[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 230 (Tuesday, December 1, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 75083-75085]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-30395]



[[Page 75083]]

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DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

[Docket No. PF15-31-000]


Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC; Notice of Intent To Prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement for the Planned Mountaineer XPress 
Project, Request for Comments on Environmental Issues and Notice of 
Public Scoping Meeting

    The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or 
Commission) will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) that 
will discuss the environmental impacts of the Mountaineer XPress 
Project (MXP) involving construction and operation of facilities by 
Columbia Gas Transmission, LLC (Columbia) in 14 counties in the western 
portion of West Virginia. The Commission will use this EIS in its 
decision-making process to determine whether the project is in the 
public convenience and necessity.
    This notice announces the opening of the scoping process the 
Commission will use to gather input from the public and interested 
agencies on the project. You can make a difference by providing us with 
your specific comments or concerns about the project. Your comments 
should focus on the potential environmental effects, reasonable 
alternatives, and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts. 
Your input will help the Commission staff determine what issues they 
need to evaluate in the EIS. To ensure that your comments are timely 
and properly recorded, please send your comments so that the Commission 
receives them in Washington, DC on or before December 17, 2015.
    If you sent comments on this project to the Commission before the 
opening of this docket on September 16, 2015, you will need to file 
those comments in Docket No. PF15-31-000 to ensure they are considered 
as part of this proceeding.
    This notice is being sent to the Commission's current environmental 
mailing list for this project. State and local government 
representatives should notify their constituents of this planned 
project and encourage them to comment on their areas of concern.
    If you are a landowner receiving this notice, a pipeline company 
representative may contact you about the acquisition of an easement to 
construct, operate, and maintain the planned facilities. The company 
would seek to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement. However, if 
the Commission approves the project, that approval conveys with it the 
right of eminent domain. Therefore, if easement negotiations fail to 
produce an agreement, the pipeline company could initiate condemnation 
proceedings where compensation would be determined in accordance with 
state law.
    A fact sheet prepared by the FERC entitled ``An Interstate Natural 
Gas Facility On My Land? What Do I Need To Know?'' is available for 
viewing on the FERC Web site (www.ferc.gov). This fact sheet addresses 
a number of typically asked questions, including the use of eminent 
domain and how to participate in the Commission's proceedings.

Public Participation

    For your convenience, there are four methods you can use to submit 
your comments to the Commission. The Commission will provide equal 
consideration to all comments received, whether filed in written form 
or provided verbally. The Commission encourages electronic filing of 
comments and has expert staff available to assist you at (202) 502-8258 
or [email protected]. Please carefully follow these instructions so that 
your comments are properly recorded.
    (1) You can file your comments electronically using the eComment 
feature on the Commission's Web site (www.ferc.gov) under the link to 
Documents and Filings. This is an easy method for submitting brief, 
text-only comments on a project;
    (2) You can file your comments electronically by using the eFiling 
feature on the Commission's Web site (www.ferc.gov) under the link to 
Documents and Filings. With eFiling, you can provide comments in a 
variety of formats by attaching them as a file with your submission. 
New eFiling users must first create an account by clicking on 
``eRegister.'' If you are filing a comment on a particular project, 
please select ``Comment on a Filing'' as the filing type; or
    (3) You can file a paper copy of your comments by mailing them to 
the following address. Be sure to reference the project docket number 
(PF15-31-000) with your submission: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, 
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE., Room 1A, 
Washington, DC 20426.
    (4) In lieu of sending written or electronic comments, the 
Commission invites you to attend one of the public scoping meetings its 
staff will conduct in the project area, scheduled as follows.

Schedule and Locations for the Mountaineer XPress Project Public Scoping
                                Meetings
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             Date and time                           Location
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Monday, December 7, 2015, 6:00 p.m.....  The Lewis Wetzel Family Center,
                                          442 E. Benjamin Drive, New
                                          Martinsville, WV 26149.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 6:00 p.m....  Doddridge County Park--Main
                                          Lodge, 1252 Snowbird Road,
                                          West Union, WV 26456.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015, 6:00 p.m..  Cedar Lake Conference Center--
                                          Assembly Hall, 82 FFA Drive,
                                          Ripley, WV 25271.
Thursday, December 10, 2015, 6:00 p.m..  LaBelle Theater, 311 D Street,
                                          South Charleston, WV 25303.
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    The doors will open at 5 p.m. at which time we will begin our sign 
up of speakers for the meetings. For the hour prior to the start of the 
meetings, Columbia representatives will be present with maps depicting 
the project and to answer questions.
    The scoping meetings will begin at 6 p.m. with a description of our 
environmental review process by Commission staff, after which speakers 
will be called. The meetings will end once all speakers have provided 
their comments or at 10 p.m., whichever comes first. Please note that 
depending on the number of people signed up to speak, there may be a 
time limit of 3 minutes to present comments, and speakers should 
structure their comments accordingly. If time limits are implemented, 
they will be strictly enforced to ensure that as many individuals as 
possible are given an opportunity to comment. The meetings will be 
recorded by a court reporter to ensure comments are accurately 
recorded. Transcripts will be entered

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into the formal record of the Commission proceeding.
    Please note this is not your only public input opportunity; refer 
to the review process flow chart in appendix 1.\1\
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    \1\ The appendices referenced in this notice will not appear in 
the Federal Register. Copies of the appendices were sent to all 
those receiving this notice in the mail and are available at 
www.ferc.gov using the link called ``eLibrary'' or from the 
Commission's Public Reference Room, 888 First Street NE., 
Washington, DC 20426, or call (202) 502-8371. For instructions on 
connecting to eLibrary, refer to the ``Additional Information'' 
section of this notice.
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Summary of the Planned Project

    Columbia plans to construct and operate approximately 167 miles of 
36-inch and 24-inch-diameter pipeline; construct three new compressor 
stations and three regulator stations; and modify three existing 
compressor stations and other existing appurtenant facilities in West 
Virginia. The MXP would provide about 2.7 billion standard cubic feet 
per day of natural gas transportation capacity from production areas to 
markets on the Columbia system. According to Columbia, its project 
would enable infrastructure-constrained natural gas supplies to reach 
waiting markets served by Columbia's system. Columbia has entered into 
firm contracts for over 88 percent of the MXP capacity.
    The MXP would consist of the following facilities:
     Construction of 161.1 miles of new 36-inch-diameter 
pipeline and associated equipment (main-line valves, pigging 
facilities,\2\ etc.), located in Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler, Doddridge, 
Ritchie, Calhoun, Wirt, Roane, Jackson, Mason, Putnam, and Cabell 
Counties, West Virginia;
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    \2\ A ``pig'' is a tool that the pipeline company inserts into 
and pushes through the pipeline for cleaning, conducting internal 
inspections, or other purposes.
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     construction of 6.3 miles of 24-inch-diamter pipeline in 
Doddridge County (the Sherwood Lateral);
     construction of three new compressor stations and related 
equipment in Doddridge County (Sherwood Compressor Station), Ritchie 
County (White Oak Compressor Station), and Jackson County (Mt. Olive 
Compressor Station);
     construction of three new regulator stations and 
associated equipment in Marshall County (the Leach Interconnect), 
Doddridge County (Sherwood Lateral Regulator), and Cabell County (the 
Saunders Creek Tie-in);
     replacement of two sections of existing 30-inch-diameter 
pipeline, 1,295 feet and 814 feet in length, in Cabell County;
     installation of additional compression at the anticipated 
Lone Oak Compressor Station (Marshall County), Elk River Compressor 
Station (Wayne County), and Ceredo Compressor Station (Kanawha 
County)--all of which are under review in other Commission dockets; and
     construction and/or installation of other related 
equipment.
    The general location of the project facilities is shown in appendix 
2.

Land Requirements for Construction

    Columbia has proposed to use a 125-foot-wide right-of-way for 
construction of the new pipeline in upland areas, consisting of a 50-
foot-wide permanent and a 75-foot-wide temporary right-of-way, except 
where site conditions require specific workspace configurations. 
Temporary right-of-way used during construction would be restored and 
revert to former uses once construction is completed. However, the 
permanent right-of-way would be maintained for permanent operation of 
the MXP.
    Additional temporary workspace would be required at road, utility 
lines, and waterbody crossings; steep slopes; side slopes; horizontal 
directional drill locations; and at the beginning and end of 
construction spreads for mobilizing construction equipment. Disturbance 
would also result from the use of staging areas and construction of new 
and/or upgrading of existing access roads associated with construction 
and operation of the planned facilities.
    The pipeline would be sited to follow existing pipeline, utility, 
and road rights-of-way to the maximum extent practicable.

The EIS Process

    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the 
Commission to take into account the environmental impacts that could 
result from an action whenever it considers the issuance of a 
Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. NEPA also requires us 
\3\ to discover and address concerns the public may have about 
proposals. This process is referred to as scoping. The main goal of the 
scoping process is to focus the analysis in the EIS on the important 
environmental issues. By this notice, the Commission requests public 
comments on the scope of the issues to address in the EIS. We will 
consider all filed comments during the preparation of the EIS.
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    \3\ ``We,'' ``us,'' and ``our'' refer to the environmental staff 
of the Commission's Office of Energy Projects.
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    In the EIS, we will discuss impacts that could occur as a result of 
the construction and operation of the planned project under these 
general headings:
     Geology and soils;
     land use;
     water resources, fisheries, and wetlands;
     cultural resources;
     vegetation and wildlife;
     socioeconomics;
     air quality and noise;
     endangered and threatened species;
     public safety; and
     cumulative impacts.
    We will also evaluate possible alternatives to the planned project 
or portions of the project, and make recommendations on how to lessen 
or avoid impacts on the various resource areas.
    Although no formal application has been filed, we have already 
initiated our NEPA review under the Commission's pre-filing process. 
The purpose of the pre-filing process is to encourage early involvement 
of interested stakeholders and to identify and resolve issues before 
the FERC receives an application. As part of our pre-filing review, we 
have begun to contact some federal and state agencies to discuss their 
involvement in the scoping process and the preparation of the EIS.
    The EIS will present our independent analysis of the issues. We 
will publish and distribute the draft EIS for public comment. After the 
comment period, we will consider all timely comments and revise the 
document, as necessary, before issuing a final EIS. To ensure we have 
the opportunity to consider and address your comments, please carefully 
follow the instructions in the Public Participation section, beginning 
on page 2.
    With this notice, we are asking agencies with jurisdiction by law 
and/or special expertise with respect to the environmental issues 
related to this project to formally cooperate with us in the 
preparation of the EIS.\4\ Agencies that would like to request 
cooperating agency status should follow the instructions for filing 
comments provided under the Public Participation section of this 
notice. Currently, the West Virginia Department of Environmental 
Protection has expressed its intention to participate as a cooperating 
agency in the preparation of

[[Page 75085]]

the EIS to provide special expertise on environmental issues related to 
this project.
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    \4\ The Council on Environmental Quality regulations addressing 
cooperating agency responsibilities are at Title 40, Code of Federal 
Regulations, Part 1501.6.
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Consultations Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation 
Act

    In accordance with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's 
implementing regulations for section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act, we are using this notice to initiate consultation 
with the applicable State Historic Preservation Office(s), and to 
solicit their views and those of other government agencies, interested 
Indian tribes, and the public on the project's potential effects on 
historic properties.\5\ We will define the project-specific Area of 
Potential Effects (APE) in consultation with the SHPO(s) as the project 
develops. On natural gas facility projects, the APE at a minimum 
encompasses all areas subject to ground disturbance (examples include 
construction right-of-way, contractor/pipe storage yards, compressor 
stations, and access roads). Our EIS for this project will document our 
findings on the impacts on historic properties and summarize the status 
of consultations under section 106.
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    \5\ The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regulations 
are at Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 800. Those 
regulations define historic properties as any prehistoric or 
historic district, site, building, structure, or object included in 
or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic 
Places.
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Currently Identified Environmental Issues

    We have already identified several issues that we think deserve 
attention based on a preliminary review of the planned facilities and 
the environmental information provided by Columbia. This preliminary 
list of issues may change based on your comments and our analysis.
     Removal of forested areas;
     impacts on endangered and threatened species that not 
covered under Columbia's Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan;
     changes to existing land uses; and
     safety of landowners during the operation of the proposed 
pipeline.

Environmental Mailing List

    The environmental mailing list includes federal, state, and local 
government representatives and agencies; elected officials; 
environmental and public interest groups; Native American Tribes; other 
interested parties; and local libraries and newspapers. This list also 
includes all affected landowners (as defined in the Commission's 
regulations) who are potential right-of-way grantors, whose property 
may be used temporarily for project purposes, or who own homes within 
certain distances of aboveground facilities, and anyone who submits 
comments on the project. We will update the environmental mailing list 
as the analysis proceeds to ensure that we send the information related 
to this environmental review to all individuals, organizations, and 
government entities interested in and/or potentially affected by the 
planned project.
    Copies of the completed draft EIS will be sent to the environmental 
mailing list for public review and comment. If you would prefer to 
receive a paper copy of the document instead of the CD version or would 
like to remove your name from the mailing list, please return the 
attached Information Request (appendix 3).

Becoming an Intervenor

    Once Columbia files its application with the Commission, you may 
want to become an ``intervenor'' which is an official party to the 
Commission's proceeding. Intervenors play a more formal role in the 
process and are able to file briefs, appear at hearings, and be heard 
by the courts if they choose to appeal the Commission's final ruling. 
An intervenor formally participates in the proceeding by filing a 
request to intervene. Motions to intervene are more fully described at 
http://www.ferc.gov/resources/guides/how-to/intervene.asp. Instructions 
for becoming an intervenor are in the ``Document-less Intervention 
Guide'' under the ``e-filing'' link on the Commission's Web site. 
Please note that the Commission will not accept requests for intervenor 
status at this time. You must wait until the Commission receives a 
formal application for the project.

Additional Information

    Additional information about the project is available from the 
Commission's Office of External Affairs at (866) 208-FERC or on the 
FERC Web site (www.ferc.gov) using the eLibrary link. Click on the 
eLibrary link, click on ``General Search'' and enter the docket number, 
excluding the last three digits in the Docket Number field (i.e., PF15-
31-000). Be sure you have selected an appropriate date range. For 
assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at 
[email protected] or toll free at (866) 208-3676, or for TTY, 
contact (202) 502-8659. The eLibrary link also provides access to the 
texts of formal documents issued by the Commission, such as orders, 
notices, and rulemakings.
    In addition, the Commission offers a free service called 
eSubscription which allows you to keep track of all formal issuances 
and submittals in specific dockets. This can reduce the amount of time 
you spend researching proceedings by automatically providing you with 
notification of these filings, document summaries, and direct links to 
the documents. Go to www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/esubscription.asp.
    Finally, public meetings or site visits will be posted on the 
Commission's calendar located at www.ferc.gov/EventCalendar/EventsList.aspx along with other related information.

    Dated: November 18, 2015.
Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr.,
Deputy Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2015-30395 Filed 11-30-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6717-01-P