A group of about 25 organizations together under the name of “the Public Interest Groups” has filed a new motion with FERC to supplement the Atlantic Coast Pipeline DEIS based on new filings.
The October 9, 2017, filing argues that. “As stated in the Public Interest Groups’ earlier joint motion and two supplements, the Commission is required to rescind and supplement the DEIS in this matter because ‘[t]here are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts.’ At the same time, a new public comment period and hearings should be held after a supplemental DEIS is issued. To not allow the opportunity to comment on an application before it is complete makes a mockery of both the FERC and the NEPA processes.
“Dominion’s practice is to frequently supplement its application without regard for an orderly process and by flaunting FERC and NEPA rules. This has been supported by FERC in its failure to supplement its environmental documents, and allow public review and comment. The application was supplemented some 18 times after the comment period on the DEIS was ended, and even another 5 times after the FEIS was issued. Many of these supplemental filings are not simply de minimus changes but are significant modifications to routes and impact analysis.”
The motion also states that, “Two additional matters require the environmental documents to be supplemented: the impacts of greenhouse gases on the climate crisis, and the plan to extend the ACP into South Carolina.”
The motion asks that, “The Public Interest Groups respectfully renew their joint motion. In this matter, the Commission must take a ‘hard look’ at the new information, review it in the context of the application and current public comments, and then supplement the DEIS to incorporate the new information. At the same time, the Commission should rescind the DEIS and hold the public comment period in abeyance until it issues the supplemental DEIS. Lastly, the Commission should require Dominion to file all additional supplemental information before proceeding further, with full disclosure of all plans to extend the pipeline into other states.”
Read the full motion as filed here.
In a letter dated July 19, 2017, the Sierra Club requested that FERC issue a revised or supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, citing the substantial defects in the DEIS pointed out by government agencies, environmental organizations, and individuals. They ask that a revised DEIS both correct the known defects as well as address the significant new information associated with the project that has come to light since the DEIS public comment period closed on April 6, 2017, and point out that additional information necessary for a fully informed evaluation of potential impacts remains undisclosed.
The letter discusses the legal requirements for a revised or supplemental EIS and documents the lack of relevant environmental information in the DEIS. It states that alternatively FERC must prepare a Supplemental DEIS, that a revised or supplemental DEIS should be prepared to address the inadequacies of the DEIS in furtherance of the purposes of NEPA, and that the issuance of a Final EIS with a comment period is inconsistent with the requirements and purpose of NEPA.
Read the full letter here.
A lengthy article in The Recorder for June 29, 2017, reports on a letter to FERC from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), blocked on the FERC Website, but obtained by The Recorder through a FOIA request.
“The federal agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior dedicated to management of ﬁsh, wildlife and natural habitats has sent up red ﬂags over the draft environmental impact statement for Dominion and Duke Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A letter stamped ‘privileged’ from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expresses deep concerns over incomplete surveys and data. The Recorder obtained the letter, dated March 30 and blocked on the FERC website on April 6, under the Freedom of Information Act on June 22. The newspaper made the FOIA request April 7. The roughly one-month processing of FERC and the month-and-a-half it took USFWS to ﬁll the request took a total of 76 days. Martin Miller, chief of the USFWS Division of Endangered Species Ecological Services, responded by sending an email attachment to his letter granting the request. John Schmidt, USFWS ﬁeld supervisor, wrote the ‘privileged’ letter containing a four-page table of concerns over draft EIS shortcomings in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina to FERC deputy secretary Nathaniel Davis.”
Among the concerns listed in the USFWS letter:
- “The draft EIS was so sketchy with respect to karst, and endangered and threatened species survey data that the USFWS could not begin discussions about the document”
- Lack sufficient data to form a biological opinion for multiple species due to incomplete survey data
- DEIS says karst protection personnel will be consulted – will this be for all karst crossings in all states?
- How could FERC claim damaging karst conditions in Bath County’s Little Valley would be adequately minimized when Little Valley hasn’t been surveyed?
- Several comments repudiated FERC’s claims, based on Dominion’s input, that threatened and endangered species would be minimally impacted
- Deforestation and fragmentation by temporary and permanent right-of-ways: “Even the ‘temporary’ disturbance in forested areas will be long-term because these forest stands will take decades to return to their former state on the area of the ROW allowed to return to its former state.”
Over and over, the USFWS letter asks if surveys have been completed, e.g. “Mussel surveys need to be completed,” or “have sediment analyses been completed?” or “need to provide the status of the habitat assessment or survey.”
Bottom line of this letter, blocked on the FERC Website: “The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service cannot initiate formal consultation with this DEIS” because it is so incomplete or lacking in necessary data.
A June 5, 2017, Roanoke Times article discusses the immense number of supplemental filings submitted to FERC by the Mountain Valley Pipeline after the December 22, 2016, closing date for public comment (10s of 1000s of pages) and the calls by watchdogs for a properly indexed (so “the average person can navigate and understand”) supplemental DEIS before the release of the MVP’s final environmental impact statement, currently scheduled for June 23, 2017. Speaking about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion’s Aaron Ruby said Dominion has “submitted about 10,000 pages since the close of the [ACP] comment period” on April 6, 2017.
Carolyn Elefant, whose law firm often represents pipeline opponents, said substantial filings with FERC after the release of a draft environmental impact statement are not uncommon and are sometimes warranted, but that “her experience suggests the bulk of supplemental filings relate to requests by FERC for more information about known impacts. ‘Often, companies will wait until after the draft EIS deadline to file these materials to prevent landowners from commenting — and that is unfair,’ she said. She said that even though pipeline companies sometimes blame federal and state agencies and the public for project delays, the companies themselves often delay submission of information.”
Meanwhile, many commenters continue to call for a “programmatic environmental impact statement, which would provide, they say, a more comprehensive review of the environmental and other cumulative impacts of several interstate pipelines designed to transport natural gas extracted from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in the Appalachian Basin.” Such a programmatic EIS would include both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.
Read the full article, As filings pile up, pipeline watchdogs call for supplemental draft environmental impact statement.
Doug Wellman’s letter to the editor, published in the Roanoke Times on May 29, 2017, discusses FERC’s rubber-stamp approval of pipeline projects despite evidence against them. “The draft environmental impact statement on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is massive — over 2,300 pages. Reviewing it is a daunting task. But in their one and a half page treatment of the ‘No Action Alternative’ required by law, FERC’s bottom line is clear: the pipeline proposal will be approved. In justifying their cursory dismissal of reasons why the Atlantic Coast Pipeline should not be built, FERC brushes aside the many well-documented comments submitted by pipeline opponents. At least three of their explanations for dismissing ‘no action’ are highly questionable.” He goes on to list FERC’s three “explanations” and the strong case against each of them. Read the full letter here.
[Photo by John Claman: Piney Mountain,Three Ridges, Reed’s Gap]
On April 17, 2017, the US Forest Service submitted a supplement to a filing made on April 6, 2017, which transmitted Forest Service approval of the primary and contingency proposals for the horizontal direct drilling (HDD) drilling under Reeds Gap and the Appalachian Trail near the sole entrance/exit for Wintergreen. The supplement provides the documents the Forest Service received from GAI, the 3rd-party contractor who conducted the review.
The GAI review should have included – but didn’t – the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) report, A High Risk Proposal: Drilling Through the Blue Ridge Mountains for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Instead of being comprehensive, GAI’s review is limited, stating only, “Based on our review of the geotechnical and geological data provided for the proposed HDD, GAI believes an HDD in this location is feasible.”
DPMC’s Rick Webb says there is, “No real discussion or analysis of the issues or even reference to most of the issues – just an opinion – no reference to the lack of geophysical info for most of the drill-path or the extreme conditions.” The DPMC report on drilling through the mountain includes detailed information on how the HDD could fail, which GAI seems to have ignored, and GAI did not address at all the extreme environmental footprint of the project.
Webb continues, “I expressed concern about an obvious conflict of interest to the Forest Service when I heard that GAI was the reviewer. GAI works for Dominion on the ACP. See: https://gaiconsultants.com/project/atlantic-coast-pipeline-project/”
Webb adds, “GAI reps were at the open houses during the EIS scoping period – assuring us of the high-environmental standards and technical capacity of Dominion and the pipeline industry. GAI was also the company that prepared the Erosion and Sediment Control Plans for the recent Stonewall Gathering Pipeline in WV (notable for poor behavior with respect to implementation of the ESC plans on the ground; see http://pipelineupdate.org/2015/08/28/stream-zero/; also in the path of the ACP).”
Note added on April 21, 2017: DeSmog reported on April 20, 2017, that after DeSmog’s story linking GAI to Dominion, GAI removed mention of its link to Dominion from its Web page.