This weekend, on Sunday, March 19th, Friends of Nelson will be holding a comment-writing workshop at the Rockfish Valley Community Center between 3:00 and 7:00 pm. Volunteers will be available to help you draft your comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and to help walk you through the process of submitting your comments online to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Remember, the deadline for submitting comments to FERC about the DEIS is April 6, 2017. You can submit as many comments as you would like to FERC, but they need to be submitted by the deadline.
FERC is also accepting comments on behalf of the Forest Service regarding the authorization of the ACP on National Forest lands and the proposed amendments of the Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) that would allow the ACP to be constructed across the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests. The deadline for comments to FERC regarding the ACP on National Forest lands is April 10, 2017.
For more information about submitting comments to FERC, please visit our FERC page.
If you can’t make it to Friends of Nelson’s comment-writing workshop at RVCC, Wild Virginia will also be holding comment-writing workshops in Staunton on March 20th and in Charlottesville on March 27th.
Bloomberg and Utility Dive reported this week that the Trump administration has likely selected nominees to fill the three open commissioner’s seats at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The likely nominees are Kevin McIntyre, Neil Chatterjee, and Robert Powelson. McIntyre is a lawyer at the Cleveland energy firm Jones Day who argued cases before the commission on behalf of energy companies. Chatterjee is an aid to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and has long been involved in crafting conservative environmental policy in the Senate; he helped coordinate efforts to oppose the Clean Power Plan. Powelson is a Pennsylvania utility regulator and president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; he is an advocate for the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, particularly gas pipelines. The confirmation process for these nominees is still likely to take as long as three months once it gets underway, so it will still be some time before FERC has a quorum and can resume issuing approvals for projects.
The Huffington Post, E&E News, and Common Dreams have also reported this week that the Trump administration may be looking to circumvent the rule that a president may appoint no more than three commissioners to FERC from his own political party. Traditionally, the president has deferred to the Senate minority committee in the selection of additional nominees for regulatory agencies that are led by five-member commissions, such as FERC. President Trump may seek to circumvent this by selecting additional members for the commission who are registered as Independents but who share his views on energy policy. FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable’s five-year term expires in June of 2017, leaving her seat at FERC open to fulfillment by President Trump.
The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition (DPMC) released a new story map this week about the major problems with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP’s) route through the National Forests. The report highlights seven major issues with the DEIS and provides information on how you can help protect our National Forests by submitting a comment to FERC that asks the Forest Service to deny a Special Use Permit that would allow construction of the ACP through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests.
The DPMC has identified seven problem areas in the DEIS for the ACP:
- The request for an amendment to the forest plans for the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests would lower standards for soil retention, water quality protection, harvesting old growth trees, crossing the Appalachian Trail, construction of roads in a Scenic River Corridor, and the maintenance of scenic integrity.
- The construction of the ACP and its many access roads would result in significant loss of forestland and increased forest fragmentation. A total of 2,406 acres of core forestland would be lost in the National Forests. This impact cannot be mitigated.
- The DEIS fails to acknowledge and address the many endangered and sensitive species that will be negatively impacted by the ACP. The DEIS only identifies five species that would be adversely affected, but the US Fish & Wildlife Service has identified 30 federally threatened or endangered species, 2 designated critical habitats, 1 proposed species, 5 proposed critical habitats, and 6 species under review for federal listing that are known to occur along the ACP route. Furthermore, forest fragmentation or slight shifts in the route of the ACP could negatively impact many additional species. Many of the biological surveys for special species may not be completed until September 2017; therefore, survey results are not included in the DEIS. The DEIS is thus incomplete with regard to impacts to sensitive species and cannot inform the Forest Service regarding its decision to issue a Special Use Permit.
- The ACP will threaten water quality in pristine streams and rivers in the National Forests. The ACP and it access roads would cross 58 streams in the National Forests, including 26 native brook trout streams.
- The ACP route passes through high-hazard areas with steep terrain that would be prone to severe erosion, landslides, and harmful stream sedimentation. The DEIS identified over 100 possible slope instability hazard locations along the proposed ACP route. The Forest Service asked Dominion to provide detailed plans for 10 high-hazard areas with steep slopes, unstable soils, and problematic bedrock types, but, due to Dominion’s lack of a timely response, this information is not in the DEIS.
- The proposed use of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) to cross the Appalachian Trail at the Augusta County–Nelson County line poses a substantial risk of failure and environmental damage, given workspace limitations and the topographic and geologic characteristics of the proposed drilling locations. The Forest Service has stipulated that its issuance of a permit for the ACP to cross National Forest lands is contingent on the successful completion of the HDD under the Appalachian Trail.
- The ACP passes through some of the most scenic locations in the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and would destroy the scenic integrity of these areas. The DEIS states that the ACP would not meet Forest plan standards for scenic integrity and thus would require a plan amendment to bypass the standards.
You can help protect our National Forests by submitting a comment to FERC that asks the Forest Service to deny a Special Use Permit for the ACP and reject forest plan amendments. The DPMC encourages you to submit comments that emphasize that the DEIS is incomplete, inconsistent, and incorrect and does not provide adequate information for Forest Service decisions.
You can submit comments to FERC through FERC’s online comment system or send written comments to the following address:
Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426
Be sure to use the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s docket number CP15-554-000 when submitting your comment to FERC, whether you submit electronically or by mail. The deadline for comments to FERC regarding the ACP on National Forest lands is April 10, 2017.
For more information on how to send comments to FERC, please visit our FERC page. To view the DPMC’s excellent story map (which contains much more information that the overview presented here) in its entirety, click here.
In a letter to the Nelson County Board of Supervisors on March 2nd, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) informed the board that it has been granted consulting party status under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) Project. As a consulting party, the Nelson County Board of Supervisors will be granted access to cultural resources survey reports for Nelson County. These cultural resource reports are filed as “Privileged and Confidential” and are not normally accessible to the public. The Board of Supervisors will likely be asked to sign confidentiality agreements with ACP to access this information, and any comments that the board files with FERC regarding this cultural resource information will also be marked confidential and will not be accessible to the public.
To read FERC’s letter to the Nelson County Board of Supervisors, you can download the document by clicking here.
Delaware Riverkeeper and Stop the Pipelines have launched a campaign to take advantage of the current lack of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) quorum by urging representatives to oppose the appointment of any new FERC commissioners until Congress holds hearings investigating the many problems with FERC and institutes reforms for the agency. You can write to your representative about this issue by using Delaware Riverkeeper’s easy online comment form: just fill in your contact information to immediately send a letter to your representative using Delaware Riverkeeper’s pre-written letter.
For more online comment forms and petitions that make it easy for you to make your voice heard on issues related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, see our Petitions page.
An article in E&E News, titled “FERC Keeps Obama Guidance Alive in Manual for Gas Projects,” reports that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) included Obama-era guidance, which called for the consideration of climate impacts for pipeline projects, in its most recently released guidance manual for pipeline developers. The guidance in the manual advises pipeline developers to “calculate their projects’ greenhouse gases and weigh the impact on local, state or regional climate goals” and “assess threats from rising sea levels or storm surge flooding on the proposed pipelines, export terminals and compressor stations.”
While it is unclear whether or how much the changes in the Trump administration will affect FERC’s policies in the coming months, FERC’s continued compliance with the Obama-era climate guidance is certainly welcome news for those individuals and groups who are concerned about the climate impacts of proposed pipelines, such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. That said, FERC spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said that the manual’s release was simply a finalization of FERC’s work on a revision of the manual to comply with the Obama climate guidance, and she would not comment on whether the guidance may change again under the Trump administration.
To read the E&E News article in its entirety, click here.