A pair of proposed interstate natural gas pipeline projects stretching across Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky were authorized for construction and operation by FERC Thursday, despite concerns expressed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Leach Xpress Project would allow for transport of 1.5 million Dth/d of firm transportation service to natural gas customers served by the Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline system in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio [CP15-514], and the Rayne Xpress Expansion Project would add compression in Kentucky to provide about 621,000 Dth/d of firm transportation on the Columbia Gulf Transmission system [CP15-539].
Commissioners approved both projects without comment, as part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's consent agenda.
The Appalachia-focused pipeline projects, aimed at getting Marcellus and Utica shale gas to higher-priced markets, were first announced by Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG) in 2014. CPG, which planned the projects at a combined cost of $1.75 billion, was acquired by TransCanada Corp. last July.
FERC authorization for the projects comes despite concerns voiced by EPA last year. In comments filed at FERC in June, EPA said the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Leach and Rayne XPress pipeline projects was insufficient, recommending that additional information be included in the final version.
The DEIS, EPA said, was a "limited analysis" of the projects' potential impacts. The agency rated the document an "EC-2 Environmental Concerns," indicating that it did not contain enough information to fully assess the environmental impacts that should be avoided.
In subsequent comments filed in October, EPA said it "appreciate[d] that many of our earlier comments and recommendations were considered and addressed" in the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the projects, but said the FEIS "perpetuates the significant omission documented through our comments on the DEIS with respect to a proper climate change analysis to inform the decision making process." The FEIS also did not include a proposed wetland/stream mitigation plan, a migratory bird conservation plan, "or documentation to support FERC assertion that the proposed Mountaineer Xpress Pipeline is not a viable alternative," EPA said.
A "headquarters-level meeting" requested by EPA "to seek a definitive resolution to this matter," did occur in the interim, according to a FERC spokesperson.