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Independence, Ohio Agency Agree to Protect Resources

Independence, Ohio Agency Agree to Protect Resources

Hoping to solidify the project's shaky environmental status, Independence Pipeline Co., working with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), voluntarily agreed to a set of standards last week intended to protect Ohio's environment from the construction and operation of the pipeline. The agreement, which was signed by the OPSB in early June, has been forwarded to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for consideration.

There are 31 conditions in the joint agreement, which augments other procedures included in FERC's Plan and Procedures and Independence's Best Management Practices plan.

"I don't think any other project has gone to this length," said Joe Martucci, an ANR Pipeline spokesman, which is a partner in the $678 million, 400-mile project along with Transco and National Fuel Gas Co. "This is a detailed, legal document outlining specific measures we have agreed to perform."

For Independence, the OPSB agreement is significant because FERC still has not issued preliminary determinations (PDs) on the four major proposed pipeline projects intended to transport gas from the Midwest to the Northeast (the other three being Millennium, SupplyLink and MarketLink). FERC withheld issuing PDs for any of the projects last March (See Daily GPI, March 11), citing enormous landowner opposition, environmental concerns and potential lack of demand. FERC is aiming for action to resume by this fall.

Independence itself has received more than 6,000 landowner complaints. Although it won a positive draft environmental impact statement from FERC in April (See Daily GPI, April 20), this agreement demonstrates that Independence supporters are still working to combat the landowner opposition.

"It is a direct effort on Independence's part to step up and ease the concerns people have," Martucci said.

One of the most rigorous conditions of the OPSB agreement requires Independence to enter into an extensive construction and agricultural mitigation agreement with the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation districts. The mitigation agreement calls for the implementation of a series of specific construction measures and precautions on privately-owned agricultural land during pipeline construction , cleanup and restoration activities.

The mitigation agreement also stipulates that Independence must retain qualified agricultural consultants and inspectors on each work phase of the project, including initial construction plan development, actual construction, initial restoration, post-construction monitoring and follow-up restoration.

"The prescribed state-of-the-art construction standards and policies outlined in the construction and agricultural mitigation agreement underscore our respect for the agricultural industry in the state of Ohio. They also recognize the importance of designing and building a pipeline that will add a critical link to the nation's natural gas pipeline infrastructure to serve current and future energy needs," Independence and the OPSB said.

If approved, Independence would transport up to 1 Bcf/d of gas from Defiance, OH, to the hub in Leidy, PA.

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