FERC on Friday approved Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC’s (ACP) plan to stabilize work areas along its 600-mile route as the developer and agency staff sort out how to comply with recent court decisions vacating key federal approvals for the project.
In a letter Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Kevin Bowman, project manager for the Division of Gas, authorized ACP’s right-of-way (ROW) and work area stabilization plan, along with a similar plan filed by Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. for the related Supply Header Project.
ACP and Dominion had submitted the plans earlier in the week in response to an Aug. 10 FERC order halting all construction on the 1.5 Bcf/d pipeline.
That stop work order came in response to a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit opinion that vacated a ROW issued by the National Park Service (NPS) to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. Prior to issuing the full opinion, the Fourth Circuit vacated ACP’s incidental take statement, forcing the company to stop work in May on about 100 miles of the system in West Virginia and Virginia.
The stabilization plans proposed continuing certain construction activities in areas where the ROW has already been cleared or where pipe installation has already begun.
Bowman noted one change to the submitted plans, specifying that “for locations where trees have been felled, but mainline construction activity has not yet started,” ACP and Dominion “must continue monitoring the ROW” at least once a month.
“We note that clearing of felled vegetation has not yet occurred on federal lands,” Bowman wrote. “Thus, the stabilization measures (except for monitoring) would generally not apply to these locations. However,” ACP “must continue to work and seek concurrence from the appropriate agencies for any” additional actions proposed on federal lands.
Since the stop work order, ACP and Dominion have also filed proposals with FERC for continuing construction on various components of the project that would have independent utility and are not affected by the recent court decisions.
ACP would start in West Virginia and travel through Virginia and into North Carolina to move 1.5 Bcf/d of Appalachian natural gas to the Southeast. The project, backed by Dominion Energy Inc., Duke Energy Corp., Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas, is targeting a 2019 in-service date.
The Supply Header Project is fully backed by Dominion and would include roughly 37.5 miles of pipeline looping and modifications to existing compressor stations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
MVP Cleared for ‘Limited’ Construction at Six Locations
Meanwhile, on Monday FERC authorized Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC (MVP) to complete limited construction activities at six locations identified in an Aug. 17 request from the operator.
In the Aug. 17 filing, MVP listed three in-progress bores and several sections of pipe -- none longer than a mile -- that it argued should be completed for environmental and logistical reasons.
FERC’s Paul Friedman, environmental project manager, agreed, telling the operator that “allowing these limited construction activities to proceed is justified...and the completion and restoration of the ROW at these specific locations would reduce the risk of potential safety and environmental impacts.”
The 300-mile, 2 million Dth/d MVP proposes a similar route to ACP and is also under a stop work order thanks to the Fourth Circuit appeals court.
While FERC has cleared roughly 77 miles of the project in West Virginia to be completed, MVP recently announced significant layoffs due to the stoppage and pushed back its target start date from 1Q2019 to 4Q2019.
MVP is a joint venture of EQT Midstream Partners LP, NextEra US Gas Assets LLC, Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream and RGC Midstream LLC.