FERC staff on Friday issued a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC's proposed Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline gas expansion project.
The AIM Project calls for construction of 37.4 miles of pipeline in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, and would create up to 342,000 Dth/d of firm transportation capacity to markets in the Northeast. Algonquin, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy Partners LP, received a favorable draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [CP-14-96-000] last August (see Daily GPI, Aug. 6, 2014).
According to FERC staff, construction and operation of the AIM Project "would result in some adverse environmental impacts. However, most of these impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of Algonquin's proposed mitigation measures and plans and the additional measures recommended by the FERC staff in the DEIS."
Specifically, FERC pointed out that about 35 miles (93%) of the 37.4 miles of pipeline needed for the project would be built within or adjacent to existing rights-of-way (ROW), and 70% of the pipeline facilities would replace existing pipeline facilities within the existing ROW.
FERC also cited a long list of mitigation items Algonquin plans to use during the project's construction and operation. These include an erosion and sediment control plan; spill prevention, control and countermeasure plan; unexpected contamination encounter procedures; invasive plant species control plan; best drilling practices plan; compensatory mitigation plan; traffic management plans for New York and the West Roxbury Lateral; procedures guiding the discovery of unanticipated cultural resources and human remains; and fugitive dust control plan.
"Algonquin would [also] utilize the horizontal directional drill method to cross the Hudson and Still rivers, which would avoid any direct impacts on these resources," FERC said.
The regulatory agency added that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still in the process of issuing a letter of concurrent for the AIM Project. Once issued, consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act would be complete. FERC also still needs to finish section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and implement regulations at 36 CFR 800 before construction may begin.
FERC commissioners must still make a decision on the project. Algonquin began the pre-filing process at FERC in June 2013 and applied for a certificate on Feb. 28, 2014.
Earlier this month, a National Grid executive asked FERC to expedite its review of the AIM Project on the grounds that his company has executed precedent agreements with Algonquin for 118,000 Dth/d of firm transportation capacity (see Daily GPI, Jan. 5). The New York Department of Environmental Conservation also scheduled two public hearings to discuss the project this month (see Daily GPI, Jan. 2).