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FERC seeks answers from TGP on tree-cutting plans in Connecticut

Wants to know Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s tree-cutting plans in Conn.



Recorder Staff
Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is asking for assurances from Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. as it considers allowing the company to begin clearing trees for the Connecticut Expansion Project.

Federal regulators, who certified the project two weeks ago, wrote to TGP on Friday with a request for additional information before allowing it to begin tree felling along the project’s 13.4 mile-path in order to beat a March 31 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deadline.

Meanwhile a group of project opponents in the Berkshire County town of Sandisfield, which would be affected by the pipeline looping project, have formally asked FERC to deny TGP’s request to begin cutting, saying it hasn’t obtained a permit required under the federal Clean Waters Act.

And in a related development, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., issued a statement about the company pushing forward with its pipeline project.

“It is deeply troubling that Kinder Morgan is demanding a right to bypass the Massachusetts constitution and destroy portions of the Otis State Forest. Corporate profits should not come ahead of the Commonwealth’s laws or our core environmental protections. It’s long past time for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to stop enabling Kinder Morgan’s reckless behavior — and start pushing back.”

FERC in its filing Friday asks the company to clarify that it will not fell trees “where it has not obtained an easement or purchase of property,” including a two-mile stretch through Otis State Forest protected under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution.

A hearing on a lawsuit brought by TGP against the state of Massachusetts and its Department of Conservation and Recreation, along with the DCR commissioner and Sandisfield’s board of assessors, is scheduled for Berkshire Superior Court on Thursday at 2 p.m. It could decide whether to grant eminent domain to begin work along the route in Sandisfield. The Massachusetts attorney general plans to file a response on Tuesday.

FERC also calls on TGP to identify any proposed private access roads that would be used and to confirm that it has authorization from landowners, along with the status of all permits for any road improvements that are required for tree felling activities.

The company is also required to provide evidence that two field offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and its Connecticut counterpart all agree that a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit is not required for non-mechanized tree felling.

It is also required to provide evidence it has received clearance for bald and golden eagles from the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and Connecticut’s Natural Diversity Database.

FERC also requires TGP to provide a plan for ensuring that no ceremonial stone landscapes, including features, landscapes and their alignments would be affected by tree-felling activities in Massachusetts.

It also wants a project schedule with specific information about an environmental inspection and the sequence of activities to be conducted “to mark the extent of approved areas of the rights-of-way, additional temporary workspaces, sensitive resources (e.g., wetlands and water bodies), and approved access roads prior to tree felling,” along with details about environmental training for on-site personnel

TGP has written to FERC saying, “Issuance of a certificate is now critical” for the Connecticut project because of a tree-clearing window that closes March 31 to protect migratory bird species that use the trees for spring nesting.

The company, which has also asked the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to extend its cutting deadline to May 1, says it needs to begin work to have the pipeline project ready for its customers by Nov. 1, 2018.

In its filing with FERC, Sandisfield Taxpayers Opposing the Pipeline called TGP’s statements about federal permits required “misleading at best.”

The group, in its filing with the regulatory agency on Friday, writes, “At the outset, Tennessee admits in its request that it has not, in fact, obtained all of the federal authorizations which it requires in order to proceed. Despite this, it attempts to gloss over its lack of authorization by focusing on the authorizations it has received. For example, Tennessee states in its Request that it will not require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 … for its proposed tree clearing activities. Under normal circumstances, tree clearing with hand-held equipment during March and April might not “rut soil or cause damage to the root systems.” However, this premise assumes that the ground will be frozen during the times allotted. Tennessee ignores the fact that this past winter has been anything but “usual.”

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 269