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FERC prepares draft environmental statement for expansion projects

Published by
World Pipelines,

The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has prepared a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Leach XPress and Rayne XPress expansion projects.

The Leach XPress project proposed by Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC (Columbia Gas) includes a total of approximately 160.7 miles of new 20 - 36 in. dia. pipeline, three new compressor stations, modifications at two existing compressor stations, three new regulator stations, modifications at one existing regulator station, 13 bi-directional pig launcher and/or receiver facilities, nine mainline valves, and five new odorisation stations in Pennsylvania (Greene County), Ohio (Fairfield, Hocking, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry and Vinton Counties) and West Virginia (Marshall County). The Leach XPress Project would also include the abandonment in place of 28.2 miles of an existing 20 in. dia. natural gas pipeline, beginning at the existing Crawford Compressor Station in Fairfield County, Ohio and traversing south to Hocking County, Ohio before terminating at the existing McArthur Regulator Station in Vinton County, Ohio.

The Rayne XPress expansion project proposed by Columbia Gulf Transmission, LLC (Columbia Gulf) would involve the construction and operation of the new Grayson Compressor Station in Carter County, Kentucky, the new Means Compressor Station in Menifee and Montgomery Counties, Kentucky, and modification of the existing Means Measurement and Regulation Station in Montgomery County, Kentucky.

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 following co-operating agencies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers (COE), the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Protection, and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Protection was considered during the development of our conclusions and recommendations. However, these agencies could develop their own conclusions and recommendations and would adopt the final EIS per 40 CFR 1506.3 (where applicable) if, after an independent review of the document, they conclude that their permitting requirements have been satisfied.

FERC staff determined that construction and operation of the Projects would result in limited adverse environmental impacts, with the exception of impacts on forested land. Construction of Columbia Gas’s Leach XPress Project would result in significant impacts on forested lands due to the prevalence of forested habitats within the Leach XPress Project area and eventual regrowth of prior forested areas outside of the permanent right-of-way, in addition to Columbia Gas’ proposed mitigation and to recommendations in the draft EIS. FERC staff concludes that the impacts on forested lands would be reduced to less than significant levels. This conclusion is based on a review of the information provided by Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf and further developed from environmental information requests, field reconnaissance, scoping, literature research, alternatives analyses, and contacts with federal, state, and local agencies, Native American tribes, and other stakeholders. Although many factors were considered in this determination, the principal reasons are:

  • The Projects would minimise impacts on natural and cultural resources during construction and operation by implementing Columbia Gas’ and Columbia Gulf’s project-specific environmental construction standards (which incorporates FERC’s upland erosion control, revegetation, and maintenance plan and FERC’s wetland and waterbody construction and mitigation procedures), spill plan for oil and hazardous materials, winter construction plan, horizontal directional drill contingency plan, unanticipated discoveries and emergency procedures, procedure guiding the discovery of unanticipated cultural resources and human remains, blasting plan, traffic control plan, longwall mining plan, and fugitive dust control plan.
  • Endangered Species Act consultation under Section 7 would be completed with the US Fish and Wildlife Service prior to allowing any construction to begin.
  • The process of complying with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and implementing the regulations at 36 CFR 800 would be completed prior to allowing any construction to begin.
  • Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf would be required to obtain applicable permits and provide mitigation for unavoidable impacts on waterbodies and wetlands through coordination with the US Army Corps of Engineers and applicable state agencies.
  • FERC staff is recommending that Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf finalise a Migratory Bird Conservation Plan that includes documentation of its consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service regarding avoidance, and minimisation, as appropriate.
  • FERC staff would provide oversight of an environmental inspection and mitigation monitoring programme that would ensure compliance with all mitigation measures that become conditions of FERC authorisations and other approvals.

In addition, FERC staff developed other site-specific mitigation measures that Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf should implement to further reduce the environmental impacts that would otherwise result from construction of the projects.

Edited from source by Stephanie Roker

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