Another example of how forest planning can influence major permitting decisions. (It’s especially nice to see the role of forest plans acknowledged by FERC.)
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has asked developers of the planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline to consider an alternative route through the Monongahela National Forest that would veer southward from the currently proposed route, to avoid environmentally sensitive areas, including the Cheat, Back Allegheny and Shenandoah mountains, and use existing utility right-of-way corridors whenever practicable.
“Please note that we will not be able to consider construction and operation of any proposed action or alternative unless it complies with the National Forest’s LRMP, or Atlantic has documented that the U.S. Forest Service would amend a respective LRMP for activities deemed inconsistent with the LRMP,” wrote Kevin Bowman, environmental project manager for the commission, in the commission’s request for environmental information.
Bowman wrote that after commission officials consulted with Forest Service personnel and reviewed the Monongahela National Forest’s long-range management plan, “we have determined that alternative routes to the south of the currently proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline route may offer environmental advantages over the currently proposed route.”
“It’s a very exciting development that FERC is concerned about impacts to one of the most ecologically sensitive sections of the Monongahela National Forest that is home to the protected West Virginia northern flying squirrel and the Cheat Mountain salamander,” said Judy Rodd, executive director of the Friends of Blackwater, part of a coalition of conservation groups monitoring the pipeline project. “It shows that FERC is paying attention to national forest issues and doesn’t want to make the national forests rewrite their management plans to accommodate the pipeline.”
(The part about committing to amend the plan makes me a little nervous, though.)