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


HOW TO COMMENT ON THE DEIS

FERC issued the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the ACP on December 30, 2016.  Deadline for comments on the DEIS is April 6, 2017.  You may submit multiple comments.  If you want to comment on multiple issues (and there are certainly multiple issues worthy of comment!) it is more effective to submit separate comments for each issue rather than rolling up many issues into one letter/comment.

Be sure to use the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s docket number CP15-554-000 when submitting your comment to FERC, whether you submit electronically or by U.S. mail.

Wild Virginia has prepared a step-by-step Guide to Commenting on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline DEIS. Use this guide to submit comments electronically.  If you wish to send your comments or letters via the U.S. mail, see the address information below, under How to Send Your Comments to FERC.  See also the suggestions in our What Should You Say? section below.

Wild Virginia will host three comment-writing nights in March, one at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Nelson County on March 19, 2017, one in Staunton on March 20, 2017, and one in Charlottesville on March 28, 2017.  Wild Virginia will walk you through the online commenting system and help you make comments if you want a hand. Please register for the one you want to attend so they will know to expect you.

HOW TO BECOME AN INTERVENOR WITH FERC

WIld Virginia has produced an excellent document on why and how to file with FERC as an intervenor, complete with step-by-step instructions.  The document also explains how to file comments as an intervenor.  Click here to read, download, or print this useful document.

HOW TO SEND YOUR COMMENTS TO FERC

Be sure to use the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s docket number CP15-554-000 when submitting your comment to FERC, whether you submit electronically or by U.S. mail.

You may  submit a comment to FERC electronically (https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx).  

Directions to submit an e comment:

Go to https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx and fill in your information.  They will send you an email immediately. You will need to click on the link they provide in the email. It will take you to the FERC comment page. You will need to enter the ACP docket number – CP15-554-000. After you have entered it, it should show up in a box, and you will need to click on the blue ‘+’ next to it. Then you copy and paste your comment into the provided box or write in your comment and submit.

You can also send comments and letters by U.S. mail, addressed to:

Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

To receive notifications from FERC:  You can also set up an eSubscription to receive, via email, every comment, filing and notification under the ACP’s docket number, CP15-554-000. You have to register before you can subscribe.

To read other submissions to FERC:  You can search the FERC database of comments submitted on the ACP using either their General Search page or their Advanced Search page.  In both cases, be sure to include the docket number (CP15-554-000) and to click Natural Gas in the Library section.

WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY?

Comments to FERC provide the opportunity to set the scope of work on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the most important document that comes out of the regulatory process.  FERC noted several major environmental issues that were raised during the project’s scoping period, including “karst terrain and caves; impacts on groundwater and springs, drinking water supplies, and surface waterbodies; impacts on forest; impacts on property values and the use of eminent domain; impacts on tourism; impacts on public recreational areas such as the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and the Blue Ridge Parkway; impacts on historic properties and districts; and pipeline safety.”

Even though the formal “scoping period” ended in April 2015, we’re not done!  FERC published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on December 30, 2016, and will take comments on that up to April 6, 2017.  Then FERC will work on the final EIS, which they will probably issue in late June 2017.

If you have something to say – say it and send it! Many environmental law firms, government agencies, etc., submitted excellent comments and recommendations during the initial scoping period, which ended in 2015 – see here and here for listings, links, and sample letters.  Reviewing these comments will give you ideas of what you can say.  We want to set the bar as high as possible, to ensure that as many areas of concern as possible are thoroughly discussed in the final EIS.  We do not have to provide all the answers, but we do need to raise every question or concern that we expect FERC to examine.

When sending comments to FERC it is good to include negative impacts that are specific to your property, to neighbors’ properties along your section of the route, and to Nelson County and the Shenandoah Valley as regions. You can also consider negative impacts at an even broader scale – to our country, or to the entire world. You may choose to make comments on however many issues, at however many levels you would like, and you may send as many letters or comments as you like.

Here’s a sample of what you could say:

State your relationship to the ACP:

  • I am a property owner on the route of the ACP
  • I live in Nelson County [or another community] directly impacted by the ACP
  • I am a frequent visitor to the National Forest/Nelson County/ etc. traversed by the route etc.
  • My property will be impacted by the ACP (if true).

It is very important to tell FERC that you are counting on their agency to:

  • Require Dominion to fully consider alternatives to meet proven need, if demonstrated.  Alternatives must include modifying existing infrastructure, renewables and increased efficiency, and alternative routes that utilize existing pipeline corridors, other utility easements, and transportation corridors.
  • Assess the cumulative impacts of all past and reasonably foreseeable consequences of both existing and proposed pipelines in Virginia, including the broader related effects of fracking and exporting gas. FERC must demand an analysis of the whole system of pipelines and extraction, not a piecemeal segmental selection. (We won’t tolerate seeing the ACP impacts presented as if it stood alone.)
  • Given the complexity of the pipeline route in Nelson County and the recently announced route alternatives that have left many newly affected property owners scrambling to understand and respond to the implications of being on the new route, FERC needs to give the public and interested agencies more time to assemble, assess, and understand information.

Other Issues to Consider in Your Comments

  • Property rights: Let FERC representatives know you will NOT negotiate with Dominion—that Dominion will have to use eminent domain to take your land.
  • Environmental issues: Mention concerns regarding impacts to water, including how blasting may damage your springs and wells, as well as county wetlands, animals, and plants—particularly endangered species. Tell them that Nelson’s geology of steep slopes and shallow soils on fragile bedrock makes Nelson particularly vulnerable to landslides, erosion, and sedimentation pollution.
  • Economic concerns: Talk about the disruption to businesses (especially in the Tourism sector), the potential degradation of property values, and socioeconomic stratification. Mention increasing evidence that there is NO NEED for this new pipeline, and that combined with falling prices, this pipeline would NOT be a profitable venture.
  • Recreation and Aesthetic concerns: (Both of these go hand-in-hand with Economic and Environmental concerns.) A wide swath of the George Washington National Forest would be clear-cut over mountains and valleys—scarring the prestigious, untrammeled beauty of this treasured land. Many visitors come to Nelson County deserving and expecting nothing more than to experience the breath-taking scenery here.
  • Cultural and historic resources: Let them know how the proposed route would violate historic districts, historic properties, cemeteries, Native American sites, etc.
  • Mitigation measures: You could specifically request to know what “mitigation measures” Dominion would make to compensate for the damage it would cause here in Nelson County.
  • If you have any photographs (e.g. of flooding on the pipeline’s proposed route), documentation, or scientific evidence referenced in your comments, you should include the relevant articles or evidence or provide the appropriate references to support your assertions.

Helpful Information from Other Communities Who Have Worked with FERC

So Your Community is Going to be Fracked, Mined, Factory Farmed, or fill in the blank….   Communities across the country, trying to stop a wide range of threats – such as fracking or pipelines – all run into the same problem: they don’t have the legal authority to say “no” to them. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund organizes in communities facing such threats. They have created this short video to share with you how a structure of law has developed that stands in the way of us saying “no” to harmful activities. It walks step-by-step through the barriers we face in our communities and what communities are doing – and what you can do – about it.

Stopping the pipeline: What are the options?  From kindred spirits in Massachusetts, written by environmental attorney Mary Douglas, comes this very readable description of the interstate pipeline process. FERC, NEPA, NGA, EA, EIS: they’re all in here, written to be easily understood by the general public.

From the Lancaster PA pipeline fight: Residents are fighting The Atlantic Sunrise Project, a 42-inch natural gas pipeline Williams Transco intends to drive through historic Lancaster County PA. Although the terrain differs significantly from that in Nelson County (no mountains!), we have much to learn from them about the FERC process and about fighting a large corporation. Their Website notes, “Whether supportive, opposed, or indifferent to the pipeline, it is part of our civic duty and our obligations to our successors to form our positions and responses in a fully-informed manner.” These links are all relevant to Nelson’s ongoing efforts against Dominion.

        • The Lancasterpipeline.org website provides central access to information about the proposed project and process, much of which is only available via numerous separate sources.
        • 10-16-14 Lancaster [PA] Online: Panel: New issues emerging in fight against gas pipelines. “While it’s true the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has only rejected one gas pipeline request in the United States in the last 10 years, only now are concerned citizens beginning to organize and present expert evidence that is beginning to give the independent agency pause, suggested Carolyn Elefant, a Washington, D.C., attorney and former FERC employee. Emerging issues include whether gas pipelines are truly needed if much of the gas is exported overseas, the need to revise pipeline requests because of the growing network of pipelines’ cumulative impacts and if pipelines affect property owners’ insurance rates and adversely affect mortgage requirements. ‘The only way these will be tested down the road is if people get organized and raise the issues,’ said Elefant.”
        • On 6-11-2014, LancasterOnline reported that 1,100 swarm gas pipeline open house in Millersville [PA]. People in Millersville were critical of the open house format and the lack of a chance for citizens as a group to ask Williams questions about their concerns. Dominion describes the upcoming 16 September Open House at the Nelson Center as an opportunity for “citizen input,” but that was not the case in Pennsylvania.
        • Video of an Open House by Williams/Transco in Susquehanna County PA for their “Atlantic Sunrise” pipeline, June 2, 2014. A preview of what we can expect in Nelson on September 16.  (1 hr 48 min YouTube video)
        • Pennsylvania residents ask questions about pipelines (useful questions for landowners to consider) in these articles from the Lebanon Daily News (8-6-14) and the LancasterOnline (8-4-14)
        • Speakers against the Atlantic Sunrise Project during the FERC public hearing for Lancaster County PA (4 hr 35 min Youtube video)
        • Speakers against the Atlantic Sunrise Project during the FERC public hearing in Lehman PA (1 hr 18 min Youtube video)
        • Lancaster Farmland Trust’s comments to FERC during the EIS scoping period.

The Ruby Pipeline, a 680 mile 42 inch natural gas pipeline, went into service in 2011. Stretching from Wyoming into Oregon, it passes through 1,069 water bodies and the Rockies. The link is to the environmental impact statement (EIS). Nearly every concern here in Nelson is found and addressed in this EIS.

This link is to the FERC Environmental Assessment for Dominion’s Appalachian Gateway project. The Gateway project is FERC approved, includes new natural gas pipe and compressor stations in West Virginia and Pennsylvannia and was activated in 2012. The Assessment is a very large file containing information about pipeline impacts on, and treatment of, archaeological sites, stream crossings, migratory birds, and much more.