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Environmental groups ask FERC to revisit draft review of Atlantic Coast pipeline

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Environmental groups ask FERC to revisit draft review of Atlantic Coast pipeline

A coalition of groups urged FERC to revisit its environmental review of the Atlantic Coast gas pipeline project, citing new information released by project developer Dominion Resources Inc.

"There are significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the proposed action or its impacts," 13 environmental groups said in a motion filed Jan. 23. The groups asked the commission to rescind and supplement the draft environmental impact statement for the project. The groups also requested that a public comment period should be suspended until a new draft EIS has been issued.

The groups include the North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, Clean Water for North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and seven of its chapters, Beyond Extreme Energy and 350.org Triangle. In their motion, the groups noted that 14 additional documents on the project were filed Jan. 10 and an additional 12 documents on Jan. 23 and that the new material touched on environmental issues.

The additional information provided by Dominion included data on historic properties in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina; updates on compressor stations and metering and regulation stations; geological considerations in West Virginia; cultural resources in West Virginia, including cemeteries; and updates of impacts of forest fragmentation on bird species.

"The burden is on the commission to fully investigate the environmental risks and costs associated with the [project], including all new and supplemental information," the motion said.

FERC staff published a positive draft EIS on Dec. 30, finding that the benefits of the 1.5-MMDth/d project and the connected Dominion Supply Header project would outweigh the potential and long-term damage to local communities.

Dominion insisted that providing additional information to the commission is routine, especially in response to issues raised by the public or agencies.

"The fact that this information was provided at the very beginning of the public comment period will give agencies and the public ample opportunity to review and comment on it," Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said in a Jan. 25 email. "This only further demonstrates the openness and transparency of the process."

Supplemental information provided after a draft EIS has been issued by the commission is usually addressed in the final environmental impact statement.

The Atlantic Coast project, which was No. 20 on a Trump administration list of "priority" infrastructure projects obtained by the McClatchy news service, would deliver 1.5 MMDth/d from the Appalachian Basin through 600 miles of pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia to North Carolina. The $4.5 billion to $5 billion project would be placed into service by the end of 2019. Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC is a joint venture formed by Dominion, Duke Energy Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc. and what is now Southern Co.'s Southern Co. Gas. (CP15-554, CP15-555)