FERC Scoping Meeting Part 2 –Important Questions Addressed
In part one of the FERC Scoping meeting story, Kevin Bowman, FERC Project Manager of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposal talked about the scoping meetings, the types of comments FERC is receiving from the public and the attendance at the scoping meeting in Marlinton. He also said comments can still be sent to FERC by email or postal mail before June 2nd. You can find those addresses with this story on our website, www.alleghenymountainradio.org.
In Part 2 Bowman answers more probing questions.
I asked Bowman that since a number of citizens, including the Pocahontas County Commissioners have reservations about the new alternative route preferring instead the original northern route, would FERC consider this?
“I would say that almost every project encounters some sort of issue with it” said Bowman. “And most of these issues need to be addressed and analyzed and addressed by both the applicant and FERC. And often and many times in projects there are land use conflicts that are essentially un-permittable. So there’s a lot of discussions that need to be made with applicants and landowners and conversations between stakeholders and resource agencies in identifying what those issues are and possible solutions for addressing those issues that arise through the public comment process.”
So I tried again, a little more directly, asking him if there is any possibility that the original pipeline route could be modified and still be made to work.
“I don’t think that any alternative is ever off the table” Bowman answered. “Some alternatives offer environmental advantages that are much more obvious to the naked eye, and some are easier to assess and analyze and compare than others. When new re-routes are adopted usually there is some sort of environmental reason that’s driving them towards a new alternative verses a prior alternative. Our job is to assess whether those drivers are real and offer significant advantages. Through our discussions with cooperating agencies, if there is a route that offers a significant environmental advantage over a proposed action, often times FERC does recommend adjustments and modifications to a route as part of our environmental impact statement.”
I mentioned that a lot of the people feel there is no need for this pipeline since there are already so many pipelines, and asked Bowman if FERC has an opinion on that.
“I don’t think FERC has an opinion on that at this time” Bowman responded. “After FERC issues its final environmental impact statement, FERC issues an order essentially determining the fate of the project. And in that order, the FERC does assess whether an applicant’s purported need for a project is real. FERC will eventually have an opinion on a project, but that will come in its ultimate decision for whether the impacts of a project balance any purported need for a project.”
I mentioned that it seems wasteful to do an environmental impact statement when FERC could just determine a project is not needed before all that work. Bowman’s response was just the way the process works.
I asked Bowman if the FERC Commissioners are influenced by political leadership in reaching that final decision.
“Well the Commissioners are presidentially appointed positions” said Bowman. “Currently we have 4 filled positions out of a maximum of 5 positions. At any one time there can be a split of 3 and 2 Commissioners from any given political party. So there could be influences from a potential…ah…party in power…let me think of a better way to say this for you (chuckle) …uh,,,well I would…I would say that while a..they..the Commissioners are politically appointed positions, our recommendations are the recommendations of the unbiased environmental staff. Other things besides non-environmental information such as markets, rates and tariffs are other issues that the Commission considers in its ultimate decisions. But every person has their political..er individual background beliefs, whether they are more conservative or liberal in nature, and I would hope the Commissioners would make their decisions based upon laws, facts and science.”
So, buckle your seat belts and hope they reach an ultimate decision you agree with.
FERC is accepting public comments until June 2nd, 2016 either electronically at www.ferc.gov under the “e-filing link” or by sending comments by mail to:
Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426
Refer to Docket Numbers CP15-554-000 AND CP15-554-001.