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FERC releases Environmental Impact Statement on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Snapshot from video recorded earlier in 2016 of a meeting between pipeline advocates and protesters to discuss the planned route
Snapshot from video recorded earlier in 2016 of a meeting between pipeline advocates and protesters to discuss the planned route(WHSV)
Published: Dec. 30, 2016 at 6:43 PM EST
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Federal regulators say the majority of adverse environmental impacts from a proposed natural gas pipeline that would cross West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina could be avoided, minimized or mitigated.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission included the finding in its draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which was released Friday.

"The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of ACP and SHP would result in temporary and permanent impacts on the environment, and would also result in some adverse effects," the statement reads in its conclusion. "With Atlantic’s and DTI’s implementation of their respective impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures as well as their adherence to our recommendations to further avoid, minimize, and mitigate these impacts, the majority of project effects, with the exception of impacts on forest vegetation, would be reduced to less-than-significant levels."

Dominion Energy vice president of pipeline construction Leslie Hartz says the company believes the draft report confirms that "the project can be built in an environmentally responsible way."

"We have worked constructively with landowners and agencies to address the important environmental issues that have been raised," Hartz said. "As the draft report demonstrates, we’ve taken meaningful steps to avoid or minimize impacts and incorporate public input in many important areas of the project. Based on public input and our interactions with landowners, we’ve made more than 300 route adjustments and completed more than 250 miles of reroutes to avoid environmentally sensitive areas and many other features of individual properties. The project has improved and strengthened as a result of this constructive process."

You can read Hartz's full statement at the bottom of this article.

A coalition of community and environmental groups, however, criticized the commission's findings.

"Every foot of this route has a victim: a family that would be displaced, a farmer who would impacted, schoolchildren whose safety is compromised, and residents whose drinking water is a risk," said Nancy Sorrells, of the Augusta County Alliance. "And for what? Not for energy independence or to turn on the lights, but rather for the profit of a private corporation.”

The Appalachian Voice

released a collection of statements from community members, which can also be read at the bottom of this article.

Dominion Energy is partnering with other energy companies on the approximately 600-mile-long project. The commission has the final say on interstate pipelines. It is accepting public comment on the draft report until April 6.

You can read the full environmental impact statement at

Full statement from Leslie Hartz, Vice President Pipeline Construction
“Today’s draft report is another major step forward for a project that is vital to bringing new jobs, cleaner air and energy security to our region. The draft report represents a very significant milestone in the federal review process and brings us one step closer to making this important project a reality. While we have to review the draft further, we believe it confirms that the project can be built in an environmentally responsible way that protects the public safety and natural resources of our region. Among other findings, the draft report confirms that the measures proposed by Atlantic Coast Pipeline significantly reduces and mitigates the environmental impacts of the project. Additionally, the draft report reinforces previous findings by the FERC and decades of research demonstrating that natural gas pipelines do not adversely impact tourist economies or residential property values while providing a boost to economic development. This report is the culmination of more than two years of exhaustive study and meaningful engagement with communities along the proposed route. The report draws on nearly 100,000 pages of reports and documentation submitted by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, as well as more than 35,000 public comments submitted by landowners, agencies and other interested parties to the project docket on the FERC website. By any measure, this has and will continue to be a thorough process. It has afforded numerous opportunities for the public to help shape the project and ensure that it is developed in an environmentally responsible manner. We have worked constructively with landowners and agencies to address the important environmental issues that have been raised. As the draft report demonstrates, we’ve taken meaningful steps to avoid or minimize impacts and incorporate public input in many important areas of the project. Based on public input and our interactions with landowners, we’ve made more than 300 route adjustments and completed more than 250 miles of reroutes to avoid environmentally sensitive areas and many other features of individual properties. The project has improved and strengthened as a result of this constructive process. With the release of the draft report, the FERC has announced additional opportunities for the public and agencies to stay engaged in the process and continue providing meaningful input on the project. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline remains critically important to meeting the growing energy needs of public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina. It is essential to promoting economic development across the region, lowering carbon emissions and continuing the transition to a cleaner energy future. Today’s draft environmental report moves us one step closer to building a stronger economy and a cleaner environment for the future of our region.”
Statements from community, environmental and legal experts provided by The Appalachian Voice
Nancy Sorrells, Augusta County Alliance: “Every foot of this route has a victim: a family that would be displaced, a farmer who would impacted, schoolchildren whose safety is compromised, and residents whose drinking water is a risk. And for what? Not for energy independence or to turn on the lights, but rather for the profit of a private corporation.” Chad Oba, Friends of Buckingham, Cofounder and Chair: “Buckingham County is being targeted for a massive, noisy, polluting compressor station — the project’s only one in Virginia — in an area of former slave plantations that is densely populated by mostly African-American Freedmen. FERC’s review omits virtually all of the cultural resource reports we submitted, effectively erasing us from the record even as we bear the greatest burden. The leaders of Standing Rock have pledged strong kinship with us as another example of environmental racism.” Ericka Faircloth, a Lumbee Indian member of the grassroots group EcoRobeson: “Folks who live in Robeson County, one of the poorest and most diverse counties in North Carolina, are especially vulnerable to the empty promise of jobs. Residents of low wealth will be most severely impacted by higher utility rates to pay for the pipeline, and by lowered value for their land. Potential drinking water contamination, loss of forests and disruption of cultural sites are among the risks many that poor communities are expected to ‘deal with’ to make way for a project that’s only about profit.” Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Executive Director: “We’re appalled FERC has once more refused to conduct a combined review of the massive slate of pipelines proposed to move fracked gas out of our region. FERC has the extraordinary power to grant ACP the right to take private property for private profit. Yet FERC decided that it didn’t have to do the hard work necessary to determine whether the ACP is necessary. Such a lack of diligence is truly remarkable.” April Pierson-Keating, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance (W.Va.): “This pipeline would add insult to injury in West Virginia, where we are already dealing with water and health impacts due to fracking. It would lock us into decades more fossil fuel pollution when we should be moving to renewable energy. This pipeline would continue the harm done by extractive industry to the most vulnerable of us — low-income people, the elderly, the disenfranchised.” Peter Anderson, Virginia Campaign Coordinator, Appalachian Voices: “This pipeline would carry highly pressurized gas across miles of steep mountain terrain that is prone to rock slides and contains many headwater streams. Routing this pipeline across the Appalachian Trail and vulnerable water resources poses an unacceptable risk, especially given that it's not needed to meet our energy needs.” Anne Havemann, General Counsel, Chesapeake Climate Action Network: “The Atlantic Coast pipeline will trigger a massive new wave of greenhouse gas pollution and climate damage. Yet, FERC’s review once again fails to add up the full impact, ignoring cumulative climate pollution from fracking wells and the ultimate burning of the gas.” Greg Buppert, Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center: “Dominion’s Atlantic Coast pipeline will not only irreparably alter our natural terrain but it is also unnecessary. The current route carves through the mountains in an area the U.S. Forest Service calls, ‘the wildland core of the central Appalachians’, for a pipeline that will lock generations of Virginians into dependence on natural gas. We already have the gas needed to bridge us from dirty to clean energy-existing infrastructure can meet our demands for natural gas for at least the next fifteen years. This is a Dominion self-enrichment project, not a public necessity.” Kirk Bowers, Pipelines Campaign Manager, Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club: “The DEIS is deficient in many respects and needs to be re-issued. It imposes absurd pre-conditions for serious consideration and fails to affirmatively seek out alternatives that would meet the presumed need while greatly mitigating harms to the public and environment, land-takings and even costs. Likewise, the Commission needs to stop approving all projects that have contract support and take seriously its duties to consider all factors affecting the public convenience and necessity, including protecting environmental interests and private property rights not to have land seized for privately owned pipelines just because another private party contracts for service.The ACP is not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated, or industries in production.”

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