A lengthy article in The Recorder for June 29, 2017, reports on a letter to FERC from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), blocked on the FERC Website, but obtained by The Recorder through a FOIA request.
“The federal agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior dedicated to management of ﬁsh, wildlife and natural habitats has sent up red ﬂags over the draft environmental impact statement for Dominion and Duke Energy’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. A letter stamped ‘privileged’ from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expresses deep concerns over incomplete surveys and data. The Recorder obtained the letter, dated March 30 and blocked on the FERC website on April 6, under the Freedom of Information Act on June 22. The newspaper made the FOIA request April 7. The roughly one-month processing of FERC and the month-and-a-half it took USFWS to ﬁll the request took a total of 76 days. Martin Miller, chief of the USFWS Division of Endangered Species Ecological Services, responded by sending an email attachment to his letter granting the request. John Schmidt, USFWS ﬁeld supervisor, wrote the ‘privileged’ letter containing a four-page table of concerns over draft EIS shortcomings in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina to FERC deputy secretary Nathaniel Davis.”
Among the concerns listed in the USFWS letter:
- “The draft EIS was so sketchy with respect to karst, and endangered and threatened species survey data that the USFWS could not begin discussions about the document”
- Lack sufficient data to form a biological opinion for multiple species due to incomplete survey data
- DEIS says karst protection personnel will be consulted – will this be for all karst crossings in all states?
- How could FERC claim damaging karst conditions in Bath County’s Little Valley would be adequately minimized when Little Valley hasn’t been surveyed?
- Several comments repudiated FERC’s claims, based on Dominion’s input, that threatened and endangered species would be minimally impacted
- Deforestation and fragmentation by temporary and permanent right-of-ways: “Even the ‘temporary’ disturbance in forested areas will be long-term because these forest stands will take decades to return to their former state on the area of the ROW allowed to return to its former state.”
Over and over, the USFWS letter asks if surveys have been completed, e.g. “Mussel surveys need to be completed,” or “have sediment analyses been completed?” or “need to provide the status of the habitat assessment or survey.”
Bottom line of this letter, blocked on the FERC Website: “The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service cannot initiate formal consultation with this DEIS” because it is so incomplete or lacking in necessary data.