On December 30, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced the results of an Environmental Impact Study for Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC’s proposed 199.4-mile “Atlantic Sunrise” pipeline expansion. If approved, the pipeline is expected to extend from the Marcellus shale in northeastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Atlantic states of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Specifically, the EIS found that the construction and operation of the pipeline would result in some adverse environmental impacts, but that impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the implementation of Transco’s proposed and FERC staff’s recommended mitigation measures. The completion of the EIS allows FERC to determine whether to issue a permit authorizing the construction and operation of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline expansion.
The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies to prepare an EIS if a proposed major federal action, such as the issuance of a permit, is determined to significantly affect the environment. EIS reports generally include the reasons the agency is proposing the action, consideration of a reasonable range of alternatives that can accomplish the purpose and need of the proposed action, a description of the environment of the area to be affected, and a discussion of the direct and indirect environmental effects and their significance. NEPA requires that federal agencies consider and disclose the environmental impacts of federal actions; it does not require that federal agencies only pursue those actions designed to have the least impactful effect on the environment.