The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC) has prepared a final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the projects proposed by Mountain Valley Pipeline (Mountain Valley) in Docket No. CP16-10-000 and Equitrans in Docket No. CP16-13-000.
Mountain Valley seeks a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Certificate) from the Commission under Section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) to construct and operate a new 304-mile-long 42-inch-diamter pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia as part of its proposed Mountain Valley Project (MVP). Aboveground facilities associated with the MVP would include 3 new compressor stations, totaling about 171,600 horsepower (hp); 4 new meter stations and an interconnection; 3 new taps; 5 new pig launchers and receivers; and 36 new mainline block valves. The purpose of the MVP is to transport about 2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas from production areas in the Appalachian Basin to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. Equitrans seeks a Certificate from the Commission under Section 7(c) of the NGA to construct and operate a total of about 8 miles of various diameter pipelines in 6 segments in Pennsylvania and West Virginia as part of its Equitrans Expansion Project (EEP). Aboveground facilities associated with the EEP would include the new 32,300 hp Redhook Compressor Station; 4 new taps and an interconnection; and 4 new pig launchers and receivers. Under Section 7(b) of the NGA, Equitrans requests Commission permission to abandon and dismantle the existing 4,800 hp Pratt Compressor Station. The EEP is designed to transport about 0.4 Bcf/d of natural gas north-south on Equitrans’ existing system, to improve system flexibility and reliability, and serve markets in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast through interconnections with various other interstate systems, including the proposed MVP. Because the MVP and EEP are interrelated and connected actions, we analyzed them both together in this single comprehensive EIS. The EIS has been prepared in compliance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Council on Environmental Quality regulations for implementing NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 1500–1508), and FERC regulations implementing NEPA (18 CFR 380).
The conclusions and recommendations presented in the EIS are those of the FERC environmental staff. Input from the United States (U.S.) Department of Agriculture Forest Service (FS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Transportation, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection; and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources as cooperating agencies was considered during the development of our conclusions and recommendations. The BLM, COE, and FS may adopt and use the EIS when they consider the issuance of a Right-of-Way Grant to Mountain Valley for the portion of the MVP that would cross federal lands. Further, the FS may use the EIS when it considers amendments to its Land and Resource Management Plan for the Jefferson National Forest to allow the MVP to cross the Forest. The agencies will present their own conclusions and recommendations in their respective permit authorizations and Records of Decision for the projects.
The FERC staff concludes that construction and operation of the projects would result in some adverse environmental impacts. In the case of the clearing of forest, effects may be long-term and significant. However, for most other environmental resources, effects should be temporary or short-term, and impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of the applicants’ proposed mitigation measures and the additional measures recommended in the EIS. This determination is based on a review of the information provided by Mountain Valley and Equitrans in their applications to the FERC and supplemental filings in response to staff’s environmental information requests; field investigations; scoping; literature research; alternatives analyses; and consultations with federal, state, and local agencies, and other stakeholders. Although many factors were considered in this determination, the principal reasons are:
Mountain Valley would implement the measures outlined in the FERC’s Upland Erosion Control, Revegetation, and Maintenance Plan (Plan), its project-specific Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures (Procedures).
In addition, Mountain Valley would implement the measures outlined in its various resource-specific mitigation plans filed with its application to the FERC, or included in various supplemental filings, including its Karst Mitigation Plan and Karst-specific Erosion and Sediment Control Plan to reduce impacts when crossing karst terrain; its Landslide Mitigation Plan for reducing impacts when crossing steep topography; its Mining Area Construction Plan to reduce impacts when crossing coal mine areas; its Blasting Plan to reduce impacts when crossing areas of shallow bedrock; its Organic Farm Protection Plan to reduce impacts when crossing organic farms; its Water Resources Identification and Testing Plan, Spill Prevention Controls and Countermeasures Plan (SPCCP), and Unanticipated Discovery of Contamination Plan to reduce impacts on water resources; its Compensatory Wetland Mitigation Plan to mitigate for the conversion of forested wetlands to shrub or herbaceous wetlands; its Migratory Bird Habitat Conservation Plan and Exotic and Invasive Species Control Plan to reduce impacts on birds, other animals, and plants; its Fire Prevention and Suppression Plan to reduce the chance of wildfires; its Traffic and Transportation Management Plan to reduce impacts on local road users; its Fugitive Dust Control Plan to reduce air quality impacts during construction; and its Winter Construction Plan. As indicated in the EIS, we have reviewed these plans and determined that they are acceptable.
Equitrans would follow its project-specific Plan and Procedures, its Erosion and Sediment Control Plan for the Redhook Compressor Station, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control Program Manual.
In addition, Equitrans would implement the measures outlined in its various resource-specific mitigation plans filed with its application to the FERC, or included in various supplemental filings, including its Mine Subsidence Plan to protect its pipelines while crossing abandoned coal mine areas; it project-specific SPCCP and Preparedness, Prevention, and Contingency and Emergency Action Plan to reduce potential impacts on water resources; its Horizontal Directional Drill Contingency Plan to handle a failure or frac-out while crossing under the Monongahela River and South Fork Tenmile Creek; its Migratory Bird Conservation Plan to minimize impacts on bird species of concern; and its Traffic and Transportation Management Plan to reduce impacts on other local road users. As indicated in the EIS, we have reviewed these plans and determined that they are acceptable.
Mountain Valley and Equitrans would use mostly dry open-cut methods to cross sensitive waterbodies and coldwater fisheries during state-mandated construction windows. Mountain Valley and Equitrans would obtain permits from the COE and applicable state resource agencies prior to crossing waterbodies and wetlands.
For the portion of the MVP within the Jefferson National Forest, Mountain Valley would follow the measures outlined in its FS-approved Plan of Development.
The FERC staff would complete formal consultations with the FWS under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act prior to allowing any construction to begin that could adversely affect federally listed threatened or endangered species.
The FERC staff would complete the process of complying with the National Historic Preservation Act prior to allowing any construction to begin that could adversely affect historic properties.
The FERC staff would provide oversight for an environmental inspection and monitoring program that would ensure compliance with all mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations.
In addition, the FERC staff and cooperating agencies developed site-specific mitigation measures that Mountain Valley and Equitrans should implement to further reduce the environmental impacts that would otherwise result from construction of their projects. The FERC staff determined that these measures are necessary to reduce the adverse impacts associated with the projects, and in part, are basing conclusions on implementation of these measures. These additional measures are listed as recommendations in section 5.2 of the EIS.