CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has declined an Atlantic Coast Pipeline request to extend its deadline for clearing trees along its construction path.
FERC issued the denial in a letter released Wednesday.
The pipeline developer has faced a March 31 deadline to clear trees during a seasonal window designated to be of minimal harm to bats and migratory birds.
FERC concluded that there was no way to extend the date for the pipeline’s developer, Dominion Energy Transportation, without having an ecological impact.
“As part of your applications, Atlantic and DETI committed to minimizing impacts on both migratory bird species and threatened and endangered species by adhering to time-of-year tree felling restrictions,” wrote Rich McGuire, director of FERC’s Division of Gas — Environment and Engineering.
“After a thorough review of your request, we find that it would not offer an equal or greater level of protection,” he concluded in denying the request.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline started felling trees along its construction path in January.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would deliver up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of Marcellus shale gas from West Virginia to customers in Virginia and North Carolina every day.
The project by Dominion Transportation Inc. would run the pipeline 600 miles, beginning in Harrison County in West Virginia through Virginia and into southeastern North Carolina.
The $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline would span 600 miles from Harrison County and across Lewis, Upshur, Randolph and Pocahontas counties in West Virginia.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline, in its original modification request to FERC said despite its best efforts it would be unable to complete scheduled tree felling within the existing time-of-year restrictions in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.
The request asked FERC to allow tree felling to continue until May 15, except on U.S. Forest Service lands and with additional protections for two species of bats.
“Completing the tree felling within one season also limits the amount and frequency of disturbance in the general area, benefiting landowners,” the request states.
Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said workers have completed tree-felling on more than 200 miles of the project, though that’s less than the company planned for this year.
“For any large infrastructure project, we have to plan for contingencies,” Ruby said. “By rearranging some of our construction plans and shifting some work to 2019, we’ll keep the project on track for completion by the end of next year.”