Atlantic Coast Pipeline and George Washington and Monongahela National Forests

 

USDA Forest Service Issues Draft Decision to Permit the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project on National Forests in West Virginia and Virginia

The Forest Service issued a draft Record of Decision (ROD) to amend the George Washington National Forest and Monongahela National Forest Land and Resource Management Plans (Forest Plans). The draft decision was jointly issued by the Forest Service’s Southern and Eastern Regional Foresters and proposes to authorize the use and occupancy of National Forest System (NFS) lands for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and approve project specific amendments for the George Washington National Forest (GWNF) and Monongahela National Forest (MNF) Land Resource Management Plans (LRMP).

Issuance of the draft ROD begins a 45-day objection filing period. Once all objections receive a written response from the Reviewing Official, a final decision may be issued and implemented. Implementation of the final ROD is contingent on FERC issuing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the pipeline.

This proposed decision would support federal policies emphasizing energy infrastructure, jobs, economic growth and our agency’s efforts to provide for multiple use. Our decision authorizes the pipeline and approves project-specific plan amendments. These plan amendments would provide for the continued social, economic, and ecological sustainability of the involved National Forests; maintain the diversity of plant and animal communities; and support integrated resource management for multiple use. By applying the required terms, conditions, and mitigation measures outlined in the final EIS, the ACP project could be implemented without impairing the long-term productivity of National Forest System lands.

The draft Decision proposes to:

  • Authorize the use and occupancy of National Forest System (NFS) lands for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
  • Amend the standards in the Plan to allow the construction and operation of the ACP to vary from certain restrictions on soil and riparian corridor conditions. Mitigation measures to protect soil and riparian areas would be required.
  • Allow the issuance of special use permits in northern long-eared bat habitat where applicable mitigation measures will be implemented.
  • Designate a 50-foot wide right-of-way. No utility corridor would be designated; therefore a Plan level amendment on the GWNF to allocate lands into a 5-C Designated Utility Corridor would not be needed.
  • Allow ACP to cross the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST) in Augusta County, VA at a location where existing impacts do not already exist.
  • Use an estimate of old growth trees impacted in lieu of completing a field inventory. The need to modify this standard is contingent on Atlantic completing an old growth survey of the ACP corridor.
  • Complete reconstruction of a Forest Road within a Management Prescription Area 2C3-Eligible Recreational Rivers to provide access for pipeline construction. The need to modify this standard is contingent on the final location of access roads.
  • Allow ACP a five-year period to perform mitigation to meet Forest Plan scenic integrity objectives for areas of high scenic value and other high use recreation areas, except for a short segment of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail, where the SIO would be changed to Low.

How to Object to this Draft Decision:

This decision is subject to administrative review (commonly called “objections”). A final decision would not be made until a response to objections is issued.

Objections are being accepted until midnight, September 5, 2017. Objections will be accepted only from those who previously submitted specific written comments regarding the Forest Service portion of the proposed project during scoping or other designated opportunity for public comment. Issues raised in objections must be based on issues raised in the previously submitted specific written comments unless the issues are based on new information arising after the designated comment opportunities.

For more information on the Forest Service’s objection process, please visit Frequently Asked Quesitions.  After objections are resolved, the Forest Service will issue a final decision whether to issue a special use permit to construct, operate, and maintain the pipeline on national forest lands and to amend the George Washington Forest Plan.

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

Comments on the Application

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
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