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Impact statement date changes

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has postponed the issuance of its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) regarding the proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) project.

The EIS was previously set to be available to the public June 30, but will now be available July 21, according to a notice from FERC signed by Commission Secretary Kimberly D. Bose. The 90-day Federal Authorization Decision Deadline is set for Oct. 19.

“In response to comments on the draft EIS (which had a comment closing date of April 6), staff sent an environmental information request to (Atlantic Coast Pipeline, ACP) and (Dominion Transmission Inc., DTI) in April, and only recently received the information necessary for us to complete our environmental review. As a result, staff has revised the schedule for issuance of the final EIS,” Bose said in the notice.

The announcement of the date change came in mid-May.

Aaron Ruby

In late December, FERC, which has regulatory approval of the project, released its draft EIS regarding the proposed pipeline, concluding the project’s impact would be “less than significant.”

“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 the December release.

“It’s a minor adjustment — just three weeks — so it won’t have any impact on the overall project schedule,” said Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby. “We’re still on track to receive final approval and begin construction this fall. The ACP is a complex project, and FERC has now received all the information it needs to complete its environmental review. A few additional weeks to fully review the information seems reasonable.”

The ACP project — being led by Dominion — natural gas pipeline that would begin in West Virginia, span Virginia and end in North Carolina. A 42-inch pipeline would span Buckingham County, and cross Cumberland and Prince Edward counties. The project has been hotly contested in Buckingham County.

Chad Oba

“Any delay by FERC is welcome,” said Friends of Buckingham President Chad Oba. “There is so much at risk and so many sacrifices that will need to be made if the ACP is approved. Hopefully a delay means that our Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will rethink their recent backtrack on an announcement they made in April that they will be looking into all the waterways affected by the ACP … The pipeline risks and the degradation of our land, air and water all across the state and especially so here in Buckingham where we are being cited for not only 25 miles of pipeline, but a huge industrial polluting compressor station, then proceeding very carefully is of the very highest order. I question whether a few more weeks will be enough time to give a project of this magnitude that will have such a great impact on so many lives and resources will be sufficient.”

A poll released in late May indicates a majority of Virginia voters support constructing the pipeline.

In January, county supervisors approved a special use permit for a hotly-contested 53,783-horsepower station, slated to be constructed between Shelton Store and Union Hill Roads on Route 56.

The compressor station — which would help push gas along the pipeline — was approved with 41 conditions, including horsepower limits, emergency response, air quality studies and emissions tests, installation of fire breaks, a backup emergency communications system, compliance with the permit, staffing and use of silencers and noise. The staffing condition included one staff member to be on site 24/7 for the first year.

The 5-0-2 decision came after 76 people spoke during a public hearing on the permit application. Seven of the 76 spoke in favor of the permit while the remainder that spoke opposed the measure.

Months ago, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), its Concern for the New Generation (CNG) chapter and several Buckingham County residents have filed a civil lawsuit against county officials “seeking judicial review of the decision and action by the” board of supervisors in granting a special use permit for a (the) compressor station.

The BREDL suit comes after farmer Carlos Arostegui, who owns Whispering Creek Farm, a 184-acre dairy and cattle farm along the route of the proposed pipeline, which lies about 2,175 feet from the site of the proposed compressor station, filed suit in early February, claiming the issuance of a special use permit for the station violated the county’s Zoning Ordinance and the permit was “unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, and not fairly debatable.”