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 PennEast 2020 Amendment Project involving the construction and operation of facilities by PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC (PennEast). The EA will discuss facilities to be built in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. 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 about issues regarding the project. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the Commission to take into account the environmental impacts that could result from its action whenever it considers the issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. NEPA also requires the Commission to discover 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. To ensure that your comments are timely and properly recorded, please submit your comments so that the Commission receives them in Washington, DC on or before 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on March 30, 2020.
You can make a difference by submitting your specific comments or concerns regarding the project. Your comments should focus on the potential environmental effects, reasonable alternatives, and measures to avoid or lessen environmental impacts. Your input will help the Commission staff determine what issues they need to evaluate in the EA. Commission staff will consider all filed comments during the preparation of the EA.
If you sent comments on this project to the Commission before the opening of this docket on January 30, 2020, you will need to file those comments in Docket No. CP20-47-000 to ensure they are considered as part of this proceeding.
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 proposed 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 proposed facilities. The company would seek to negotiate a mutually acceptable easement agreement. You are not required to enter into an agreement. However, if the Commission approves the project, that approval conveys with it the right of eminent domain. Therefore, if you and the company do not reach an easement agreement, the pipeline company could initiate condemnation proceedings in court. In such instances, compensation would be determined by a judge in accordance with state law.Start Printed Page 12912
PennEast provided landowners with a fact sheet prepared by the FERC entitled “An Interstate Natural Gas Facility On My Land? What Do I Need To Know?” 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. It is also available for viewing on the FERC website (www.ferc.gov) at https://www.ferc.gov/resources/guides/gas/gas.pdf.
The Commission offers a free service called eSubscription which makes it easy to stay informed of all issuances and submittals regarding the dockets/projects to which you subscribe. These instant email notifications are the fastest way to receive notification and provide a link to the document files which can reduce the amount of time you spend researching proceedings. To sign up go to www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/esubscription.asp.
For your convenience, there are three methods you can use to submit your comments to the Commission. The Commission encourages electronic filing of comments and has staff available to assist you at (866) 208-3676 or FercOnlineSupport@ferc.gov. Please carefully follow these instructions so that your comments are properly recorded.
(1) You can file your comments electronically using the eComment feature, which is located on the Commission's website (www.ferc.gov) under the link to Documents and Filings. Using eComment is an easy method for submitting brief, text-only comments on a project;
(2) You can file your comments electronically by using the eFiling feature, which is located on the Commission's website (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 will be asked to select the type of filing you are making; a comment on a particular project is considered a “Comment on a Filing”; or
(3) You can file a paper copy of your comments by mailing them to the following address. Be sure to reference the project docket number (CP20-47-000) with your submission: Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE, Room 1A, Washington, DC 20426
Summary of the Proposed Project
PennEast proposes to amend their Certificate Order that was issued on January 19, 2018 under docket number CP15-558-000. Additionally, PennEast filed a previous amendment application on February 1, 2019, proposing four modifications to the certificated route in Luzerne, Carbon, Monroe, and Northampton Counties, Pennsylvania (the “2019 Amendment Application”). The Commission has not yet issued an order on the 2019 Amendment Application. The 2019 Amendment Application is under docket number CP19-78-000 and is distinct from the current proposed amendment.
The 2020 Amendment would consist of the following: A new interconnection facilities (Church Road Interconnects) in Bethlehem Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania; a metering and regulation station at approximate milepost (MP) 68.2 of the certificated route; and two separate interconnection and measurement facilities.
The general location of the project facilities is shown in appendix 1.
Land Requirements for Construction
Construction of the new interconnection facilities would disturb about 2.6 acres of land, including a permanent facility footprint of approximately 2.1 acres and an additional 0.5 acres of temporary workspace. Following construction, the temporary workspace would be restored and revert to former uses.
The EA Process
The EA will discuss impacts that could occur as a result of the construction and operation of the proposed project under these general headings:
- Geology and soils;
- water resources and wetlands;
- vegetation and wildlife;
- threatened and endangered species;
- cultural resources;
- land use;
- air quality and noise;
- public safety; and
- cumulative impacts.
Commission staff will also evaluate reasonable alternatives to the proposed project or portions of the project and make recommendations on how to lessen or avoid impacts on the various resource areas.
The EA will present Commission staffs' independent analysis of the issues. The EA will be available in electronic format in the public record through eLibrary 
and the Commission's website (https://www.ferc.gov/industries/gas/enviro/eis.asp). If eSubscribed, you will receive instant email notification when the EA is issued. The EA may be issued for an allotted public comment period. Commission staff will consider all comments on the EA before making recommendations to the Commission. To ensure Commission staff have the opportunity to address your comments, please carefully follow the instructions in the Public Participation section, beginning on page 2.
With this notice, the Commission is asking agencies with jurisdiction by law and/or special expertise with respect to the environmental issues of this project to formally cooperate 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.
Consultation 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, the Commission is using this notice to initiate consultation with the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office, 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.
The EA for this project will document findings on the impacts on historic properties and summarize the status of consultations under section 106.
Currently Identified Environmental Issues
Commission staff have already identified several issues that deserve attention based on a preliminary review of the proposed facilities and the environmental information provided by PennEast. This preliminary list of issues Start Printed Page 12913may be changed based on your comments and our analysis:
- Purpose and need;
- project phasing;
- proximity to schools;
- karst geology;
- air quality and noise; and
- cumulative impacts.
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, and anyone who submits comments on the project. Commission staff will update the environmental mailing list as the analysis proceeds to ensure that Commission notices related to this environmental review are sent to all individuals, organizations, and government entities interested in and/or potentially affected by the planned project.
If the Commission issues the EA for an allotted public comment period, a Notice of Availability of the EA will be sent to the environmental mailing list and will provide instructions to access the electronic document on the FERC's website (www.ferc.gov). If you need to make changes to your name/address, or if you would like to remove your name from the mailing list, please return the attached “Mailing List Update Form” (appendix 2).
Additional information about the project is available from the Commission's Office of External Affairs, at (866) 208-FERC, or on the FERC website at www.ferc.gov using the eLibrary link. Click on the eLibrary link, click on “General Search” and enter the docket number in the “Docket Number” field, excluding the last three digits (i.e., CP20-47). Be sure you have selected an appropriate date range. For assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at FercOnlineSupport@ferc.gov or (866) 208-3676, or for TTY, contact (202) 502-8659. The eLibrary link also provides access to the texts of all formal documents issued by the Commission, such as orders, notices, and rulemakings.
Public sessions or site visits will be posted on the Commission's calendar located at www.ferc.gov/EventCalendar/EventsList.aspx along with other related information.
Dated: February 28, 2020.
Kimberly D. Bose,
[FR Doc. 2020-04516 Filed 3-4-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6717-01-P