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FERC draft environmental impact statement supports Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The benefits of the 1.5 MMDth/d Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC natural gas transportation project and the connected Dominion Resources Inc. Supply Header project outweigh potential environmental effects, FERC staff said in a draft environmental impact statement released Dec. 30.

The proposed 600-mile Atlantic Coast pipeline, which is scheduled to go into service in 2019, would move Appalachian Basin gas through West Virginia and Virginia to North Carolina. Atlantic Coast Pipeline was formed by Dominion, Duke Energy Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Inc. and AGL Resources, now Southern Co.'s Southern Co. Gas.

FERC Office of Energy Projects staff noted the planned pipeline route would pass through Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian National Scenic Trail and could have some long-term effects on wetlands and vegetation. However, staff said, the developers have plans to mitigate the effects of construction.

"Based on the implementation of impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, we have concluded that the majority of impacts from construction and operation of [Atlantic Coast pipeline] and [Supply Header project], when added to the impacts of other projects, would not result in a significant cumulative impact on the environment," commission staff said.

FERC staff recognized that members of the public had complained that the pipeline would damage local communities and reduce property values, but the staff said the positive impacts of the system outweighed those concerns.

"Whereas a specific location may not benefit from direct connection to a particular interstate natural gas transmission pipeline, interstate transmission pipelines are necessary to transport natural gas from source areas to demand centers, and end use customers including electric generation facilities, industrial plants, and local distribution companies," staff said. "The benefits of such actions are often realized on a regional scale. For example, states that do not produce appreciable natural gas, including Virginia and North Carolina, benefit substantially from the nation's interstate natural gas transmission system."

The staff said it evaluated 14 different potential routes for the pipeline, and found none of them possessed a significant environmental advantage over the original route. "The projects would result in some adverse effects, but … the majority of project effects would be reduced to less-than-significant levels," the staff said. (FERC dockets CP15-554, CP15-555)