“Incomplete” and “go back to the drawing board” were sentiments most commonly echoed in the comments filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline over the past two weeks. ABRA has posted on its website comments from over 50 organizations and individuals that provide a broad overview of the serious shortcomings of the DEIS. Here are excerpts from some of them:
Appalachian Mountain Advocates
- . . . the Commission has fundamentally misapplied NEPA in its assessment of the impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Instead of issuing a thorough agency assessment of environmental impacts and alternatives on which the public can meaningfully comment, the Commission treats its draft EIS as a data request to the developers—a mere stepping stone on the Commission’s way to gathering more information and eventually understanding the impacts of the proposed project. This draft EIS reads like a laundry list of missing and incomplete information. But that falls far short of what NEPA requires.
- Nowhere is the problem of self-dealing with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline more apparent than in the discrepancies between the electricity demand forecasts from PJM and Dominion Virginia Power. PJM is the regional transmission organization that manages the electrical transmission grid in all or parts of thirteen states, including Virginia and North Carolina, and the District of Columbia. . . PJM’s 2017 forecast for the Dominion zone is substantially less—approximately 3,500 MW less—than Dominion Virginia Power’s own projection from its 2016 integrated resource plan proceeding at the Virginia State Corporation Commission.
- . . . disposal of the excess material created by ridgeline construction along the entire length of the ACP and SHP corridors would require spoil deposition on hundreds or even thousands of acres of land, with attendant impacts to water quality. . . Because FERC has failed to analyze the critical issue of excess spoil disposal in any meaningful way, the DEIS does not satisfy NEPA.
Note: Included in an attachment are the results of a study of a two-mile segment of the route in Pocahontas County, WV. It is estimated that the ridgetop removal occurring in this short segment would produce a volume of spoilage equal to an 8-story building with the circumference of a football field!)
U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service
- As proposed, the pipeline will cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Augusta and Nelson County, Virginia . . . The proposed method of construction uses the horizontal directional drill (HDD) method . . . NPS supports the Forest Service position that no construction would take place on National Forest System lands until the HDD or contingency crossing is successful.
Southern Environmental Law Center
- Relying on the claims of need from Atlantic, the draft EIS fails to provide a meaningful analysis of the “no action” alternative or existing pipeline alternatives that would increase incremental gas delivery capacity in Virginia and North Carolina. . . recent analysis from Synapse Energy Economics indicates that existing natural gas infrastructure is sufficient to meet demand through 2030 even under a high gas demand scenario that is unlikely to occur. The Commission cannot gloss over or ignore these alternatives. In doing so in the draft EIS, its fails to meet its NEPA obligations.
- The most significant problem in the draft EIS with respect to the proposed route through the MNF and GWNF stems not from an inadequate analysis on the part of the Forest Service, but from Atlantic’s failure to timely submit critical information that would have provided the Forest Service the information it needs to adequately assess impacts to the National Forests and for the public to comment on that assessment.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Multiple aspects of Project construction and operation will create risks of increased sedimentation to waterbodies across a wide swath of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Virginia and neighboring states. . . Following construction, the risk of erosion and sedimentation from the previously-active construction sites, particularly from the denuded and disturbed segments on steep slopes, will continue throughout the Project’s operational periods.
- The DEIS’s strategy of referring to the presumed application of best management . . . fails to meet NEPA’s “hard look” requirement in the absence of a review of the state rules and an analysis of the expected effectiveness of these measures along the specific routes, and in the rugged terrain, at issue. It is well-settled that NEPA prohibits a federal agency to “pass the buck” to state regulatory agencies and thereby to circumvent its own NEPA obligation to conduct an adequate investigation
National Trust for Historic Preservation
- FERC’s pattern of denying requests from stakeholders interested in participating as consulting parties is not consistent with the Section 106 regulations. Upon information and belief, FERC has excluded local governments from participating as consulting parties, even though the Section 106 regulations explicitly require that “a local government with jurisdiction over the area in which the effects of an undertaking may occur is entitled to participate as a consulting party.”
- It is clear in the DEIS that FERC has not completed the process of assessing adverse effects on historic properties (or even the process of identifying all historic properties that are potentially affected). DEIS at 4-415. Most of the sites that have been identified have not yet been evaluated for their potential National Register eligibility.