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FERC: Pipeline environmental impact would be ‘less than significant’

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has released its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) regarding the proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), concluding the project’s impact would be “less than significant.”

According to the report, ACP considered an alternative site near the intersection of Midland Road and the existing Transco pipeline system for the proposed compressor station. FERC recommends building the station at the site on Route 56.

“The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of ACP … would result in temporary and permanent impacts on the environment, and would also result in some adverse effects. With Atlantic’s and DTI’s (Dominion Transmission Inc.) 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,” the commission staff said in a release issued Friday.

The issuance of the draft EIS is not approval of the project but a procedural step in the process ACP LLC is undertaking to build and operate the natural gas pipeline and facilities.

If approved by FERC, the ACP would span Buckingham County and cross portions of Cumberland and Prince Edward en route from West Virginia to North Carolina.

“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,” said Leslie Hartz, Dominion Energy’s vice president for pipeline construction. “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.”

Leslie Hartz

Leslie Hartz

Friends of Buckingham Chair Chad Oba, however, said the county is being “targeted for a massive, noisy, polluting compressor station … in an area of former slave plantations that is densely populated by mostly African-American freedmen.” Oba went on to say, “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.”

Hartz said the report “confirms that the measures proposed by ACP significantly reduces and mitigates the environmental impacts of the project.”

The voluminous statement includes the project’s impact on animals, water bodies, creeks, streams, land, roads, rivers, forests, reptiles and human health. The statement also makes recommendations on route alternatives.

The pipeline includes a 53,515 horsepower natural gas fired compressor station that would be placed along Route 56 between Shelton Store and Union Hill roads in Buckingham. ACP LLC is seeking a special use permit from county supervisors to operate the station, which has drawn nearly united criticism from those who’ve spoken before county planners and supervisors.

Supervisors will begin a public hearing on the station at 6 p.m. Thursday.

FERC staff said ACP and Dominion “would minimize impacts on the natural and human environments during construction and operation of its facilities by implementing the numerous measures described in their respective construction and restoration plans.”

According to the report, the proposed facilities would be constructed and operated in compliance with federal standards, requirements and thresholds.

“A high level of public participation was achieved during the pre-filing and post application review processes and helped inform our analysis, environmental justice populations would not be disproportionately affected by the projects and environmental inspection and monitoring programs would ensure compliance with all construction and mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations and other approvals,” staff said in the report. “Further, our analysis … concludes that operation of the compressor stations would not cause or contribute to a violation of the federal air quality standards; therefore, we do not believe health would be adversely affected or that the alternative site would be necessary for reasons of air quality or public health.

“We received several comments that the operation of compressor station … would degrade air quality and impact residence around the proposed facility, and that an alternate site should be considered. We also received comments that the proposed location of (the) compressor station … would affect the Norwood-Wingina and Warminster Historic Districts and the Yogaville Ashram. Thus, we evaluated the Midland Road site as a possible alternative.”

The proposed compressor station, FERC staff wrote, “is located in a more populated area of Buckingham County that may be visible to more residents. However, the compressor station is located near previously developed residential and commercial areas and is consistent with the existing visual conditions in the area.”

FERC staff said they received comments that construction and operation of the ACP “would affect the peaceful and serene environment at the Satchidananda Ashram and Light of Truth Universal Shrine at Yogaville … located over 4 miles from ACP and, therefore, we conclude no direct or indirect impacts on tourism and visitation to Yogaville would result from construction and operation of the projects.”

Chad Oba

Chad Oba

Commission staff said they received comments regarding the compressor station causing vibrations, responding, “FERC regulations require that no perceptible increase in vibration may occur as a result of compressor station operation. The proposed compressor units at all compressor stations … would be combustion turbines. As such, we do not expect there to be an issue with vibration, as it is more characteristic of reciprocating engines.”

Addressing the Wingina Route Alternatives — where the pipeline enters Buckingham under the James River from Nelson — commission staff wrote that the proposed route “would not cross any of mitigation wetlands or stream buffers but would still cross the site boundaries, which we find appropriately mitigates the impacts on this site. Atlantic’s proposed route also optimizes the crossing of the James River WMA (Wildlife Management Area).”

FERC staff and cooperating agencies have developed “site-specific mitigation measures that (ACP) and DTI should implement to further reduce the environmental impacts that would otherwise result from construction and operation of their projects. The FERC staff determined that these measures are necessary to reduce the adverse impacts associated with the projects, and in part, are basing conclusions on implementation of these measures.”

Comments on the draft statement, FERC staff said, must be received by April 6.

“Once the final EIS is issued, the FERC commissioners will take into consideration staff’s recommendations when they make a decision on the projects.”