Federal regulators announced this week that a controversial pipeline expansion project will undergo an extensive environmental review. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate pipelines, will do an environmental impact statement on the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise Expansion Project.
Oklahoma-based Williams has proposed an expansion to their Transco natural gas pipeline, which would run through parts of north and central Pennsylvania. The pipeline has garnered intense opposition in Lancaster County. As a result, the company has changed part of its original route to avoid nature preserves.
The Transco pipeline system moves natural gas through more than 10,000 miles of existing pipes. The expansion project is part of a larger effort to get Marcellus Shale gas to end users like power plants.
Williams spokesman Chris Stockton says FERC’s decision to do an environmental impact statement was no surprise.
“Anytime you have a project that affects as many people as this project does, FERC is going to take a hard look at it,” said Stockton. “It’s a little bit longer process but we had built that into our schedule on the front end.”
Written or verbal comments about the project must be submitted to FERC by August 18. FERC will also be gathering public input at meetings throughout the state during the first week in August.
Michael Helfrich, from the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, says he’ll be working hard to gather information to oppose the new pipeline.
“It’s going to be challenging,” says Helfrich. Helfrich says he’s been through other EIS processes over hydroelectric dams, but says this one seems to be moving faster.
“Perhaps because it’s a pipeline, that accounts for the shorter (comment) period, but it took me by surprise.”
The EIS order, including information about scheduled public meetings and the EIS process can be viewed below.