natural gas certificate applications for the construction and operation of facilities under the Natural Gas Act. Bowman began by explaining the format of the meeting.
“Fundamentally the purpose of tonight’s meeting is to provide each of you with an opportunity to give us your comments and tell us what additional environmental issues we should address in our analysis of the proposed projects,” he said. “We’ve already received numerous comments concerning the projects, including alternatives, which is one of the areas we’re hoping to get input from you tonight.”
He said these comments would be considered as the agency prepares an Environmental Impact Statement or EIS on the proposed project. FERC is the lead agency responsible for the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA and the EIS. They’re assisted in this process by the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife services, US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Land Management.
“The scoping process for FERC is a learning process,” said Bowman. “It’s where we educate ourselves about the project, potential issues and the environmental impacts.”
FERC will use information from the project applicant, federal agencies, their own field research and public comments to form a draft EIS.
“The draft EIS will include an examination of the proposed facility locations as well as alternative sites,” he said. “We’ll assess the projects affects on water bodies and wetlands, vegetation and wildlife, endangered species, cultural resources, land use, soils, air quality, safety and socio-economic impacts.”
Once the draft is released there will be another public comment period, and another series of public meetings to get feedback on the draft EIS. Information from that comment period will be used to prepare the final EIS that’s submitted to the FERC Commissioners for review.
“Now the EIS itself is not a decision making document,” said Bowman. “It is merely the analysis of the potential impacts of the project and the projects alternatives. The five Commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will use that document as well as other information to make a determination on whether or not to grant authorization for the projects. The five Commissioners at FERC are appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress. Additional information about the Commissioners at FERC are available at the FERC website www.FERC.gov.”
Bowman said the estimated 554 mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline project would consist of 16 and 42 inch pipeline segments transporting natural gas from Harrison County, West Virginia to Robeson County, North Carolina, with smaller diameter lateral lines that would terminate in Chesapeake and Brunswick Counties in Virginia. It would also include three new compressor stations in Lewis County, West Virginia, Buckingham County in Virginia and Northampton County in North Carolina. The project also includes a 39 mile supply header pipeline with 30 and 36 inch segments in Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.