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Delay in FERC Timeline for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Sought by BLM

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has asked FERC to delay the project schedule for the proposed 550-mile West Virginia-to-North Carolina Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), in part because its backers need more time to conduct survey work on federal lands.

According to documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, BLM on Monday sent letters to both FERC and Dominion, the project's largest stakeholder (45%).

In the letter to FERC, BLM's Dean Gettinger said Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC (Atlantic) had not provided federal agencies -- specifically, the Department of Interior’s BLM and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service (USFS) -- with enough information to process its right-of-way application. PIpeline sponsors also did not include a plan of development (POD), both of which are required by the Mineral Leasing Act.

"Additional survey data must be completed, particularly in the area of geology and soils, and this information must be provided within a timeframe that is reasonable to allow for adequate federal agency review before an EIS [environmental impact statement] is initiated," said Gettinger, manager of the Northeastern States District, part of BLM-Eastern States.

Gettinger also told Dominion that the federal agencies still require "an evaluation of route alternatives, land requirements, temporary construction areas, construction procedures and schedule, soil erosion and stabilization, resource values and environmental concerns, restoration, re-vegetation, and public health and safety."

FERC asked BLM, USFS and FWS to participate as coordinating agencies to prepare an EIS for the ACP and for Dominion’s $500 million Supply Header project in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which would feed the ACP [PF15-5 and PF15-6].

Dominion proposed ACP to transport gas produced in the Appalachian Basin last fall (see Daily GPISept. 2, 2014). The $4.5 billion project calls for building a 550-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d capacity pipeline, originating as a 42-inch diameter pipeline, in Harrison County, WV. It would carry gas southeast into Virginia, where a 20-inch diameter extension then would run east to Chesapeake, VA. A 36-inch diameter pipe would carry gas south from there through central North Carolina and terminate in Robeson County, NC.

Atlantic is a joint venture (JV) of Dominion, Duke Energy (40%), Piedmont Natural Gas (10%) and AGL Resources (5%), with Dominion serving as operator. Subsidiaries and affiliates of the partners, as well as PSNC Energy, would be 20-year contract customers, pending regulatory approvals.

Atlantic requested and received authorization to use FERC's pre-filing process last fall for both the ACP and Supply Header projects (see Daily GPINov. 5, 2014Oct. 31, 2014).

Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle told NGI the BLM’s request would not affect its filing schedule, and the company’s management believes the request would not affect the project’s targeted in-service date. He said the company would file a formal application later this summer, and anticipates that it would take FERC about a year to make a decision on the application.

“We have told the BLM that we will submit an initial POD by the time of our FERC application filing,” Norvelle said. “Information will be added to this draft POD as the FERC staff takes the application through the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] review and writes the draft EIS.”

Norvelle said Atlantic recently adopted an alternate route for the pipeline in Virginia’s Buckingham and Nelson counties. Under the Wingina Alternate Route Variation, the pipeline will avoid the Norwood-Wingina Historic District in Nelson County, “which contains historic sites and buildings and may contain prehistoric sites,” he said. “The proposed variation is slightly shorter than the original proposed route and crosses fewer private lands.”

According to Norvelle, Atlantic is also considering three alternative routes in Virginia’s Brunswick, Greensville and Southampton counties, and the city of Suffolk. “While two of the three alternate routes are longer than the original proposed route, they each would run adjacent to existing utility rights-of-way [electric transmission power lines],” he said.

The siting of the ACP has stirred emotions on both sides.

Earlier this month, the USFS filed more than 300 comments with FERC, most of them questioning the necessity for the pipeline to run through the Monongahela and George Washington national forests (see Daily GPIAug. 5). A coalition of labor and business groups has formed in support of the pipeline, while environmental groups have formed an alliance in opposition (see Daily GPIJuly 6June 23).

Last month, FERC documents indicated staff would consider at least three possible alternatives to original plans for the ACP and a second pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), including having the two pipelines share at least some of their route through West Virginia and Virginia. But officials with Dominion and EQT Corp., a JV partner for the MVP, said the alternatives were not feasible (see Shale Daily, July 31).

Construction of the ACP is estimated to begin by mid-2016 and tentatively enter service in 2018.

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