On Friday May 11, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted authority for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline “to commence full construction in the certificated workspace and select areas with changes, for the 2018 construction spreads in West Virginia.” FERC’s notice also states that “this authorization grants approval to proceed on properties where tree felling has occurred or for which there are no trees, excluding any workspace located on U.S. National Forest Service lands.”
Read the full FERC notice here.
There’s been a lot going on – here are some news items from our In the News page you may have missed (many additional interesting news articles on that page):
Remember to send your stream-specific comments to DEQ! Deadline is May 30, 2018. Where to send them? What to say? See our May 4, 2018, post.
From ABRA Update #180:
A coalition of 14 conservation organizations, 12 of them members of ABRA, have requested that the Virginia State Water Control Board stay the effective date of the Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), approved on December 12 by the Board. The Certification will not be effective until the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has approved erosion and sediment control plans, as well as other required plans. The DEQ’s review is still ongoing. Furthermore, according to the Certification document that was published on December 20, the Board may consider further action once DEQ’s plan review is completed.
The May 8, 2018, letter from the conservation groups sets forth three principal justifications for its request for a stay:
- The State Water Control Board’s recent opening of a new 30-day comment period on the adequacy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) “raises significant uncertainty for the prior certification determination that there was ‘reasonable assurance’ that the pipeline will comply with Virginia water quality standards.”
- The Board’s concern over whether the NWP 12 will protect water quality is well-founded for the ACP given the many smaller-scale watersheds that would be crossed by the pipeline and the failure of the NWP 12 to provide an assessment of the combined effect of those crossings.
- New information also justifies a stay of the Certification, such as the recent listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the yellow lance mussel as a threatened species. The yellow lance is found in several rivers that would be crossed by the ACP.
The letter concludes by asking that the Board delay the effective date of the Certification until it completes its evaluation of the adequacy of the NWP 12 for the ACP and litigation challenging the Certification is resolved.
From ABRA Update #180:
Strong support for the recent denial by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to extend tree felling for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was voiced this week by the Virginia Society of Ornithology (VSO). In a May 8 letter to FERC, VSO said:
Providing a buffer of trees around any nest site that was identified has been proposed as a mitigation approach. We believe this proposal is impractical, even if the nests were identified. By eliminating neighboring trees and, by coincidence, disturbing adjacent vegetation, and the food resources they harbor, would necessitate nesting birds to forage greater distances to feed their young or simply not have enough food to sustain them. That could make nest failure just as possible as if the nest itself had been destroyed. It is highly unlikely that the ACP project could provide a reasonable buffer for each nest, even assuming it could identify the species involved.
In conclusion, the letter stated:
We cannot justify any scenario of extended tree felling that would provide equal or greater security tor migratory birds or other protected species which are dependent on these forested habitats, in comparison with the original March 15 deadline. Extending tree felling into the heart of the breeding season for many of our most imperiled breeding species runs counter to Dominion Energy’s stated commitment to minimizing environmental impacts. Please continue to support the original intent of the mitigation plan.