FERC opens comment period for new Atlantic Coast Pipeline route
On May 3rd, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC issued a Supplemental Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement or EIS related to the new route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project announced in February. The new route will impact many more homeowners and businesses in Pocahontas and Bath counties than the previous route. A comment period on the new route for oral and written comments is now open and will remain open until June 2nd, 2016. Representatives from FERC and Dominion will be on hand in Pocahontas and Bath counties in May to hear input from residents and other concerned citizens about the new route.
FERC is the lead federal agency for the preparation of the EIS. The US Forest Service is working with FERC as a cooperating agency as the pipeline route would cross both Monongahela and George Washington National forest lands. Comments on the ACP were previously solicited by FERC in the spring of 2015. They are now seeking comments on the new pipeline route and facility modifications to help commission staff determine what issues need to be evaluated in the EIS. Comments should focus on the potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives, and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts from the new route and proposed modifications, according to the notice of intent. If you have previously provided comments on the ACP or Supply Header projects, you do not need to resubmit those comments.
The new route, also known as GWNF 6 was proposed in order to reduce the impacts on critical habitats for the Cheat Mountain Salamander and the Northern Flying Squirrel as well reduce the amount of forest land and other sensitive environmental areas that would be crossed by the pipeline. It was also proposed to protect the Cheat Mountain Civil War Battlefield and in Bath County, an open-space conservation easement held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. In addition to the route modification, this proposed route would also increase the horsepower of the proposed Compresser Station 2 in Buckingham County and the installation of eight additional valve sites.
Two public scoping meetings will be held in May to give residents an opportunity to present their views on the new route directly to FERC staff. On Friday, May 20th, FERC staff will be at the Wellness Center in Marlinton from 10am to 7pm. Then on Saturday, May 21st, FERC staff will be at Bath County High School from 10am to 7pm. Representatives of Dominion will also be on hand at the meetings. FERC will not have a formal presentation at these meetings and residents may attend at any time throughout the day. Verbal comments will be recorded by a court reporter and transcripts will be placed into the docket for the project and made available to the public via FERC’s eLibrary system. FERC says that verbal comments will hold the same weight as those submitted in writing or electronically. If a significant number of people are interested in providing comments, a time limit of 3 to 5 minutes may be imposed.