Category Archives: FERC

FERC Issues FEIS on ACP


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its final Environmental Impact Statement on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on July 21, 2017. FERC has 90 days to make a decision on issuing a certificate of approval for the project.

The full statement can be found here: https://ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis/2017/07-21-17-FEIS.asp

The summary statement from FERC staff includes this paragraph:

“The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of ACP and SHP would result in some adverse effects, such as impacts on steep slopes and adjacent waterbodies and associated aquatic resources; forested vegetation; Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, Roanoke logperch, Madison cave isopod, clubshell mussel, small whorled pogonia, and running buffalo clover; and karst, cave, subterranean habitat and the species associated with these habitats. Implementation of Atlantic and DETI’s respective impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as their adherence to staff’s recommendations in the EIS would further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts. Most, but not all of these impacts, would be reduced to less-than-significant levels. These determinations are based on a review of the information provided by Atlantic and DETI in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests; field investigations; scoping; literature research; alternatives analyses; and consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, and other stakeholders.”

We note that the FERC staff makes little mention of input from the large number of experts in varied fields who have presented evidence of severe consequences, relying instead on “information provided by Atlantic and DETI in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests.”

Note also that these are a staff recommendations only; actual FERC permits need approval by the Commissioners (there is only one at the moment, with three more nominated but not yet approved by the Senate). and the ACP must receive other permits as well, e.g. from DEQ and the USFS.

Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA, of which Friends of Nelson is a member) issued a press release saying the EIS fails to assess whether the project is even needed (relying solely on the project developer’s claims of need), that numerous studies in recent years show the gas and utility sector is overbuilding natural gas infrastructure, and that the EIS glosses over the profound and permanent harm to water resources and drinking water supplies, forest ecosystems, wildlife and endangered species habitat, historic sites, agricultural resources, public lands including the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, and local economies. A significant red flag for the ABRA is FERC’s reliance on Dominion’s pledges to mitigate harm to water resources rather than requiring the company to provide upfront detailed plans to be shared with the public prior to granting federal certification and the power of eminent domain. The press release also lists nine key points the EIS fails to adequately address.

Sierra Club Asks FERC to Issue Revised DEIS

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.

NPR Pipeline Analysis



Natural Gas Building Boom Fuels Climate Worries, Enrages Landowners is a lengthy and well-researched NPR Morning Edition piece, the result of a six-month investigation into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and its handling of the gas pipeline building boom. The report discusses the multiple pipelines proposed in the last several years (including the MVP and ACP), the dysfunctionality of FERC, the push by energy companies, and the push-back by pipeline opponents. The story was researched, written, and produced by the Center for Public Integrity, joining with StateImpact Pennsylvania and NPR.

Versions of the story also appear on the Center for Public Integrity and the StateImpact Web pages.

StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration between WITF and WHYY, and covers the fiscal and environmental impact of Pennsylvania’s booming energy economy, with a focus on Marcellus Shale drilling – and Marcellus Shale drilling is what brings us the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. The Center for Public Integrity was founded in 1989 by Charles Lewis and is one of the country’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations.

Seven Groups Urge FERC to protect VOF Conservation Easements

In Joint Comments filed with FERC on July 14, 2017, seven groups urged FERC to include in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the ACP a recommendation that the ACP alter its proposal to avoid Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) open-space easements, the same approach to protecting VOF easements that FERC recently took with the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

The Comments state, “One issue of common and significant concern is the impact the proposed ACP route would have on ten open-space easements held by VOF and, by extension, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s open space land protection program. The proposed route that Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) is pursuing for the ACP would cross ten VOF open-space easements, permanently impacting 54.6 acres of protected property and damaging another 73.8 acres of these properties with construction access roads and other related disturbances. These are just the direct impacts to these parcels; there would also be substantial and irreversible indirect impacts. As VOF has made clear, such a major intrusion on VOF open-space easements would not only impair the conservation values of each of the ten affected properties, it could jeopardize the Commonwealth’s investments in conservation and result in a loss of public confidence in the effectiveness of openspace easements.”

The Comment also points out that it is not VOF but the ACP “that has proposed the Hayfields Farm property as potential mitigation for impacts to VOF’s open-space easements, and it has done so as part of its effort to persuade VOF to grant ‘conversions’ of the open-space easements pursuant to a provision of the Virginia Code. Of note, VOF has not acted on Atlantic’s requests.”

The seven groups who signed the Joint Comment are Southern Environmental Law Center, Piedmont Environmental Council, Highlanders for Responsible Development, The Nature Conservancy, Shenandoah Valley Network, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, and Cowpasture River Preservation Association.

Read the full filed Comment here.

And Then There Was One


Friday June 30, 2017, was FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable’s final day at FERC. Although a pair of Trump administration nominees remain on the sidelines awaiting Senate votes, Honorable’s a departure leaves the already quorumless panel with a single member. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved two Trump FERC nominees, Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, but they must be confirmed by the full Senate before taking office and as of this date no vote on their approval has been scheduled.

After Commission Chair Norman Bay resigned at the end of January, Trump appointed Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur as Acting Chair, and she will now be the sole member of the Commission – which is supposed to have five members. FERC suspended its monthly meetings beginning in February as it awaited appointment of enough commissioners to achieve a quorum.

As for a fifth member of the Commission, there have been reports that Trump plans to nominate Kevin McIntyre, an attorney with law firm Jones Day who serves as co-head of the firm’s global energy practice, and other reports he plans to nominate Rich Glick, a staff member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and former vice president at Iberdrola.

Red Flags on ACP DEIS from US Fish and Wildlife Service


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.