WV Scoping Meetings for Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Elkins & Bridgeport

by Duane Nichols on March 21, 2015

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

FERC is Requesting Comments and Scheduling Meeting for Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,  Announcement, March 5, 2015

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sent out a notice late last month announcing that its staff will begin preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

That process includes a request for comments and a series of public scoping meetings. Read the full notice here.

The notice gives three methods for submitting comments to FERC (make sure to include the docket number for ACP — PF15-6-000 — in any correspondence):

Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE, Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426

The public scoping meeting schedule is below:

Monday, March 23, 2015 at 7:00 PM.  Elkins High School, 100 Kennedy Drive, Elkins, WV.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 7:00 PM.  Bridgeport High School, 515 Johnson Avenue, Bridgeport, WV.

Public Issues that may be addressed during the scoping meetings:

• All alternatives need to be evaluated; there is only one route being surveyed by Dominion’s consultants, but it is FERC’s duty to fully assess all alternatives to lessen or avoid environmental impacts. Include review of alternatives using existing pipelines and existing corridors.

• The pipeline impacts need to be evaluated during all phases of the project, from construction through completion. FERC should evaluate impacts during construction, including the potential use of fly ash for backfill, and cumulative impacts following the completion of the pipeline, such as increased fracking.

• FERC should evaluate whether it is a public necessity to use eminent domain to build an additional pipeline when there are existing pipelines and corridors already in place which are not being operated at full capacity.

• The Monongahela National Forest is sensitive ecosystem, and FERC should evaluate whether there are alternatives that would avoid impacting this area. Constructing a pipeline will increase forest fragmentation, so FERC should evaluate how many acres of forest will be fragmented and the impact on local wildlife.

• Geology and soils: West Virginia contains many unique geologic features including an extensive underground cave system that is an important part of WV tourism. FERC should also evaluate the impacts of increased sedimentation from runoff and loss of topsoil during construction.

• Land use: WV is known for its outdoor recreational opportunities. FERC should evaluate how the pipeline would impact outdoor recreation and tourism.

• Water resources, fisheries and wetland: The pipeline will have to cross numerous streams, rivers, and wetlands. FERC should evaluate how many crossings will occur, the acres of wetlands to be disturbed and how the pipeline will impact springs and drinking water sources. Impacts to freshwater streams will also affect fisheries resources, which is an important part of the state’s ecology and tourism. With impacts to the hydrology there could be cumulative effects such as flooding, so FERC should evaluate how the construction impacts from disturbing streams and wetlands will impact flood events.

• West Virginia contains many cultural resources, such as Native American and civil war artifacts; How the pipeline’s construction will impact these cultural resources?

• Vegetation and wildlife: Appalachian mountains contain very diverse vegetation that provide a lot of economic benefits such as ginseng and several tree species such as red spruce that are already in decline. FERC should evaluate how the pipeline will impact these and other important vegetation species. West Virginia has diverse wildlife populations from large mammals to small salamanders that play an important role in the ecosystem. FERC should evaluate how the construction will impact West Virginia’s wildlife species including breeding and nesting grounds, migration routes, and increased predation from the proposed pipeline corridor.

• Air Quality and Noise: Compression stations and construction will diminish air quality and have increased noise levels. The proximity of the compressor station and pipeline to communities and nearby residences and how to mitigate adverse effects should be fully evaluated.

• Endangered and Threatened Species: West Virginia contains many threatened and endangered species; evaluate how the pipeline will impact all the threatened and endangered species through disturbance, habitat loss, breeding, etc and how the negative impact will be mitigated or avoided.

• Public Safety: Because of the flammability of natural gas, the pipeline is at risk of an explosion. FERC should consider the blast radius should an explosion occur and how many residences are within the blast radius. Further, they should evaluate mitigation efforts to avoid densely populated areas. Evaluate the health risks associated with living near a compressor station or a leaking natural gas pipeline.

See also: www.FrackCheckWV.net

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Virginia Arnold March 22, 2015 at 9:14 am


In Nelson and Augusta Counties of Virginia, Dominion brought in people to speak on behalf of the pipeline, most from out of county and referring to 9 inch pipelines that have nothing to do with the current proposed project…

They were given preferential treatment with all of them given the first speaking spots leaving less time for opposition to speak with hundreds of speakers left without the opportunity to speak at all.


Ernie Reed March 26, 2015 at 10:49 pm

For Immediate Release March 26, 2015

Contact: Joanna Salidis, 434-242-5859, josalidis@gmail.com

Ernie Reed, 434-971-1647, lec@wildvirginia.org

Regulators Fail to Protect Public Interest in Pipeline Process

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held a scoping meeting in Nelson County on March 18th for affected landowners and the wider community to help define the “scope,” or range, of pipeline impacts that need to be considered in the regulatory process. FERC held a similar meeting the next night in Stuart’s Draft. Since the meetings, attendees have filed numerous comments on FERC’s online comment forum and with legislators alleging that the meetings were biased to amplify the voices of those in favor of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

“FERC’s scoping meeting in Nelson illustrates exactly what so many affected communities around the country have been saying: FERC is an independent governmental agency, funded by the industry it regulates, with no accountability – nor, in their eyes, responsibility to the public,” says Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson, a group working to oppose Dominion’s pipeline.

Public comments filed with FERC under the Atlantic Coast Pipeline docket from those who attended the meeting in Stuart’s Draft or Nelson indicate that both evenings a pro-pipeline dinner was catered for supporters at the meeting venue starting at 5 p.m., thus encouraging supporters to sign up earlier than those not invited to the dinner.

“Sarah McKinley, the FERC external affairs officer, told me that sign ups to speak would start ‘shortly before 7,’ but they actually were opened hours earlier than that,” says Salidis, speaking specifically of the Nelson meeting. “People who showed up shortly before 7 were too far back in the line up to speak. Pro-pipeline supporters signed up more than an hour before the meeting began, allowing them to dominate the first hour of the meeting, when the media was present, and skewing the numbers heard in favor that evening because supporters were not randomly distributed. Not a single person after the first 20 spoke in favor of the pipeline.”

At the Nelson meeting, 203 people signed up to speak, but time allowed for only 78 to provide comments. Two hundred and three is an underestimation of the number of people who would have liked to speak, because workers at the sign in table told potential speakers that they would be unlikely to be heard due to time constraints.

Public comments filed with FERC also make it clear that some people were allowed to sign up others to speak while other people were not allowed to sign up anyone but themselves. For example, Susan McSwain, a Nelson County resident, commented that she spoke to a pipeline supporter she knew the day following the meeting to ask why his name had been called to speak, but he did not step forward. He responded that he had not gone to the meeting at all. However, when she tried to sign up someone who was coming to the meeting later, she was told that no one was allowed to sign anyone else up to speak.

“If this sham of a meeting is any indication of what FERC thinks of the public, then (FERC) should be disbanded, ” she says in her comment to FERC. McSwain further states “Public meetings engage a broader segment of the public than input limited to written comments. They are particularly important for those, like many in Nelson, without internet access. Public meetings like the scoping meeting are also essential for community members to hear and learn from each other. They are vital to a transparent process. Written comments are no substitute. FERC should schedule an all-day Meeting in Nelson to allow anyone who was denied the opportunity to speak on March 18th their right to speak.”

Many property owners on the proposed path of the pipeline were very angry that so many were unable to speak, particularly in light of the apparent bias towards pipeline supporters. “I told a FERC representative that night, David Hanobic, that FERC needed to provide a second public meeting for those who wished to speak,” Salidis continued. “He said that we were lucky to get a public meeting at all since the National Environmental Policy Act that governs the scoping process does not mandate public meetings and some government agencies don’t offer them. When I responded that those agencies don’t have the extraordinary power of eminent domain, he claimed that FERC didn’t either – rather they just gave that authority to transmission companies like Dominion. As a property owner on the path of the proposed pipeline threatened with the forcible taking of my property, I really resent this attempt to dodge taking responsibility for the power they yield over property owners.”

Friends of Nelson continues to call on FERC and legislators to support a fair, thorough, transparent public process by extending the scoping period, offering another scoping meeting, and rigorously analyzing both the proposed pipeline’s need and alternatives. Friends of Nelson had filed comments with FERC in early March asking for an extension of the period and a postponement of the meeting due to the fact that over 100 property owners in Nelson had been put on the route a few days before the period and meeting were announced. They have also sent letters to legislators asking that they weigh in with FERC to support these requests. “We hear a lot from FERC about their role in ‘mitigating’ impacts – but what we want is a process that honestly weighs public benefit against harm. Nelson and Augusta’s scoping meetings are a perfect example of why we cannot assume this will happen,” says Ernie Reed, of Friends of Nelson. “Legislators have the responsibility to hold FERC accountable.”

In response, Virginia Senator Mark Warner has sent a letter to FERC Chairman LaFleur questioning its policies and procedures (see attached). And in Augusta County, the Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution petitioning FERC to hold a second public meeting at which all citizens’ voices can be heard.

“The FERC’s shameful display of contempt for public participation at the scoping meeting last week shows that we need help to be heard,” says Sharon Ponton, Blue Virginia blogger and an organizer with Free Nelson, a second group fighting for justice in Nelson. “We’ve asked our legislators for specific help, and we don’t want back platitudes and form letters. The meeting really highlighted that the process is stacked against landowners and communities. ”



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