FERC has released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Mountaineer XPress and Gulf XPress projects, stating that while construction and operation of the projects would result in some adverse and significant environmental impacts, if the projects are constructed and operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, the mitigation measures discussed in the EIS, and FERC’s recommendations, these impacts would be reduced to acceptable levels.
According to the EIS, this determination was reached following a review of the information provided by Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf and further developed from data requests, field investigations, public and agency 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 conclusion, the principal reasons are:
- Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf would minimize impacts on natural and cultural resources during construction and operation of their projects by implementing their project-specific Environmental Construction Standards (which incorporates FERC’s Upland Erosion Control, Revegetation, and Maintenance Plan and Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures); Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan; Horizontal Directional Drill Inadvertent Return Contingency Plan; Unexpected Contamination Discovery Plan; Unanticipated Discovery Plan (for the treatment of cultural resources and human remains); Blasting Plan; and Karst Mitigation Plan (for Columbia Gas only)
- FERC staff would complete Endangered Species Act consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prior to allowing any construction to begin
- FERC staff would complete the process of complying with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and implementing the regulations at 36 CFR 800 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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and applicable state agencies
- Columbia Gas would develop a Landslide Mitigation Plan
- Columbia Gas will consult with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to identify any specific construction, restoration, replacement, and/or operation mitigation measures that would be implemented to promote compatibility with the restoration and management of upland forested areas
- Columbia Gas will develop a Noxious and Invasive Weed Management Plan
- Columbia Gas will develop a Migratory Bird Plan and identify special measures, if any, that Columbia Gas would implement to reduce impacts on cerulean warbler habitat
- Implementation of an environmental inspection and mitigation monitoring program that would ensure compliance with all mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations and other approvals
In addition, FERC staff has developed and recommended 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 and operation of the projects.
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 (title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations, sections 1500–1508 [40 CFR 1500-1508]), and the FERC regulations implementing NEPA (18 CFR 380). Input from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection was also considered during the development of these conclusions and recommendations.