Reg­u­la­tors OK pro­posed nat­u­ral gas pipe­line

But im­pact on forests would be ‘sig­nif­i­cant’

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY SARAH RANKIN

RICH­MOND | A 303-mile pipe­line that would carry fracked nat­u­ral gas across West Vir­ginia and Vir­ginia would have “sig­nif­i­cant” im­pacts on forests but other ad­verse ef­fects would be lim­ited, fed­eral reg­u­la­tors said Fri­day.

The Fed­eral En­ergy Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion’s fi­nal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment is largely fa­vor­able for de­vel­op­ers of the $3.5 bil­lion Moun­tain Val­ley Pipe­line, which is stren­u­ously op­posed by en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and many landown­ers along its path.

Like the sim­i­lar At­lantic Coast Pipe­line, which has been pro­posed by dif­fer­ent de­vel­op­ers, it would carry gas from the Mar­cel­lus and Utica shale de­posits to U.S. markets. The com­pa­nies in­volved say the pipe­lines will de­liver cheap and abun­dant en­ergy that is cleaner than coal, and they’ve promised bil­lions of dol­lars in eco­nomic ben­e­fits.

But op­po­nents say the projects will in­fringe on landown­ers’ prop­erty rights, dam­age pris­tine ar­eas and com­mit the re­gion to fos­sil fu­els just when global warm­ing makes it es­sen­tial to in­vest in re­new­able en­ergy in­stead.

Once the U.S. Se­nate con­firms Pres­i­dent Trump’s nom­i­nees and the com­mis­sion reaches a quo­rum, the com­mis­sion­ers will make FERC’s fi­nal de­ci­sion on whether the project can pro­ceed, said agency spokes­woman Ta­mara Young-Allen. That will be based on the im­pact state­ment as well as de­ter­mi­na­tions of whether the project meets a pub­lic need and whether its pro­posed gas rates are just and rea­son­able.

The im­pact state­ment, a 930-page doc­u­ment sup­ple­mented with dozens of ap­pen­dices, in­cludes sec­tions on soil, wa­ter, for­est, wildlife, recre­ational ar­eas, so­cio-eco­nomic is­sues and other as­pects of life that could be af­fected by the Moun­tain Val­ley Pipe­line and its re­lated Equitrans Ex­pan­sion Project, about eight miles of pipe­lines in six seg­ments con­nect­ing to other sys­tems.

Over­all, FERC staff “de­ter­mined that construction and op­er­a­tion of the projects would re­sult in lim­ited ad­verse en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts, with the ex­cep­tion of im­pacts on for­est.” That de­ter­mi­na­tion took into ac­count the to­tal acres of for­est af­fected, the qual­ity and use of for­est for wildlife habi­tat, and the amount of time it takes to re­store for­est that would be dis­rupted, the state­ment said.

That con­clu­sion is not sci­en­tif­i­cally cred­i­ble and de­fies com­mon sense, one en­vi­ron­men­tal group said Fri­day.

“Some wounds on our forests can never be healed once they are in­flicted, in­clud­ing for­est frag­men­ta­tion, loss of valu­able core for­est ar­eas, and loss of wa­ter­shed in­tegrity,” Wild Vir­ginia Pres­i­dent Ernie Reed said in a state­ment. “Dam­age to the Jef­fer­son Na­tional For­est and the Ap­palachian Trail will sac­ri­fice the pub­lic’s abil­ity to use these na­tional trea­sures in the in­ter­est of profit-mak­ing cor­po­ra­tions and no one else.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups also con­tend the anal­y­sis does not look closely enough at the cu­mu­la­tive im­pacts of the Moun­tain Val­ley Pipe­line and At­lantic Coast Pipe­line, which would cross West Vir­ginia, Vir­ginia and North Carolina.

“They make a pass at men­tion­ing this in re­la­tion to the At­lantic Coast Pipe­line, but it’s a pretty poor at­tempt,” said David Sligh of Wild Vir­ginia.

In 2015, a coali­tion of pipe­line op­po­nents asked for a com­pre­hen­sive re­view, but FERC de­nied that re­quest. The com­mis­sion plans to re­lease a sep­a­rate fi­nal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment for the At­lantic Coast Pipe­line next month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.