As many of you know, FERC released the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) on July 21. Sadly, we agree with the headline on the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) press release:
“FERC’s final Atlantic Coast Pipeline Report a sham”. ABRA Executive Director Lew Freeman went on to say, “FERC’s action is an affront to American democracy, ignoring the thousands of citizens who participated in the public comment process and handing over the private property rights of hundreds of families to corporate interests. As landowners and business leaders, as ratepayers and conservationists, as parents and grandparents, we insist that the state agencies serve the public trust and rigorously examine the impacts of this pipeline in full view of the public.”
Among many other flaws, here are some that stand out from ABRA’s initial review of the document for the ACP as a whole:
- Need. FERC fails to make an independent assessment of the need for the ACP, instead relying on the developer’s claims that the project should be built. In doing so, it short circuits any meaningful consideration of the alternatives that could avoid or minimize the harm caused by this project.
- Public lands. The ACP would cross 21 miles of national forest, destroying 430 acres and threatening the survival of seven federally listed species and native brook trout. The project would be a disaster for the mountain and forest headwaters of the Potomac and James rivers.
- Public process. The FEIS fails to correct or address the numerous, substantial defects in the draft EIS that government agencies and citizens alike pointed out during the public comment period. In addition, the final document fails to incorporate significant new information that has come to light since the end of the public comment period on April 6, including more than 400 pages submitted in May.
- Climate. The FEIS continues to ignore the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the project. It entirely fails to consider emissions from fracking that this massive pipeline would trigger and seriously discounts the emissions from burning the natural gas.
- Environmental justice. The FEIS notes that the Buckingham Compressor Station #2 could have serious health and safety impacts on three census tracts within one mile with predominantly low-income, minority populations, yet claims the impacts would be temporary or mitigated without adequately detailing the mitigation plans or considering any impact to safety or property values in those communities.
- Forests. Operation of the ACP (and the companion “Supply Header Project”) would have long-term or permanent effects on about 3,456 acres, including about 2,744 acres of upland forest (deciduous, coniferous and mixed). The recovery time for a closed canopy of mature forest and wildlife habitat could take up to a century or more.
- Mountain slopes. The project would cross more than 100 miles of slopes greater than 20 percent. Constructing the pipeline and access roads in steep terrain or areas prone to landslide increases the potential for landslides to occur.
- Ridgetop removal. The FEIS does not require Dominion to make any changes to minimize ridgetop removal, which would impact approximately 38 miles of ridgetop and result in 247,000 trips by large dump trucks to remove the overburden.
- Alternatives. The FEIS completely fails to even consider renewable energy as an alternative to this project.
(More Augusta County specific issues coming soon.)
BUT REMEMBER – The Final EIS is NOT a permit. There’s still a lot of work to be done. Currently, comment periods are open at both the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the United States Forest Service. Make sure your voice for safe, clean water and healthy public lands is heard!