Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT FERC

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is the independent regulatory agency responsible for granting the ACP the green light for construction and eminent domain – or not. Under section 7 of the Natural Gas Act, the Commission reviews applications for the construction and operation of natural gas pipelines.  Read more about the FERC on their Web Page.   ACP LLC filed their formal application with the FERC in September 2015; FERC issued the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on December 30, 2016.

Unfortunately, FERC is a very controversial agency.  A growing chorus of individuals and groups has begun calling for reform.  See, for example, Beyond Extreme Energy and their nine-point plan for FERC reform



FERC APPROVES CERTIFICATES OF PUBLIC CONVENIENCE FOR ACP

After 7:00 p.m. on Friday October 13, 2017, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted certificates of public convenience and necessity to both the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.  Recently appointed FERC Commissioners Neil Chatterjee and Robert F. Powelson voted in favor of certification, Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur dissented.

In its 157-page approval statement for the ACP, the Commission said:

“As explained herein, we find that the benefits that the ACP Project, Supply Header Project, and Capacity Lease will provide to the market outweigh any adverse effects on existing shippers, other pipelines and their captive customers, and on landowners and surrounding communities. Further, as set forth in the environmental discussion below, we agree with Commission staff’s conclusion in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that, if constructed and operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and with the implementation of the applications’ proposed mitigation and staff’s recommendations, now adopted as conditions in the attached Appendix A of this order, the projects will result in some adverse and significant environmental impacts, but that these impacts will be reduced to acceptable levels. Therefore, we grant the requested authorizations, subject to conditions.”

In her 5-page dissent, Ms. LaFleur said, “I recognize that the Commission’s actions today are the culmination of years of work in the pre-filing, application, and review processes, and I take seriously my decision to dissent. I acknowledge that if the applicants were to adopt an alternative solution, it would require considerable additional work and time. However, the decision before the Commission is simply whether to approve or reject these projects, which will be in place for decades. Given the environmental impacts and possible superior alternatives, approving these two pipeline projects on this record is not a decision I can support.  For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.”

Read the approval statement for the ACP here.  Ms. LaFleur’s dissent begins on page 151

Read the approval statement for the MVP here.  Ms. LaFleur’s dissent begins on page 136.


FERC RELEASES FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR 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.


FERC RELEASES DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR ACP

On December 30, 2016, FERC released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. In response to requests from numerous elected officials and organizations, FERC has extended the usual 45-day period for public comments; the deadline is April 6, 2017.