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Atlantic Sunrise pipeline clears major regulatory hurdle

The red lines show the proposed Atlantic Sunrise expansion. The light blue lines are the existing Transco system.

Courtesy: Williams

The red lines show the proposed Atlantic Sunrise expansion. The light blue lines are the existing Transco system. Williams

Federal regulators say a large natural gas transmission line planned to run through parts of central Pennsylvania will create limited environmental impacts.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Atlantic Sunrise pipeline Friday.

The Atlantic Sunrise is a $3 billion expansion of the Transco system. It’s designed to move Marcellus Shale gas from Susquehanna County in northeastern Pennsylvania as far south as Alabama and to the Cove Point export terminal on the Chesapeake Bay.

“We determined that construction and operation of the project would result in some adverse environmental impacts,” FERC staff writes. “But impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of Transco’s proposed and our recommended mitigation measures.”

Chris Stockton is a spokesman for Williams,which operates the Transco system. He says the company is pleased with the final EIS.

“It really represents to us the culmination of about two years of effort,” he says. “At the end of the day, I think it reflects our commitment to minimize impacts to people and the environment.”

Stockton says Williams anticipates receiving final FERC approval for the project as early as February.

The pipeline has faced fierce opposition from some landowners along the route.

According to FERC, construction is expected to affect 3,741 acres of land, including 388 water bodies. Commission staff also found eight federally listed species that could be potentially impacted within the project area. Permanent operation of the pipeline would require a total of 1,235 acres of land, and the remaining area disturbed during construction would be restored.

Mark Clatterbuck with with the group Lancaster Against Pipelines. He says he is disappointed, but not very surprised, the commission’s conclusions.

“[FERC] names all these major environmental impacts, and then their conclusion is they would be reduced to less-than-significant levels,” says Clatterbuck.  “The complete absurdity of the process is on full display with this document.”

He and other opponents have vowed to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to block construction and recently built a large wooden structure, nicknamed “The Stand” to serve as a place for people to come together.

Clatterbuck says an event is planned for January 15 to protest the conclusions of the environmental impact statement. He’s also been in touch with members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others who have protested the Dakota Access oil pipeline, who say they will come to assist in opposing the Atlantic Sunrise.

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