Pipeline work to begin soon
BUCKHANNON — Upshur County will soon see a large influx in people as pipeliners and contractors head to the area to begin construction work on the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, officials said.
Mike Cozad, ACP community liaison, provided the Upshur County Commission an update on the project during the most recent commission meeting.
Cozad said the ACP received a Notice to Proceed from FERC, and has “full blown” authority to begin construction work in West Virginia in areas where trees have been cleared.
“In the next few weeks you should see a huge influx of folks here to start getting that work underway,” Cozad told commissioners. “The hotels will be filled. The restaurants will be filled and all the things that go with that.”
Step one will begin in the next couple of weeks with access roads being upgraded to where workers can get into the right of ways to begin the clearing, Cozad noted.
In terms of actually breaking ground, he said, “It’ll be awhile before we actually get graders out there and dozers out there to start creating the actual right of ways and be able to trench it … “
Cozad said, optimistically speaking, the ground work will begin in six to eight weeks, adding “You’re probably looking at a July time frame for that …”
During the weekly commission meeting, a question was posed to Cozad regarding a federal appeals court nullifying a key permit for the project. The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to set clear limits for impact on threatened or endangered species.
“There’s a federal judge in Virginia that issued a decree … He found fault with some of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife clearances that we got as part of the process of getting our FERC permit,” explained Cozad. “He was apparently not satisfied with the extent of the specificity of what fish and wildlife had put into the system, so he basically declared that part of it invalid, invalidated it and it needs to be updated again …”
He continued, “I’m sure U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Dominion are working on that aspect to get that updated and correct to meet the judge’s satisfaction.”
Cozad said the decision will not stall the progression of the ACP.
“FERC issued a statement … saying there will be no downtime as a result of that judge’s decision,” he said.
Jen Kostyniuk, director of Dominion Energy Communications, issued a statement saying, “On May 16, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requested that ACP file documentation that specifically identifies the habitat areas that will be avoided with respect to the species listed within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Incidental Take Statement and confirm our commitment to avoid construction in these areas.”
According to the release, the court’s action only affects those areas of pipeline construction where endangered species or their habitats may be present.
“We will continue to move forward with construction as scheduled and fully comply as required with all permits and agency requirements. We remain committed to taking all reasonable measures to protect the environment and the species while ensuring progress on a project that is essential to the economic and environmental well-being of the region,” reads the statement.