NORTHEAST REGION — The deadline to comment on the environmental assessment (EA) prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the Northeast Upgrade Project (NUP) proposed by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP) is quickly approaching on December 21. The EA assesses the potential environmental effects of the construction and operation of the project in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
TGP is seeking authorization to construct and operate certain pipeline and compressor facilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in order to expand natural gas delivery capacity to the Northeast region of the United States.
The proposed NUP project includes installation of approximately 40.3 miles of new 30-inch-diameter pipeline loop in five separate segments in Bradford, Wayne and Pike counties in Pennsylvania; and Sussex, Passaic and Bergen counties in New Jersey. (A loop is a segment of pipe that is usually installed adjacent to an existing pipeline and connected to it at both ends.)
Additional measures would include modifications of four existing compressor stations in Bradford, Susquehanna and Pike counties, Pennsylvania; and Sussex County, New Jersey; installation of associated aboveground facilities including mainline valves and pig2 launchers and receivers (a pig is an internal tool used to clean and dry a pipeline and/or to inspect it for damage or corrosion) and use of contractor/pipe yards and access roads.
In Pennsylvania, the project would cross 32 waterbodies supporting warmwater fisheries and 29 waterbodies supporting coldwater fisheries. It would cross 25 high-quality designated waterbodies, seven exceptional value-designated waterbodies, one Class A Trout Stream and two Wild Trout-designated waterbodies. The new permanent right-of-way would result in the permanent alteration of about 78 acres of upland forest land to scrub-shrub or herbaceous cover.
Nineteen state-listed threatened, endangered, rare or candidate species have been identified. These include one reptile, one mammal, one bird, five mussels and 11 plants. One is also a federally listed species (dwarf wedgemussel). An additional eight plants are proposed for listing in Pennsylvania. Timber rattlesnakes were documented along portions of Loop 321 in Wayne and Pike counties.
In Section 2.10.5 of the EA, it is noted: “The potential impacts that we view as most cumulatively significant pertain to soils; groundwater, surface water, and wetlands; vegetation and wildlife; land use, recreation, special interest areas, and visual resources; socioeconomics; and air quality and noise.” It is noted that nearby water wells could be damaged by construction, but that TGP will monitor and repair affected wells or otherwise compensate landowners for project-related damage to wells.
The FERC staff concludes that approval of the proposed project, with appropriate mitigating measures, would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers participated as cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EA.