It has been two-months since Dominion Energy Transportation, Inc. (DETI), the managing partner of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project, requested of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) an extension of one year to complete abandonment and restoration of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project and a two-year extension to construct and place the now-cancelled Supply Header Project (SHP) into service while DETI evaluates options for the potential use of some or all of it. The SHP is a proposed natural gas pipeline in West Virginia (33.6 miles) and Pennsylvania (3.9 miles) that would have connected existing natural gas pipelines in Ohio and Pennsylvania with the ACP. Numerous public comments were filed by August 3 on the DETI requests, most in opposition.
ABRA has conferred over the past two weeks with officials from FERC and the U.S. Forest Service concerning the outlook for a decision on DETI’s time extension requests. We have learned, so far, the following:
- FERC staff and lawyers are continuing to evaluate the DETI time extension requests and the comments received. While no timetable has been shared on when a decision might be forthcoming, it seems reasonable to anticipate a decision of some type will be announced by or before October 13, which is the expiration date for the FERC certificate to construct the ACP.
- DETI has not yet submitted a formal plan for restoring the lands along the ACP route that have been disturbed by construction activity. But it is our understanding that discussions between the company and government officials about what should be in such a plan are being conducted. When an official plan is submitted, it will posted on the FERC docket.
- Restoration work on the ACP route cannot proceed without the restoration of some permits that were vacated by court decisions. These would include a new Special Use Permit from the Forest Service and a new Biological Opinion and Incident Take Statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Currently, DETI and its contractors are authorized to conduct only necessary maintenance work along the route to address such problems as sediment runoff.
- It is unclear at this time what will be done about easements many landowners entered into with Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, which restrict affected landowners’ ability to use their property. The company has not yet addressed the issue. In many of the comments filed with FERC, the agency was urged to require that the easements be relinquished, and all rights restored to the landowners as a condition of approving any restoration plan and associated time extension.
ABRA will continue to monitor and report on the further evolution of these critical issues.