To the Editor;
No construction on the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) section in West Virginia can begin until all state and federal permits have been granted. None of these permits have been obtained as of this time. In addition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Certificate of Need and Public Necessity, the project would also need Section 401 and 404 permits under Clean Water Act issued by WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) and Army Corps of Engineers, respectively. WVDEP recently withdrew their approval of the 401 permit for the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) due to an inadequate review process. WVDEP will be required to conduct as thorough a review for the ACP as they do for the MVP.
In addition to their certificate of need and clean water act permits, the project must acquire a State Stormwater Construction Permit that sets the standards for their sediment and erosion control plan. Ground cannot be broken and no dirt can be moved on the pipeline right-of-way or access roads until the project has received this permit. That permit requires a 30-day public comment period, which has not been initiated yet. The construction timeline must not interfere with the breeding season of certain species. This is why ACP wants to start clearing trees this winter, a lofty goal considering they do not have any of the necessary permits in place.
The proposed ACP route cuts through almost five miles of Seneca State Forest. Existing roads in Seneca Forest would be used for ACP construction access; however, construction plans indicate a mile-long access road that would cut along the ridgeline of Michael Mountain. Road and pipeline construction would impede the public use of this popular recreation area.
While the National Forests must solicit public input, State lands do not have that obligation. Negotiations between state officials and Dominion Energy have been private. Should West Virginia taxpayers have the right to be involved in decisions about our public lands?
A section of the Allegheny Trail section through Seneca Forest would be impacted requiring additional mitigation. This mitigation requirement prompted the sale of 1,200 acres of the Buckskin Boy Scouts land to the Maryland-based Conservation Fund, paid for by Dominion, and offered to Seneca Forest as mitigation.
Equipment and materials in laydown yards in Green Bank should not be a signal to local citizens that the ACP is a done deal. FERC’s decision will be challenged on several grounds, including necessity. For example, the Transco pipeline already supplies more than enough gas from the south to meet the needs of present and future customers to which ACP wants to sell. However, building pipeline infrastructure is a high-return investment for companies who are almost guaranteed a profit of about 14 percent while placing the burden on ratepayers to cover their costs.