Atlantic Coast Pipeline and George Washington and Monongahela National Forests

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project, as described in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on December 30, 2016 proposes to cross approximately 5 miles of the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) in Pocahontas County, West Virginia and 16 miles of the George Washington National Forest (GWNF) in Augusta, Bath and Highland counties, Virginia. This includes a crossing of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Augusta County, Virginia on lands administered by the Forest Service.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is responsible for authorizing the construction and operation of interstate natural gas pipelines and is the Lead Agency for preparation of the environmental analysis on major interstate natural gas pipeline projects. Pursuant to the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 and in accordance iwth federal regulations in 43 CFR 2880, the Forest Service will decide whether to authorize the use of NFS lands for the Special Use Permis (SUP). The Forest Service will also decide whether the project is consistent, or can be made consistent through the use of amendments, with both the MNF and GWNF Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs). As a Cooperating Agency, the role of the Forest Service is to identify issues and concerns that need to be addressed in FERC's EIS and to assist in preparing and reviewing environmental analysis for National Forest issues.  The Forest Service intends to use the information in the EIS to make a decision on whether or not to authorize construction and operation of a proposed pipeline on NFS lands and if necessary, approve LRMP amendments.

Where are we now?

(1.9.2017) With the release of the ACP Draft Environmental Impact Statement, we are on Step 11 in the table below. 

The FERC issued the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed pipeline on December 30, 2016 and has opened a public comment period until April 6, 2017.

All comments related to the Forest Service, or any other aspect of the DEIS, should be sent to the FERC as specified in the Notice of Availability of the DEIS issued by FERCThe Forest Service has also published a Notice of Availability of the DEIS in the Federal Register. PLEASE NOTE: the deadline for all comments related to the Forest Service is different from the FERC deadline because Forest Service regulations require a public comment period that is 90 days after the publication of FERC's Notice of Availability of the DEIS in the Federal Register. Since that did not occur until January 9, 2017, the deadline for submitting comments related to the Forest Service are due to FERC by April 10, 2017. 

Information can be found on FERC’s website. The public record can be found on the FERC’s “e-library” website (search for Docket Numbers CP15-554).

The Forest Service has developed a list of “Frequently Asked Questions” related to the release of the DEIS.

Review permits to survey National Forest System lands on both the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests.

Surveys include information on wetlands, water, soil, and suitable habitat for sensitive species, including federally listed threatened and endangered plants and animals.  Surveys also document cultural resources and invasive species.

Information gathered from the surveys is needed for federal agencies to make informed decisions on whether or not to allow the construction and operation of the proposed natural gas pipeline, and if allowed, to avoid, or reduce the impacts to sensitive resources.

What’s Already Happened?

FERC regulations require companies to submit Draft Resource Reports containing preliminary data on baseline environmental conditions and potential project effects on resources.  The Forest Service filed comments on the ACP’s Draft Resource Reports on July 30, 2015.  The company used comments and information and data requests from the public, agencies, and FERC to further develop the resource reports.  The company filed Final Resource Reports as part of their application to FERC for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.  The baseline environmental information and discussions of project effects in the resource reports inform on the development of the EIS.

Dominion filed a formal application with FERC on September 18, 2015 for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  Information can be found on FERC’s website.  As a Cooperating Agency, the Forest reviewed and commented on the Application and Final Resource Reports filed as part of the application to ensure our previous comments and data requests were addressed and to identify additional information necessary to assess project effects on National Forest System lands.

What’s next?

We will move to Step 12 in the table below.  The Forest Service will attend several of the public comment sessions sponsored by the FERC that are listed in the NOA. At Step 13, the FERC will analyze comments on the DEIS as they prepare the final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Forest Service will also analyze comments pertaining to the Forest Service and continue to ensure that the FEIS will address comments from the public and the agency.

Important Documents

Review important documents related to this project including maps, shapefiles, Forest Service filings and other documents associated with Steps 1-11.

Forest Service Role in the FERC EIS Pre-Filing Environmental Review Process

 

Step
Applicant Process
FERC Process
Forest Service Role
1 Assess market need and considers project feasibility    
2 Requests use of FERC’s Pre-Filing Process

Receives Applicant’s request to conduct its review of the project with FERC’s NEPA Pre-Filing Process

Formally approves Pre-Filing Process and issues PF Docket No. to Applicant

 
3 Studies potential site locations   Meets with applicant to provide Forest Plan direction, maps
4 Identifies Stakeholders    
*5 Holds open house to discuss project Participates in Applicant’s open house  
*6   Issues Notice of Intent for Preparation of an EIS opening the scoping period to seek public comments Provides comments pertaining to National Forest System lands
*7  

Holds public scoping meeting(s) and site visits in the project area

Consults with interested stakeholders

 
*8 Conducts route studies and field surveys. Develops application.  

Analyzes survey requests; makes decision on authorizing request(s)

Comments on Draft Resource Reports

*9 Files formal application with the FERC Issues Notice of Application Comments on the Application
10   Analyzes data and prepares Draft EIS

Reviews portions of EIS pertaining to National Forest System lands

Reviews and comments on the Final Resource Reports filed as part of the application to ensure our previous comments and data requests are addressed.

*11   Issues Draft EIS and opens comment period Provides comments on Draft EIS pertaining to National Forest System lands
*12   Holds public comment meetings on the Draft EIS in the project area Attends meetings when/where applicable
13   Responds to comments and revises the Draft EIS Reviews Final EIS to ensure public and agencies concerns are addressed adequately for Forest Service to make a decision on amending the Forest Plan (if necessary) and issuing a special use permit to construct and operate a natural gas pipeline on National Forest System lands
14   Issues Final EIS  
15   Commission Issues Order

Forest Service makes a decision to issue a Right-Of-Way Grant and Temporary Use Permit Under Section 28 of the Mineral Leasing Act. Forest Service could issue a draft Record of Decision to amend the Forest Plans if needed.

*16   Parties can request FERC to rehear decision

Forest Service issues a draft Record of Decision (ROD) to issue a Right-Of-Way Grant and Temporary Use Permit Under Section 28 of the Mineral Leasing Act. Forest Service could issue a draft ROD to amend the Forest Plans if needed. Public can object to the draft ROW grant decision and/or the Forest Plan amendment draft decisions.

17

Submits outstanding information to satisfy conditions of Commission Order

Issues Notice to Proceed with construction  
* public input opportunities