The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) will prepare an environmental assessment (EA) that will discuss the environmental impacts of the planned West Leg 2014 Expansion Project (Project) involving construction and operation of facilities by Northern Natural Gas Company (Northern) in Dakota and Dodge Counties, Nebraska and Woodbury County, Iowa. The Commission will use this EA in its decision-making process to determine whether the project is in the public convenience and necessity.
This notice announces the opening of the scoping process the Commission will use to gather input from the public and interested agencies on the project. Start Printed Page 5795Your input will help the Commission staff determine what issues they need to evaluate in the EA. Please note that the scoping period will close on February 28, 2013. Further details on how to submit written comments are in the Public Participation section of this notice.
Environmental staff from the Commission's Office of Energy Projects will be in the Project area to attend Northern's open houses for the Project (February 4-6, 2013) and to conduct an onsite environmental review on February 6, 2013. FERC staff, accompanied by Northern representatives, will view the planned pipeline route from public access points (primarily road crossings), visit locations for aboveground facilities, and gather data for its environmental analysis of the planned project. Interested parties may attend and should plan to provide their own transportation. Those attending should meet Commission staff at the following location and time: Wednesday, February 6, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. CST, American Legion Hall, 901 Topaz Drive, Sergeant Bluff, Iowa 51054.
The site review will begin with project facilities in Iowa, and continue west into Nebraska. FERC staff expects the site review will take approximately two hours to complete.
This notice is being sent to the Commission's current environmental mailing list for this project. State and local government representatives should notify their constituents of this planned project and encourage them to comment on their areas of concern.
If you are a landowner receiving this notice, a pipeline company representative may contact you about the acquisition of an easement to construct, operate, and maintain the planned facilities. The company would seek to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement. However, if the Commission approves the project, that approval conveys with it the right of eminent domain. Therefore, if easement negotiations fail to produce an agreement, the pipeline company could initiate condemnation proceedings where compensation would be determined in accordance with state law.
A fact sheet prepared by the FERC entitled “An Interstate Natural Gas Facility On My Land? What Do I Need To Know?” is available for viewing on the FERC Web site (www.ferc.gov). This fact sheet addresses a number of typically-asked questions, including the use of eminent domain and how to participate in the Commission's proceedings.
Summary of the Planned Project
Northern plans to construct the following facilities to meet customer requests for 90,430 dekatherms per day of natural gas:
- Approximately 6 miles of 20-inch-diameter pipeline, referred to as “New Greenfield Branch Line” from Dakota County, Nebraska to Woodbury County, Iowa;
- Two compressor stations, the Homer Compressor Station in Dakota County, Nebraska and the Fremont Compressor Station in Dodge County, Nebraska;
- A new metering station in Woodbury County, Iowa;
- A 0.4-mile tie-over between two pipelines and a valve site in Woodbury County, Iowa; and
- Minor modifications to existing facilities in Ellsworth, Ottawa and Otoe Counties, Kansas and Woodbury and Cherokee Counties, Iowa.
The general location of the Project facilities is shown in Appendix 1.
Land Requirements for Construction
Construction of the planned facilities would temporarily disturb about 215 acres of land for construction of the aboveground facilities and the pipeline. Following construction, Northern would maintain about 49 acres for permanent operation of the Project facilities. The remaining 166 acres disturbed by construction would be restored and revert to former uses.
The EA Process
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the Commission to take into account the environmental impacts that could result from an action whenever it considers the issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. NEPA also requires us 
to discover and address concerns the public may have about proposals. This process is referred to as scoping. The main goal of the scoping process is to focus the analysis in the EA on the important environmental issues. By this notice, the Commission requests public comments on the scope of the issues to address in the EA. We will consider all filed comments during the preparation of the EA.
In the EA we will discuss impacts that could occur as a result of the construction and operation of the planned project under these general headings:
- Geology and soils;
- Land use;
- Water resources, fisheries, and wetlands;
- Cultural resources;
- Vegetation and wildlife;
- Air quality and noise;
- Endangered and threatened species;
- Public safety; and
- Cumulative impacts.
We will also evaluate possible alternatives to the planned project or portions of the project, and make recommendations on how to lessen or avoid impacts on the various resource areas.
Although no formal application has been filed, we have already initiated our NEPA review under the Commission's pre-filing process. The purpose of the pre-filing process is to encourage early involvement of interested stakeholders and to identify and resolve issues before the FERC receives an application. As part of our pre-filing review, we have begun to contact some federal and state agencies to discuss their involvement in the scoping process and the preparation of the EA.
The EA will present our independent analysis of the issues. The EA will be available in the public record through eLibrary. Depending on the comments received during the scoping process, we may also publish and distribute the EA to the public for an allotted comment period. We will consider all comments on the EA before we make our recommendations to the Commission. To ensure we have the opportunity to consider and address your comments, please carefully follow the instructions in the Public Participation section beginning on Page 5.
With this notice, we are asking agencies with jurisdiction by law and/or special expertise with respect to the environmental issues related to this project to formally cooperate with us in the preparation of the EA 
. Agencies that would like to request cooperating agency status should follow the instructions for filing comments provided under the Public Participation section of this notice. Currently, the following agencies have expressed their Start Printed Page 5796intention to participate as a cooperating agency in the preparation of the EA:
- Nebraska Game and Parks Commission;
- Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship;
- U.S. Army Corp of Engineers—Omaha District; and
- Natural Resource Conservation Service.
Consultations Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act
In accordance with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's implementing regulations for section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, we are using this notice to initiate consultation with applicable State Historic Preservation Office(s), and to solicit their views and those of other government agencies, interested Indian tribes, and the public on the project's potential effects on historic properties.
We will define the project-specific Area of Potential Effects (APE) in consultation with the SHPO(s) as the project develops. On natural gas facility projects, the APE at a minimum encompasses all areas subject to ground disturbance (examples include construction right-of-way, contractor/pipe storage yards, compressor stations, and access roads). Our EA for this project will document our findings on the impacts on historic properties and summarize the status of consultations under section 106.
You can make a difference by providing us with your specific comments or concerns about the Project. Your comments should focus on the potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives, and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts. The more specific your comments, the more useful they will be. To ensure that your comments are timely and properly recorded, please send your comments so that the Commission receives them in Washington, DC on or before February 28, 2013.
For your convenience, there are three methods you can use to submit your comments to the Commission. In all instances, please reference the project docket number (PF13-2-000) with your submission. The Commission encourages electronic filing of comments and has expert staff available to assist you at (202) 502-8258 or email@example.com.
(1) You can file your comments electronically using the eComment feature located on the Commission's Web site (www.ferc.gov) under the link to Documents and Filings. This is an easy method for interested persons to submit brief, text-only comments on a project;
(2) You can file your comments electronically using the eFiling feature located on the Commission's Web site (www.ferc.gov) under the link to Documents and Filings. With eFiling, you can provide comments in a variety of formats by attaching them as a file with your submission. New eFiling users must first create an account by clicking on “eRegister.” You must select the type of filing you are making. If you are filing a comment on a particular project, please select “Comment on a Filing”; or
(3) You can file a paper copy of your comments by mailing them to the following address:
Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE., Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426.
Environmental Mailing List
The environmental mailing list includes federal, state, and local government representatives and agencies; elected officials; environmental and public interest groups; Native American Tribes; other interested parties; and local libraries and newspapers. This list also includes all affected landowners (as defined in the Commission's regulations) who are potential right-of-way grantors, whose property may be used temporarily for project purposes, or who own homes within certain distances of aboveground facilities, and anyone who submits comments on the project. We will update the environmental mailing list as the analysis proceeds to ensure that we send the information related to this environmental review to all individuals, organizations, and government entities interested in and/or potentially affected by the planned project.
If we publish and distribute the EA, copies will be sent to the environmental mailing list for public review and comment. If you would prefer to receive a paper copy of the document instead of the CD version or would like to remove your name from the mailing list, please return the attached Information Request (Appendix 2).
Becoming an Intervenor
Once Northern files its application with the Commission, you may want to become an “intervenor” which is an official party to the Commission's proceeding. Intervenors play a more formal role in the process and are able to file briefs, appear at hearings, and be heard by the courts if they choose to appeal the Commission's final ruling. An intervenor formally participates in the proceeding by filing a request to intervene. Instructions for becoming an intervenor are located under the “For Citizens” link on the Commission's homepage, by clicking on “Get Involved”. Please note that the Commission will not accept requests for intervenor status at this time. You must wait until the Commission receives a formal application for the project.
Additional information about the project is available from the Commission's Office of External Affairs, at (866) 208-FERC, or on the FERC Web site (www.ferc.gov) using the eLibrary link. Click on the eLibrary link, click on “General Search” and enter the docket number, excluding the last three digits in the Docket Number field (i.e., PF13-2). Be sure you have selected an appropriate date range. For assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at FercOnlineSupport@ferc.gov or toll free at (866) 208-3676, or for TTY, contact (202) 502-8659. The eLibrary link also provides access to the texts of formal documents issued by the Commission, such as orders, notices, and rulemakings. Information about the onsite environmental review is posted on the Commission's calendar located at www.ferc.gov/EventCalendar/EventsList.aspx along with other related information.
In addition, the Commission offers a free service called eSubscription which allows you to keep track of all formal issuances and submittals in specific dockets. This can reduce the amount of time you spend researching proceedings by automatically providing you with notification of these filings, document summaries, and direct links to the documents. Go to www.ferc.gov/esubscribenow.htm.
Finally, Northern has posted additional information about the Project on a dedicated Web site at www.northernnaturalgas.com/expansionprojects. From the drop-down menu, select “West Leg 2014”. Northern may be contacted directly at 1-888-367-6671 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Start Printed Page 5797
Dated: January 18, 2013.
Kimberly D. Bose,
[FR Doc. 2013-01608 Filed 1-25-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6717-01-P