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April 17, 2014

EPA deems pipeline study 'insufficient'

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that a draft report on the environmental impacts of the proposed Constitution Pipeline is “insufficient,” and that a potential option of co-locating the transmission line along Interstate 88 “has not been fully evaluated.”

The comments by Judy-Ann Mitchell, chief of the EPA’s Sustainability and Multimedia Programs Branch, were sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in recent days in response to the latter agency’s determination that the controversial $700 million project posed “acceptable” environmental impacts along the 124-mile pathway.

EPA is calling on FERC, the pipeline planners, the state Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and other agencies meet to discuss the I-88 alternative “fully,” according to Mitchell’s letter to FERC.

The new comments being added to FERC’s Constitution file show that the FERC staffers who issued the draft environmental impact statement are giving a much wider berth to the pipeline’s preferred route than EPA and other federal and state agencies involved in the review process.

For instance, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) complained that the FERC impact statement “prematurely eliminates further consideration of all or portions of Alternative M (the Interstate 88 corridor) which would significantly reduce environmental impacts and serve to promote the FERC’s policy to use, widen or extend existing rights of way when locating proposed facilities.”

DEC, which has limited jurisdiction over the projected, suggested that the I-88 alternative offers “substantially fewer impacts to three critically important fish and wildlife habitats, interior forests, wetlands and streams.”

The analysis of the I-88 option has been hindered, DEC said, because “the applicant has unfortunately not submitted detailed information nor has it presented detailed proposals or plans” to the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

In an even stronger comment, DEC noted that co-locating a pipeline along an existing highway right of way is not only consistent with FERC policy, but also “required” by regulations governing FERC.

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