Forest Service Announces ACP Decision
In a press release on Friday, July 21st, the U.S.D.A Forest Service announced it had issued a draft record of decision to authorize the use and occupancy of National Forest System lands for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and approve project-specific amendments for the Monongahela National Forest and George Washington National Forest Plans.
The proposed pipeline route traverses 604 miles to deliver natural gas from the Appalachian Basin to markets in the mid-Atlantic region of Virginia and North Carolina. The draft decision, jointly issued by the Forest Service’s Eastern and Southern Regional Foresters, would allow Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC to construct and operate 21 miles of the pipeline route that would cross National Forest System lands. Southern Regional Forester, Tony Tooke said “Our proposed decision recognizes Forest Service efforts to provide for multiple uses, minimize impacts to natural resources, and to support federal policies that encourage energy infrastructure, jobs, and economic growth.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was the lead federal agency in preparing the environmental impact statement for the project. After the draft EIS was released, the Forest Service reviewed public comments, additional information and FERC’s analysis which resulted in a number of changes being incorporated into the final EIS. The agency also worked with ACP to develop project features and mitigation measures to minimize impacts to natural and cultural resources and other uses.
FERC issued a final EIS for the proposed ACP on July 21, 2017. FERC’s final EIS details the potential impacts of the entire 604-mile route, including the portion that cross 5.1 miles of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, and 15.9 miles of the George Washington National Forest in Virginia. The ACP would impact about 430 acres of the National Forests during construction and after restoration, the land requirement would be reduced to about 214 acres for long term operation. The final pipeline corridor would be 50 feet wide.
Individuals who submitted comments to FERC during the public comment periods are eligible to object to this draft decision. Objections may be submitted to the Forest Service for 45 days ending at midnight, September 5, 2017. After objections are resolved, the Forest Service will issue a final decision on the project. More information on the Forest Service’s draft record and objection process, can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/gwj/.