Category Archives: National Forest Service

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.

Forest Service Satisfied with Feasibility of Reed’s Gap HDD

The April 6, 2017, Richmond-Times Dispatch article reporting on DEQ’s announcement that it will require individual water quality certifications also reported that “the U.S. Forest Service said it is satisfied with the feasibility of [Dominion’s] proposal to drill through the Blue Ridge Mountain to avoid the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway between Augusta and Nelson counties.” Further, “Clyde Thompson, Forest Service supervisor in the Monongahela in West Virginia, told federal regulators this week that the agency has concluded that the use of horizontal directional drilling and a contingency plan for a more conventional drilling method both would be ‘feasible at the proposed location.’ ”

Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch article here (scroll down to the second half of the article).

Friction between Forest Service and Dominion Over Pipeline Permitting

A lengthy March 20, 2017, Richmond Times-Dispatch article, “Testimony, correspondence, show friction between Dominion, U.S. Forest Service, over pipeline permitting,” discusses the many ways in which Dominion has repeatedly failed to provide information requested and required by the U.S. Forest Service, information relevant to Dominion’s proposed pipeline through steep slope areas of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests. But despite Dominion’s failure to respond to Forest Service requests, during a U.S. Senate committee hearing on energy infrastructure last week a top Dominion official complained about the Forest Service’s slowness in responding to Dominion’s application!

A 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. Teleconferences with the Forest Service on November 21 and December 8, 2016, and another on February 17, 2017, were planned as opportunities for Dominon to present their proposed “Best in Class” Steep Slopes Program and solicit Forest Service feedback. At none of these meetings did Dominion provide any specific or targeted information that would allow the Forest Service to properly evaluate Dominion’s proposal. Further, the analyses and documentation from Dominion does not include data or information derived from the Order 1 Soil Survey previously prepared for National Forest lands along the route. Professor Thompson also notes that Dominion is not making available to meeting participants the documents and data critical for discussion of agenda topics until less than 24 hours before the scheduled teleconferences!

Read Professor Thompson’s letter here and the Richmond Times-Dispatch article here.

Remember that the Forest Service is requesting public 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. For instructions on how to comment, see our January 10, 2017, Web page posting.