On July 5, 2020, after years of communities and environmental advocates organizing, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was cancelled. While we celebrate this historic win against corporate giants that would have had long term, devastating impacts to our communities, ecosystems, and the climate, there is still work to be done.
There is currently an open public comment period with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that will impact restoration and abandonment activities related to the ACP, as well as the fate of the Supply Header Project (SHP). The SHP is the proposed 37.5-mile pipeline originally intended to ship gas from supply areas in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, with ACP as the main shipper. Even though the now cancelled ACP was identified as the main reason for the construction of the SHP, the pipeline developers are still pushing forward to build this pipeline to nowhere.
On July 17, 2020, FERC published a Notice of Request for Extension of Time and started the clock ticking on a 15-day intervention and comment period. We have until 5:00 p.m. Monday, August 3rd to submit comments.
On October 13, 2020 Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) and Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc.’s (DETI) FERC certificate authorizing construction of ACP and SHP will expire. Issued three years earlier, the certificate prohibits any construction after that date. Atlantic and DETI applied for a two year extension request for this certificate on June 16, 2020. On July 10, 2020, Atlantic and DETI filed a request to modify the June 16 extension request to FERC given the cancellation of the ACP. Specifically, Atlantic and DETI requested:
- A one-year extension of the construction deadline for the ACP, to allow for construction that may be necessary for abandonment and restoration of the right-of-way and
- A two-year extension of time to construct and place portions of the SHP into service, while evaluating options for potential use of some or all of the SHP.
This public comment period allows you the opportunity to tell FERC that more time is needed to truly allow the public to comment on ACP restoration, more information should be required from Atlantic and DETI about how land rights and impacted ecosystems will be restored along the pipeline corridor, and the extension request to build a pipeline that leads to nowhere given the cancellation of the ACP should be denied.
How to Submit Comments:
INDIVIDUAL TEXT-ONLY COMMENTS, MAXIMUM 6,000 CHARACTERS:
To file a text-only (no photographs or attachments) comment of 6,000 characters or fewer on behalf of an individual (yourself, not an organization), visit https://ferconline.ferc.gov/QuickComment.aspx and fill out the form. You do not need to register under FERC’s eFile system. FERC will email you a link to the comment system. The relevant FERC dockets are: CP15-554 & CP15-555. Draft your comments in a Word or Text file in advance (6,000 characters or less), and then copy and paste them into the eComment Text Box when you access the system.
Suggested Message to FERC:
In light of the cancellation of the ACP, FERC needs to now ensure that the abandonment of the project is conducted in a way to restore both property rights to landowners whose land is currently held in easements by Atlantic and DETI, and the ecosystems impacted by construction activities that already took place, through a process that allows for adequate public input. Additionally, FERC should deny the extension request to SHP given that this pipeline has no independent utility without the ACP.
FERC must provide an additional public comment period of at least 30-days to allow adequate time for the public to provide input on Atlantic and DETI’s modified request to extend the ACP’s construction deadline. Public comment on the modified extension request is a necessary first step in developing a restoration plan for ACP project areas in order to highlight the concerns of stakeholders, however, this should only be a first step. Atlantic and DETI did not include any details in their modified extension request on what restoration efforts may require or look like, which makes it difficult for the public to provide input. Following a public comment period on Atlantic and DETI’s modified extension request, the Commission must require the submittal of a restoration plan informed by those comments, on which the public will have an additional opportunity to comment. A restoration plan should specifically address the following:
- How rights of landowners whose property currently have easements held by DETI will be restored so that they can use their property without any restrictions.
- Restoration efforts on land that was cleared or otherwise disturbed, especially land adjacent to waterbody crossings and wetlands given the potential impacts to water quality
- How pipeline already in the ground will be abandoned
- Removal of pipeline that has already been staged on the ground and left uncovered, which has resulted in the pipe coating to weather off and potentially contaminate underlying soil. Evaluation of potential contamination due to the leaching of the pipeline coating should be conducted.
- How FERC and other state and federal agencies will monitor restoration activities and associated environmental impacts.
With the cancellation of the ACP, FERC’s determination that the SHP is required by the public convenience and necessity is no longer valid, and currently, DETI has not provided any evidence showing otherwise. Both FERC and DETI have previously recognized that the SHP does not have independent utility without the ACP. Should DETI decide to move forward with the SHP absent the ACP, DETI must seek additional authorization from the Commission in a new proceeding.