Category Archives: National Forest Service

Forest Service Issues Record of Decision


On July 21, 2017, the U.S. Forest Service issued a draft Record of Decision to authorize the use and occupancy of National Forest System lands for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Forest Service release statement is available at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd551404.pdf.

The draft Decision document is available at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd551283.pdf.

Wild Virginia’s statement on the Forest Service release says,

This terrible decision would authorize the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to construct 21 miles of pipeline on lands managed by the George Washington (GWNF) and Monongahela National Forests (MNF). The proposed pipeline route would also cross both the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Forest Service had to issue this decision because current forest plan standards for both forests do not allow this destructive development. The Forest Service chose to change the rules for ACP and approved 14 total amendments to standards in these forest plans. Without amending these standards the ACP project would violate the forest plans for both of these forests.

“These standards were created to protect our forests and water. The Forest Service has put the integrity of our public lands at risk and goals of private profit ahead of the safety of our watersheds.

This decision is based on the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)

This FEIS is drastically incomplete and in no way addresses the impacts to our lands, air, and water. Read more from our coalition press statement released today: FERC’s final Atlantic Coast Pipeline report a sham. The FEIS 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”.

This is an important time to make your voice heard:

You have the right to object to this decision if you:

  1. Previously submitted timely, specific written comments to the Forest Service or to FERC during comment periods. (If you’re not sure if you did, we can help you look it up).
  2. Can raise an issue that arose after the formal public comment period closed. More information on how to object Click Here

The release statement sets forth the following parameters for objections to the draft record of decision:

Quick Facts from the Draft Record of Decision:

  • 214 acres of Forest Service lands will be will be maintained and operated for long-term use by ACP.
  • The Pipeline would be installed under 17 perennial, 28 intermittent, and 11 ephemeral waterbodies on Forest Service lands.
  • ACP will cross about 2.4 miles of karst topography on Forest Service lands.
  • The Pipeline could also impact cave invertebrates and other subterranean obligate species (amphipods, isopods, copepods, flatworms, millipedes, beetles, etc.) that are endemic to only a few known locations.

Press coverage of the Forest Service release may be read here:  7-21-17 Nelson County Times/News-Advance. Forest Service issues draft decision to OK use of National Forest System lands for pipeline.

Conflicts of Interest

This letter to the editor by Jane Twitmyer, published in the Washington Post on July 3, 2017, is a fine summary of the multiple conflicts of interest in reviewing the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “We need to know if anyone is actually working for us.” Indeed!

Evidently, ensuring that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s 1,989 water-body crossings comply with Virginia’s water-quality standards is just too big a job for our Department of Environmental Quality, even if it is its job, so the Department of Environmental Quality handed its responsibility off to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A Permit 12, issued nationwide by the corps, could approve all 1,989 water-body crossings of the pipeline without any site-specific review.

To make the handoff to the corps, the Department of Environmental Quality is required to determine that the corps’s requirements comply with Virginia’s water-quality standards for these projects. The Department of Environmental Quality outsourced that job, too, and Dominion agreed to pay a contractor hired by the state to evaluate its pipeline proposal for the Department of Environmental Quality. Incredibly, the contractor is doing several other jobs for Dominion. So Dominion is paying a familiar contractor to approve its work on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality. This clearly is a conflict of interest, but it’s not the only one. A contractor hired by the Forest Service to represent its interests in the pipeline’s Blue Ridge Parkway crossing is working for Dominion on the pipeline project, and the third-party contractor hired by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review the pipeline is tied to Dominion’s main environmental consultant in the project.

The administration and our regulators need to release all of their documents. We need to know if anyone is actually working for us.

HDD: A Limited Review by a Company Working for Dominion

[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, 2017DeSmog 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.

US Forest Service Comments on DEIS

In their comments to FERC submitted on April 6, 2017, the Forest Service cited shortcomings in both the ACP and MVP proposals and asked FERC to reconsider merging the two proposals into a single pipeline proposal. In the DEIS, FERC said, “Construction and operation of a merged system alternative may hold an environmental advantage when compared to construction and operation of both (ACP) and (MVP) separately.”

But FERC also said in the DEIS, “Pursuing this (merged system) alternative would require significant time for the planning and design, result in a significant delay to the delivery of … natural gas to the proposed customers of both (ACP and MVP), and would limit the ability to provide additional gas to the projects’ customers. When the environmental factors, technical feasibility, and ability to meet the purpose and need of the projects are cumulatively considered, we do not find that the merged system alternative holds a significant advantage over the proposed actions and have eliminated it from further consideration.”

The Forest Service response: “This statement is not supported by the information presented. If the merged system is potentially environmentally advantageous, then it is possible that the merged system is preferable to the proposed actions.”

In addition to discussing the merge of the MVP and ACP, the Forest Service filing also discusses concerns about water pollution, landslides, ridge removal, wildlife habitat, forcing the Forest Service to amend its publicly vetted plans and – most of all – the DEIS implications that project approval as proposed is certain.

Comment on ACP on Forest Service Lands


The April 6, 2017, deadline for commenting to FERC on the DEIS has passed, but you still have time to comment to the Forest Service! Their deadline is April 10, 2017.

The Forest Service has requested comments on the authorization of the ACP on National Forest lands and on 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.

Comments to the Forest Service regarding the authorization of the ACP through National Forest Lands and the proposed amendments to the LRMPs for the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests need to be submitted to FERC.  You can file comments online using FERC’s eComment feature (for brief, text-only comments) or eFiling feature (for longer comments).  You can also mail comments to FERC at the address below:

Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr., Deputy Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

As always, remember to include the ACP’s project docket number when submitting comments to FERC: CP15-554-000.  Comments are due by April 10, 2017.

In order for the ACP to be built across National Forest lands, the Forest Service would need to authorize the pipeline crossing, issue a special use permit, and amend the LRMPs for both National Forests, as the current LRMPs do not permit such large-scale infrastructure construction.  Amendments to the LMRPs would allow the ACP to exceed current Forest Service standards for soils and water, cross the Appalachian trail, remove old growth trees, fail to meet current Scenic Integrity Objectives, and construct access roads in the National Forests.  For more information about the specific amendments to the LRMPs for the National Forests, please see the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the ACP

For background on Forest Service frustrations with Dominions incomplete and evasive answers to their questions, see the February 22, 2017 letter to Monongahela Forest supervisor Clyde Thompson from James Thompson, a West Virginia University professor and specialist in soils and land use who has been contracted by the Forest Service as a third-party reviewer for the pipeline project, discusses in detail Dominion’s failures.