The USDA Forest Service issued a final record of decision (ROD) Friday to authorize the use of National Forest System lands for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project (ACP Project), and approve project-specific amendments for the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) and George Washington National Forest (GWNF) Forest Plans.
The pipeline route traverses 604 miles to deliver natural gas from the Appalachian Basin to markets in the mid-Atlantic region of Virginia and North Carolina. The decision, jointly issued by the Forest Service’s Eastern and Southern Regional Foresters, authorizes Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC (Atlantic) to construct and operate 21 miles of the pipeline route that will cross National Forest System lands.
“Our decision supports Forest Service efforts to provide for multiple uses, minimize impacts to natural resources, and to implement federal policies that encourage energy infrastructure, jobs, and economic growth,” said Eastern Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson.
On October 13, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Need (Certificate) approving the ACP Project route, subject to the conditions outlined in the Certificate. The Certificate, in conjunction with the Forest Service’s final ROD, are needed to allow construction of the pipeline on National Forest System lands to proceed. To implement the ROD, the Forest Service has issued the required Special Use Permits (SUPs) for the Project. Upon Atlantic’s acceptance of the terms of the SUPs and confirmation that all necessary federal and State authorizations are in place, the Forest Service will allow Atlantic to proceed with the Project. Atlantic estimates tree removal will begin in November 2017, with pipeline construction to begin by April 2018. The pipeline will begin transporting natural gas by the fourth quarter of 2019.
FERC was the lead federal agency in preparing the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project and is responsible for certificating the ACP Project. FERC issued a final EIS for the ACP Project on July 21, 2017. FERC’s EIS details the potential impacts of the entire 604-mile-long route, including the portion that cross 5.1 miles of the MNF in West Virginia, and 15.9 miles of the GWNF in Virginia. The ACP Project will impact approximately 430 acres of National Forest System lands during construction, and after restoration the land in use for the pipeline will be reduced to about 214 acres for long term operation. The final restored pipeline corridor will be 50-foot-wide.
More information on the Forest Service record of decision can be viewed at www.fs.usda.gov/gwj/. The final ACP EIS is located at www.ferc.gov.