FERC staff will prepare an environmental assessment (EA) for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project and will examine the natural gas pipeline’s potential impacts on the Potomac River and the C&O Canal.

The project [CP17-80] calls for construction of approximately 3.5 miles of eight-inch diameter pipeline, three mainline valves and two new tie-in assemblies. It will provide an additional 47.5 million Dth/d of capacity for firm transportation service to markets in West Virginia through the gathering system of Mountaineer Gas Co.

The proposed pipeline will originate in Fulton County, PA, at an interconnection with an existing Columbia Gas Transmission LLC (CGT) pipeline, just north of the border with Maryland. It will then traverse Washington County, MD — near its narrowest point between Pennsylvania and West Virginia — before crossing the Potomac River and ending in Morgan County, WV.

In a 13-page notice of intent, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff said it will accept public comments as part of the scoping process for the project through May 25. The project is expected to disturb about 61 acres of land for the above-ground facilities and the pipeline, with Columbia Pipeline Group Inc. (CPG) retaining about 26 acres to operate the pipeline. In its EA, the staff will consider cumulative effects of the project, including those on geology and soils, land use, water and cultural resources, vegetation and wildlife, air quality and noise.

“We have already received comments and identified issues that we think deserve attention based on a preliminary review of the proposed facilities and the environmental information provided by CPG,” FERC staff said. “This preliminary list of issues includes: potential impacts on the Potomac River and the C&O Canal, and potential impacts associated with karst features and groundwater in the area. The list may be changed based on [public] comments and our analysis.”

CPG, which was acquired by TransCanada last July, filed an application with FERC for the project in March. The company hopes to begin construction in April 2018 and have the pipeline in service in October 2018.

“Our Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project is critical to the continued growth and development of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle and the surrounding region,” TransCanada spokesman Scott Castleman told NGIon Tuesday. “We are committed to being a good neighbor in these communities, as well as working with FERC to ensure this project meets all standards for health, safety and the environment.”

FERC said it has already received public comments on the Mountaineer Gas Pipeline — a separate, three-phase project located entirely in West Virginia proposed by Mountaineer. The first phase of that project calls for building a 24-mile, 10-inch diameter distribution trunk line. It would begin at a new interconnection in Morgan County with a new transmission line from CGT, and extend to the northern end of the Mountaineer’s distribution system, which serves the area of Martinsburg, WV.

Last November, Mountaineer received an order from the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) authorizing construction of the first phase of the Mountaineer Gas Pipeline. According to FERC, Mountaineer plans to file applications with the PSC for the second and third phases of the project in 2019.

“These related intrastate facilities are subject to state jurisdiction and would be non-jurisdictional to the FERC,” the Commission said. “Consequently, the Mountaineer Gas Pipeline will not be a part of the proposed action considered in the EA. However, we intend to disclose available resource impact information for the related project in the EA to inform stakeholders and decision makers.”