Category Archives: FERC

FERC Has a New Facebook Page

Everything is sunshine and blue sky in FERC’s photo of their building on the new FERC Facebook page, and the employee testimonies on the page about working for FERC are blue sky and sunshine as well.

Not so the comments that are piling up on the page. Add yours – tell FERC what you think! Note: FERC says comments on the Facebook page won’t be considered as formal comments to FERC. But don’t let that stop you!

FERC OKs Start of ACP Construction in WV

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.

Virginia Ornithology Group Urges FERC to Hold Firm on Tree Felling Deadline

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.

FERC Initiates Notice of Inquiry into Pipeline Certificate Policy Statement

FERC issued the following press release on April 19. 2018:

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today launched an inquiry seeking information and stakeholder perspectives to help the Commission explore whether, and if so, how, to revise existing policies regarding its review and authorization of interstate natural gas transportation facilities under section 7 of the Natural Gas Act.

“FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to examine its policies in light of changes in the natural gas industry and increased stakeholder interest in how it reviews natural gas pipeline proposals since the Commission adopted its current Policy Statement on pipeline certification. The Commission issued its current Policy Statement, “Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Facilities – Statement of Policy” (Docket No. PL99-3-000), in September 1999.

“Today’s NOI poses a range of questions that reflect concerns raised in numerous public comments, court proceedings and other forums. Through the NOI, FERC is seeking input on potential changes to both the existing Policy Statement and the structure and scope of the Commission’s environmental analysis of proposed natural gas projects.

“The Commission also is seeking feedback on the transparency, timing, and predictability of its certification process. FERC is encouraging commenters to specifically identify any perceived issues with the current analytical and procedural approaches, and to provide detailed recommendations to address these issues.

“Comments are due within 60 days of issuance of the NOI in The Federal Register.”

FERC Denies Dominion Request to Extend Tree-Cutting

On March 28, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today issued a denial of the request by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to extend for two months the right to fell trees for the ACP. Read the FERC denial here.

In March 2017, based on consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Dominion had agreed to the tree-felling restrictions as part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s environmental review process, saying they planned to “comply with these time-of-year restrictions by clearing trees outside of the migratory bird nesting season, and outside of the Indiana bat summer season in occupied habitat.”  Tree felling in Virginia would be restricted from March 15 through August 30 for the migratory bird nesting season.  For Indiana bats, if a tree-felling site is within five miles of a known hibernacula, restrictions apply for April 1-Nov. 15; if a site is not within five miles of a known hibernacula, April 15-Sept. 15.

But then on March 15, 2018, Dominion told FERC that despite their best efforts, they would “be unable to complete the scheduled tree felling … before the existing time-of-year restrictions go into effect,” and they therefore sought “approval to continue tree felling until May 15, 2018, except in U.S. Forest Service lands and in areas where Indiana bats are present or where tree felling would be within five miles of known Indiana bat hibernacula, within a quarter-mile of known Northern long-eared bat hibernacula, or within 150 feet of occupied Northern long-eared bat maternity roosts.”

As an article in Highland County’s The Recorder noted, “Dominion’s request for the extension had generated a tidal wave of protests asking FERC to deny it because the intent was to avoid winged species migration patterns, something an extension would make meaningless.”

FERC denied that request, effectively delaying further preparation for pipeline construction for several months in Virginia.

David Sligh, a former DEQ engineer, now conservation director for Wild Virginia, commented, “Even FERC could not swallow the company’s weak and transparent claims that they’d provide the same level of protection while still cutting far into the period when protective measures are most important.”

Greg Buppert, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said, “Those restrictions were put in place for an important purpose, which was to protect migratory birds and bats.  And we think FERC made the right decision and held Dominion to its promise to implement those restrictions for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

CSI Seeks FERC Investigation of Potential ACP Violations

Apparent equipment staging area and new or reconstructed road and bridges observed during Pipeline Air Force surveillance flights. (3/11/18)

On March 14, 2018, we reported on the first incident report from the Compliance Surveillance Initiative (CSI), apparent unauthorized access road and staging area construction in the MP158 area, the Augusta County Horizontal Direction Drilling area. A request was filed March 22 on behalf of Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to investigate potential violations by Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) of the Commission’s Certificate and Virginia’s water quality certification. Aerial photographs taken earlier in March by ABRA’s CSI showed what appears to be substantial construction work in an area of Augusta County, near the site from which ACP proposes to bore through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The photographs show new and improved roads, new bridges, and what appear to be equipment parking and staging areas.

The observed activities do not appear to have been authorized under any of the limited Notices to Proceed FERC has issued, which allow tree cutting by non-mechanized means. The request explains that these actions will impact water quality in a number of ways and that, since the State of Virginia has not approved erosion and sediment control and stormwater plans and its water quality certification is not effective, possible land disturbance, changes to stormwater flows, and other effects must not be allowed. The submittal to FERC also notes that ACP’s weekly status reports have not provided notice of any of these activities and that environmental compliance reports indicate these sites have not been inspected.

The submitters also asked that the Commission report on its investigative proceedings and findings to ABRA, the CSI, and the public and that it not invoke regulatory provisions to keep this information from citizens.