The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) issued a scoping notice document inviting public comment on an environmental impact statement (“EIS”) discussing the environmental impacts of the planned Southeast Market Pipelines (“SMP”) Project. The SMP Project is made up of three “natural gas transmission pipeline projects: Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC’s (“Sabal Trail’s”) Sabal Trail Project in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida; Florida Southeast Connection, LLC’s (“FSC’s”) Florida Southeast Connection Project (“FSC Project”) in Florida; and Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC’s (“Transco’s”) Hillabee Expansion Project in Alabama.” The Sabal Trail, FSC, and Transco propose to build and run over 650 miles of “interstate natural gas transmission pipeline” and associated facilities in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The Sabal Trail Project would link with the Hillabee Expansion Project in Alabama, and the FSC Project in Florida.
FERC staff will address the environmental impacts of all three projects in one EIS. FERC will then use the EIS to decide “whether the SMP Project is in the public convenience and necessity.” FERC is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), to consider environmental impacts that “could result from an action whenever it considers the issuance” of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity under Section 7 of the Natural Gas Act. In addition, FERC is also required to “discover and address concerns the public may have about proposals.” This discovery process is called “scoping” and focuses EIS analysis on the “important environmental issues.” This notice document opens the scoping process used to collect public comment. FERC staff will use public comments received during the scoping process to “determine what issues will need to be evaluated in the EIS.”
Generally, the EIS would consider a number of factors, like geology and soils; water resources, including surface waters and groundwater; and wetlands to name a few. Based on a preliminary review, FERC’s staff has identified several issues including: purpose and need for the SMP Project; impacts of clearing forested areas and other vegetation; impacts on water resources including sensitive springs, groundwater, and wetlands; karst terrain; impacts on land use; environmental justice; the use of eminent domain to obtain project easements; impacts on property values, tourism, and recreational resources; cultural resources; compressor station noise; pipeline integrity and public safety; and alternatives and cumulative impacts.
State and local government representatives should notify their constituents about this process and encourage them to comment on their areas of concern. Public and other interested stakeholders can make a difference by specifically commenting about the SMP Project. Comments should focus on:
- the potential environmental impacts of the project;
- reasonable alternatives; and
- measures to avoid or lessen these environmental impacts.
Affected landowners and other interested parties are encouraged to attend the scoping meetings and to verbally comment on issues that should be addressed in the EIS. Verbal comments can be given at the scheduled public scoping meetings to be held in the SMP Project area. The scoping meetings will also provide interested parties a chance to learn more about the FERC’s review process. In addition, “representatives from Sabal Trail, FSC, and Transco,” will be present one hour prior to each scoping meeting “to answer questions about their respective SMP Project component.”
Interested parties should submit written comments (referencing the appropriate project docket number: PF14-1-000 for the Sabal Trail Project; PF14-2-000 for the FSC Project; or PF14-6-000 for the Hillabee Expansion Project) by April 20, 2014, by any one of the following methods:
- Electronically: Use the eComment feature located on the FERC’s Website (www.ferc.gov) under the Documents and Filings heading;
- Electronically: Use the eFiling feature located on the FERC’s Website (www.ferc.gov) under the Documents and Filings heading; or
- Paper: Mail comments to the following address: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE., Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426.
FERC recommends electronic filing of comments and has expert staff available to assist interested parties at (202) 502-8258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was originally published on the legacy ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Notice and Comment blog, which merged with the Yale Journal on Regulation Notice and Comment blog in 2015.