The Adelphia Gateway pipeline project is a step closer to approval after a comprehensive Federal Energy Regulatory Commission study concluded that it would have no significant impact on the environment.
The 332-page Environmental Assessment, done by FERC staff in conjunction the Departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation, requires Adelphia to take measures to mitigate any negative effects but notes that “if Adelphia constructs and operates the proposed facilities in accordance with its application and supplements our recommended mitigation measures, approval of this proposal would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”
The 84-mile natural gas pipeline would pass through some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the region, home to protected waterways and wildlife, as well as impact farmland and residential areas. While the study anticipates some minor and temporary damage to the environment, it concludes that the pipeline project would not have a significant and lasting effect on groundwater resources, air quality, vegetation, and threatened and endangered species.
The study also addresses one of the most controversial aspects of the pipeline: the West Rockhill compressor station. Responding to residents who pressed for alternative sites, the assessment acknowledges that those two sites are farther from residences, but says they would require significantly more construction and site preparation and disruption to the surrounding environment than the existing facility. The document does not mention that the area of the preferred site is zoned residential-conservation.
The assessment acknowledges that vulnerable groups, the elderly, children and those with health issues such as asthmatics, “would be impacted more than the general population due to air quality impacts during construction and operation” but concludes that overall, residents would not be vulnerable because “potential pollution emissions from the project, when considered with background concentrations, would be below national air quality standards.”
The study dismisses residents’ concerns about noise pollution and says Adelphia is committed to installing noise control measures, including insulation and silencers, at the compressor station.
But it does recommend the company complete and file a noise survey following project approval to ensure compliance with West Rockhill and Richland townships’ noise ordinances.
The assessment’s only reference to Cooks Creek, an exceptional value watershed in Springfield and Durham townships in the pipeline’s path, is to note “that no new facilities are planned to be constructed within the Cooks Creek Watershed.”
It does, however, call on Adelphia to implement a Karst Monitoring Plan because of past incidents of land subsidence and emergence of sinkholes in Bucks, Montgomery and Northampton counties that could expose or damage the pipeline and cause leakage.
Interested parties have until Feb. 3 to respond to the environmental assessment.