In testimony delivered March 14 before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Diane Leopold, President and CEO of Dominion Energy, leveled criticism at the U.S. Forest Service in its interactions with Dominion concerning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). Ms. Leopold, who is also chair of the Interstate Natural Gas Association, stated:
Despite all of our earnest efforts, the Forest Service continues to deliver new information requests and has often revised its standards . . . all we are asking for is fair and common-sense standards, and a reasonable schedule that is upheld.
This statement is at strong odds with a February 24 letter by a Forest Service consultant, Prof. James A. Thompson of West Virginia University, concerning recent meetings held with Dominion officials in which the company has, according to the letter, failed to provide requested information on how it would construct the ACP through steep slope areas of the route in the Monongahela National Forest. (More on this in the March 3 issue of ABRA Update.)
The Senate hearing was held on “Opportunities for America’s Energy Infrastructure.” Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia is a committee member. ABRA plans to submit comments to the Senate Committee regarding Ms. Leopold’s testimony. Other excerpts of interest from Ms. Leopold’s testimony include:
- There are two key drivers for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. First, there is a specific, regional customer need. . . The second factor that made this possible was the low cost, prolific supply of nature gas reserves across the country which lowers energy bills to homeowners and makes businesses more competitive.
- Dominion has engaged in an unprecedented level of outreach to all landowners, local governments, tribal governments, citizen organizations, and others. . . I am pleased to advise the Committee that on average over 90 percent of the landowners along the route have provided permission to survey their property to determine the suitability for the pipeline.
- While virtually all of the 600-mile pipeline will be underground which significantly reduces the impact to view sheds, the ACP is going to extraordinary lengths to further protect the view scape from the Blue Ridge Parkway and the adjacent Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Virginia’s and the Nation’s premiere sites.
- ACP has committed to employ best-in-class construction techniques to ensure the forest lands are protected and the project is compatible with management efforts to protect the forests resources. ACP continues to respond to requests and provide detailed information on construction techniques, soil conditions, visual impacts and construction operation plans to this new route suggested by the Forest Service.
Ms. Leopold’s testimony concluded by making several recommendations to streamline the approval of projects subject to the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:
- Concurrent NEPA analysis and review of permits by FERC and other permitting agencies should be conducted.
- Require permitting agencies to determine when an application is complete to ensure compatibility with FERC’s permitting timeline.
- Strengthen the coordination of FERC’s NEPA environmental reviews with cooperating agencies.