A long-awaited restoration plan for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) to address land and forests that were disrupted by the project before it was cancelled in July was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on January 4. The filing was in response to a formal request by FERC on October 27.
ABRA has been told by key FERC staff that the agency’s review of the plan has only just begun and that “comprehensive approval will not happen in the immediate future.” It was explained that “Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation is the main timing factor, and that just takes a while. By regulations and FERC policy, we do not approve actions that have the potential to impact a federally listed species until ESA consultation is complete (some emergency actions excepted).”
The plan’s project schedule calls for restoration work to commence late this year and be completed by mid-2023.
A key concern of many ABRA members is how landowner easements would be addressed in the plan. In comments filed with FERC in early August by several ABRA members, the agency was asked to require that ACP right-of-way easements be released upon requests from private landowners or conservation easement holders. (Click here for earlier ABRA Update article.) The submitted restoration plan does not include the issue and, according to a recent interview by the Associated Press with Dominion Energy spokesperson Aaron Ruby, the issue won’t be addressed:
Ruby also confirmed for the first time that the company does not intend to voluntarily release the easement agreements it secured on landowners’ properties. In most cases, the legal agreements were obtained through negotiations with landowners, who were paid and who the company has previously said will keep their compensation. But in other cases, in which sometimes vociferously opposed landowners fought the project, the easements were obtained through eminent domain proceedings.
Asked if there are any plans to sell the easement agreements to a third party such as another pipeline or infrastructure project, Ruby said, “We have no plans to do so at this time.” Ruby also said the company has no plans to voluntarily compensate landowners who are still in court fighting over the legal fees and other costs they incurred related to the project.
It remains to be seen whether FERC will address the landowner easements issue. For the entire AP article, click here.
Among highlights in the plan are:
- Atlantic performed approximately 222.5 miles of tree felling and of this approximately 108.4 miles of trees are still lying on the right-of-way where they were cut. In addition, Atlantic installed approximately 31.4 miles of pipe and completed an additional 82.7 miles of clearing and grading (but where no pipe was not installed).
- Atlantic has identified all locations where there was some construction progress and aggregated these areas into work segments. Maps showing the work segments . . . indicate, geographically, which restoration activities will occur at specific mileposts along the pipeline route. The scope includes abandoning installed pipe in place and restoring the right-of-way in areas where ground disturbance has occurred if final restoration was not previously completed. In addition, the restoration scope includes processing (chip/stack/burn/remove) felled trees in accordance with its permits and authorizations except where, in certain locations, Atlantic will seek a variance to leave felled timber in place in order to minimize disturbance.
- All landowner easement agreements require Atlantic to process (chip/stack/burn/remove) felled timber; in cases where Atlantic intends to leave felled timber, Atlantic will obtain permission from the landowner through an amended easement agreement.
- Atlantic proposes to abandon installed pipe in place in accordance with the applicable agency regulations and industry standards. Atlantic has identified, and secured landowner consent, with 14 landowners whose specific easement agreements needed to be modified to allow the pipe to be abandoned in place. All other easement agreements on the remaining affected tracts already allowed Atlantic to abandon pipe in place.
- Atlantic will file with the Commission a Notice to Proceed (“NTP”) request, or series of requests, prior to initiating the work described in this Plan. No work will commence until receipt of FERC’s NTP approval. Atlantic will conduct discussions with landowners and regulatory permitting agencies and the results of these discussions and interactions will drive the scope and timing of the NTP submittals.
For selected portions of the filing, click the links below:
- Cover letter – https://www.abralliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ACP-restoration-plan-cover-letter-1-4-21.pdf
- Restoration plan – https://www.abralliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ACP-Dispositon-and-Restoration-Plan-12-16-20-filed-with-FERC-on-1-4-20.pdf
- Project schedule (Appendix A) – https://www.abralliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ACP-restoration-plan-project-schedule-filed-1-4-21.pdf
- Restoration permits needed (Appendix D) – https://www.abralliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ACP-restoration-permit-approvals-needed-App.-D.pdf
To access the entirely of the filing, including all appendices, click here.