Record of Decision in re Application of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC, 18602-18607 [2016-07282]

Download as PDF 18602 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2016 / Notices The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) intends to prepare a Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement (DIFR– EIS) for the Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study. This study will identify and evaluate the feasibility of developing a comprehensive plan for flood risk management, hurricane and storm risk management, and ecosystem restoration for the coastal areas of the State of Texas. The study will focus on providing for the protection, conservation, and restoration of wetlands, barrier islands, shorelines, and related lands and features that protect critical resources, habitat, and infrastructure from the impacts of coastal storms, hurricanes, erosion, and subsidence. This notice announces the USACE’s intent to determine the scope of the issues to be addressed and for identifying the significant resources related to a proposed action. DATES: Comments on the scope of the DIFR–EIS will be accepted through May 9, 2016. ADDRESSES: Scoping comments may be sent by electronic mail to: CoastalTexas@usace.army.mil. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Galveston District Public Affairs Office at 409–766–3004 or swgpao@ usace.army.mil. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 1. Authority. The Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study is authorized under Section 4091, Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2007, Public Law 110–114, to develop a comprehensive plan to determine the feasibility of carrying out projects for flood risk management, hurricane and storm risk management, and ecosystem restoration in the coastal areas of the State of Texas. 2. Proposed Action. The study will identify critical data needs and recommend a comprehensive strategy for reducing coastal storm flood risk through structural and nonstructural measures that take advantage of natural features like barrier islands and storm surge storage in wetlands. Structural alternatives to be considered include improvements to existing systems (such as existing hurricane protection projects at Port Arthur, Texas City, Freeport, and Lynchburg, and seawalls at Galveston, Palacios, Corpus Christi, North and South Padre Island), and the creation of new structural plans for hurricane storm risk management. Ecosystem restoration alternatives to be considered include estuarine marsh restoration, beach and dune restoration, rookery island restoration, oyster reef restoration, and mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:09 Mar 30, 2016 Jkt 238001 seagrass bed restoration. The study will evaluate potential benefits and impacts of the proposed action including direct, indirect and cumulative effects to the human, water and natural environments that balance the interests of flood risk management, hurricane and storm risk management, and ecosystem restoration purposes for Texas and the Nation. 3. Scoping. In August, 2014, early scoping meetings were held in League City, Palacios, Corpus Christi, and the City of South Padre Island, Texas. Comments were received for 30 days following the last scoping meeting. Additional input from Federal, state and local agencies, Indian tribes, and other interested private organizations and parties is being solicited with this notice. The USACE requests public scoping comments to: (a) Identify the affected public and agency concerns; (b) identify the scope of significant issues to be addressed in the DIFR–EIS; (c) identify the critical problems, needs, and significant resources that should be considered in the DIFR–EIS; and (d) identify reasonable measures and alternatives that should be considered in the DIFR–EIS. A Scoping Notice announcing the USACE’s request for public scoping comments will be sent via electronic mail to affected and interested parties. Scoping comments are requested to be sent by May 9, 2016. 4. Coordination. Further coordination with environmental agencies will be conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Historic and Preservation Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act under the Texas Coastal Management Program. 5. Availability of DIFR–EIS. The DIFR–EIS will be available for public review and comment in July 2018. Dated: March 23, 2016. Richard P. Pannell, Colonel, U.S. Army, Commanding. [FR Doc. 2016–07283 Filed 3–30–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3720–58–P DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Record of Decision in re Application of Clean Line Energy Partners LLC Department of Energy. Record of decision. AGENCY: ACTION: Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) grants the Secretary of Energy the authority to SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 design, develop, construct, operate, maintain, or own, or participate with other entities in designing, developing, constructing, operating, maintaining, and owning new electric power transmission facilities and related facilities located within any state in which the Southwestern Power Administration (Southwestern) operates. In response to an application submitted by Clean Line Energy Partners LLC on behalf of itself and several corporate affiliates (collectively, Clean Line or the Applicant) the Department of Energy (DOE or the Department) announces its decision to participate in the development of approximately 705 miles of ±600 kilovolt (kV) overhead, high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electric transmission facilities and related facilities from western Oklahoma to the eastern state-line of Arkansas near the Mississippi River (the Project). This decision implements DOE’s preferred alternative in Oklahoma and Arkansas as described in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Line Project (Final EIS) (DOE/EIS–0486). Clean Line, acting on its own and without the Department’s participation, would build additional facilities that would connect to the Project in Texas and Tennessee. Collectively, the facilities built by Clean Line would have the capacity to deliver approximately 4,000 megawatts (MW) from renewable energy generation facilities, located in the Oklahoma Panhandle and potentially Texas Panhandle regions, to the electrical grid in Arkansas and Tennessee. The potential environmental impacts associated with the Project, plus the additional facilities in Texas and Tennessee, are analyzed in the Final EIS. DOE’s review included consultations in accordance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). DOE’s decision requires the implementation of mitigation measures, and a complete list of these measures can be found in the Mitigation Action Plan (MAP). ADDRESSES: Information regarding Section 1222 of EPAct 2005 can be found on the DOE Web site at http:// energy.gov/oe/services/electricitypolicy-coordination-andimplementation/transmission-planning/ section-1222. The determination by the Secretary of Energy, Summary of Findings, and Participation Agreement are available on the DOE Web site at http://energy.gov/oe/services/electricity- E:\FR\FM\31MRN1.SGM 31MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES policy-coordination-andimplementation/transmission-planning/ section-1222-0. The Final EIS, associated errata, MAP, and this Record of Decision (ROD) are available on the DOE National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Web site at http://energy.gov/ nepa and on the Plains & Eastern EIS Web site at http:// www.plainsandeasterneis.com/. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on the Section 1222 process, contact Mr. Christopher Lawrence, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585; email at Christopher.Lawrence@hq.doe.gov; or phone (202) 586–5260. For information on the EIS or the consultation processes under Section 106 of the NHPA (54 U.S.C. 300101) or Section 7 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), contact Jane Summerson, Ph.D., DOE NEPA Document Manager, U.S. Department of Energy, DOE NNSA, Post Office Box 5400, Building 391, Kirtland Air Force Base East, Albuquerque, NM 87185; email at Jane.Summerson01@ nnsa.doe.gov; or phone (505) 845–4091. For general information about the DOE NEPA process, contact Carol Borgstrom, Director, Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance (GC–54), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585; or phone at (202) 586–4600; voicemail at (800) 472– 2756; or email at askNEPA@hq.doe.gov. Additional information regarding DOE’s NEPA activities is available on the DOE NEPA Web site at http://energy.gov/ nepa. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background Section 1222 of EPAct 2005, 42 U.S.C. 16421, grants the Secretary of Energy authority, acting through the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), Southwestern, or both, to design, develop, construct, operate, maintain, or own, or participate with other entities in designing, developing, constructing, operating, maintaining, and owning new electric power transmission facilities and related facilities located within any state in which WAPA or Southwestern operates. In June 2010, the Department issued Request for Proposals for New or Upgraded Transmission Line Projects Under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (75 FR 32940; June 10, 2010). In response to the request for proposals (RFP), Clean Line Energy Partners LLC of Houston, Texas, the parent company of Plains and Eastern Clean Line LLC and Plains and Eastern Clean Line Oklahoma LLC, submitted a VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:09 Mar 30, 2016 Jkt 238001 proposal to DOE in July 2010 for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Project. In August 2011, Clean Line modified the proposal and, at DOE’s request, subsequently submitted additional information (referred to as the Part 2 Application) in January 2015. This ROD uses two terms that describe related elements of the application being discussed. The Project 1 refers to those facilities in Oklahoma and Arkansas included in DOE’s decision to participate, e.g., approximately 705 miles of ±600 kV overhead, HVDC electric transmission facilities running from western Oklahoma to the eastern state-line of Arkansas near the Mississippi River and related facilities, including a converter station in Arkansas. Applicant Proposed Project 2 refers to the Project plus the additional facilities that Clean Line, acting on its own and without the Department’s participation, would build in Texas and Tennessee to connect to the Project. Collectively, the facilities would have the capacity to deliver approximately 4,000 MW from renewable energy generation facilities, located in the Oklahoma Panhandle and potentially Texas Panhandle regions, to the electrical grid in Arkansas (500 MW) and Tennessee (3,500 MW). Section 1222 Authority Parallel with the NEPA process, DOE evaluated Clean Line’s application under Section 1222 of the EPAct 2005. This evaluation under Section 1222 included a review of the application against statutory eligibility criteria and certain evaluation factors listed in the 2010 RFP. To aid in this review, Clean Line’s Part 2 Application was made available for public comment from April 28, 2015 until July 13, 2015 (80 FR 23520 and 34626). Clean Line’s application remains available on DOE’s Web site at http://www.energy.gov/oe/ services/electricity-policy-coordinationand-implementation/transmissionplanning/section-1222-0. The results of DOE’s evaluation under Section 1222 are addressed under the Decision section below in this ROD. 1 In the Final EIS, ‘‘the Project’’ is used as a broad term that generically refers to elements of the project as proposed by Clean Line and/or DOE Alternatives when differentiation between the two is not necessary. The definition of ‘‘the Project’’ used in the Final EIS is distinct from the meaning of ‘‘the Project’’ in this ROD. 2 In the Final EIS, the term ‘‘Applicant Proposed Project’’ refers to the project as described in Clean Line’s modified proposal to DOE. This is described in Section S.5.2 of the Final EIS and does not include the converter station in Arkansas or alternative routes for the HVDC transmission line that are referred to in the Final EIS as ‘‘DOE Alternatives.’’ PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 18603 NEPA Review DOE prepared the EIS and this ROD pursuant to NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) NEPA regulations (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] parts 1500 through 1508), and DOE’s NEPA implementing regulations (10 CFR part 1021). DOE’s purpose and need for agency action is to implement Section 1222 of the EPAct 2005. In the Final EIS, DOE analyzed the potential environmental impacts from the Applicant Proposed Project, as the term is used in this ROD, the range of reasonable alternatives, and a No Action Alternative. Major facilities associated with the Applicant Proposed Project include converter stations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee; approximately 720-miles of ±600 kV HVDC transmission line facilities; an alternating current (AC) collection system; and access roads. In response to public comments on the Draft EIS, DOE and Clean Line developed 23 route variations for the Applicant Proposed Route 3 for the HVDC transmission line, which were evaluated in the Final EIS. These route variations involved minor changes to the segment lengths and were developed with the intent of reducing land use conflicts or minimizing potential environmental impacts of the route as analyzed in the Draft EIS. In all but one instance, Clean Line concluded that the route variations were technically feasible and expressed support for DOE’s adoption of these route variations (the instance is described under the Basis for Decision section below in this ROD). The analysis of potential environmental impacts for the HVDC transmission facilities, including the 23 route variations addressed in the Final EIS, was based on a representative 200foot-wide right of way (ROW) within a 1,000-foot-wide corridor. The final location of the transmission line ROW could be anywhere within this 1,000foot-wide corridor and would be determined following the issuance of this ROD based on the completion of final engineering design, federal and state related construction permits and authorizations, ROW acquisition activities, and the incorporation of all measures identified in the MAP. Determination of this final location of 3 The Applicant Proposed Route, as used in the Final EIS and this ROD, refers to the single 1,000foot-wide route alternative defined by Clean Line to connect the converter station in the Oklahoma Panhandle to the converter station in western Tennessee. The Applicant Proposed Route is described in Section S.5.3.2 of the Final EIS. E:\FR\FM\31MRN1.SGM 31MRN1 18604 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES the ROW within the 1,000-foot-wide corridor is referred to as micrositing. In addition to the HVDC transmission facilities, the Applicant Proposed Project would include construction, operation, and maintenance of an AC collection system. The collection system would consist of four to six AC transmission lines up to 345 kV from the Oklahoma converter station to points in the Oklahoma Panhandle region and potentially Texas Panhandle region to facilitate efficient interconnection of wind energy generation. The Final EIS evaluated 13 possible routes, each consisting of a 2mile-wide corridor within which a 200foot-wide ROW could be located. The specific locations of these transmission lines cannot be known at this time and would depend on the locations of future wind farms in this area. DOE’s analysis in the Final EIS also includes the potential environmental impacts resulting from connected actions (wind energy generation and currently identified substation and transmission upgrades related to the Applicant Proposed Project). On February 26, 2016, DOE issued errata to correct errors, inconsistencies, and omissions in the Final EIS. These included, for example, correcting inconsistencies in two tables identifying the lengths of the HVDC transmission line routes, updating emissions estimates for air quality impacts, correcting socioeconomic and transportation impact estimates to account for the Arkansas converter station, and including and responding to 26 comment documents that were inadvertently left out of Appendix Q of the Final EIS. DOE considered each of the errata individually and collectively and determined that they do not represent significant new information relevant to environmental consequences and do not change the conclusions in the Final EIS. Cooperating Agencies DOE was the lead federal agency for the preparation of the EIS and, pursuant to 40 CFR 1501.6, prepared the EIS in consultation with the following cooperating agencies: Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). BIA, NRCS, TVA, USACE, and USFWS can, to the extent permitted by law, rely on the Final EIS to fulfill their obligations under NEPA for any action, permit, or approval by these agencies for VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:09 Mar 30, 2016 Jkt 238001 the Applicant Proposed Project. TVA conducted studies that indicate certain upgrades to its transmission system would be necessary for TVA to interconnect with the Applicant Proposed Project while maintaining reliable service to its customers. Additionally, TVA would need to construct a new 500 kV transmission line to enable the injection of 3,500 MW of power from the Applicant Proposed Project. TVA would complete its own NEPA review, tiering from DOE’s Final EIS, to assess the impact of the upgrades and the new 500 kV line. The USACE may consider the routing alternatives in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee as presented in the Final EIS when making its permit decisions and can use the analysis contained in the Final EIS to inform all of its permit decisions for the Applicant Proposed Project. Consultation DOE is the lead agency for consultation required under Section 106 of the NHPA. In accordance with 36 CFR 800.8(c), DOE is using the NEPA process and documentation required for the EIS to comply with Section 106 of the NHPA in lieu of the procedures set forth in 36 CFR 800.3 through 800.6. This approach is consistent with the recommendations set forth in the CEQ NEPA regulations, 40 CFR 1500.2, and NEPA and NHPA: A Handbook for Integrating NEPA and Section 106, issued in 2013 by CEQ and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which encourage federal agencies to integrate the NEPA process with other planning and environmental reviews, such as Section 106 of the NHPA. DOE invited certain federal, state, Indian Tribes or Nations, and local agencies to consult under Section 106 of the NHPA in accordance with 36 CFR 800.2(c). The Programmatic Agreement, which satisfies DOE’s Section 106 responsibilities, was executed on December 7, 2015. The Programmatic Agreement describes roles and responsibilities for DOE and the consulting parties; the tribal consultation protocol; the area of potential effects; the phased process to address historic properties, including continued consultation; procedures to address the unanticipated discovery of cultural resources or inadvertent discovery of human remains, graves or associated funerary objects; the communication plan; the historic properties management plan for operations and maintenance activities, annual reporting and close out report requirements; and dispute resolution requirements. The Programmatic PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Agreement is included as Appendix A of the MAP. In March 2015, DOE and TVA requested the initiation of formal consultation and conference with the USFWS under Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA and submitted a Biological Assessment (BA) regarding the Applicant Proposed Project and its potential effects on listed species and designated critical habitat. DOE responded to USFWS’s request for additional information with a revised BA in May 2015. In July 2015, DOE submitted an addendum to the revised BA to address route variations based on public comments on the Draft EIS. The USFWS issued its Biological Opinion on November 20, 2015, which concluded formal consultation. The Biological Opinion is included as Appendix B of the MAP. The Biological Opinion concluded that implementation of the Applicant Proposed Project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the affected species, but likely will result in incidental take of certain species and, therefore, includes an enforceable incidental take statement. DOE’s decision is conditioned on the Applicant complying with the incidental take statement and taking all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm from the selected alternative as required by USFWS in the Biological Opinion. These conditions are further described under the Mitigation section below in this ROD. DOE also acknowledges that reinitiation of formal ESA consultation may be required in accordance with 50 CFR 402.16. Public Comments On December 21, 2012, DOE issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) (77 FR 75623) to prepare an EIS for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project. DOE conducted 13 public scoping meetings. DOE considered input from scoping in preparing the Draft EIS, which was issued on December 17, 2014. The 90day public comment period for the Draft EIS began on December 19, 2014, and was scheduled to end on March 19, 2015 (79 FR 78079). On February 12, 2015, DOE announced in the Federal Register that it was extending the comment period until April 20, 2015 (80 FR 7850). As part of this public comment period, DOE invited comments on the NHPA Section 106 process and any potential adverse impacts to historic properties. The Final EIS and errata considered and responded to all comments submitted on the Draft EIS. During the comment period, DOE held 15 public hearings in the following locations: E:\FR\FM\31MRN1.SGM 31MRN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Woodward, Oklahoma; Guymon, Oklahoma; Beaver, Oklahoma; Perryton, Texas; Muskogee, Oklahoma; Cushing, Oklahoma; Stillwater, Oklahoma; Enid, Oklahoma; Newport, Arkansas; Searcy, Arkansas; Marked Tree, Arkansas; Millington, Tennessee; Russellville, Arkansas; Fort Smith, Arkansas; and Morrilton, Arkansas. In addition to numerous comments that provided a statement of general opposition to or support for the Project, the primary topics raised in comments on the Draft EIS included, but were not limited to: Concern about electric and magnetic fields; concern about reductions in property value; concern about impacts to agricultural resources such as crop production, irrigation, and aerial spraying; concern about the use of eminent domain; and concern about visual impacts. Analysis of Potential Environmental Impacts The EIS analyzes potential environmental impacts associated with the alternatives for each of the following resource areas: Agricultural resources; air quality and climate change; electrical environment; environmental justice; geology, paleontology, minerals, and soils; groundwater; health, safety, and intentional destructive acts; historic and cultural resources; land use; noise; recreation; socioeconomics; special status wildlife and fish, aquatic invertebrate, and amphibian species; surface water; transportation; vegetation communities and special status plant species; visual resources; wetlands, floodplains, and riparian areas; wildlife, fish, and aquatic invertebrate species; and cumulative impacts. Analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the Applicant Proposed Project and DOE Alternatives on each resource area (Chapter 3 of the Final EIS) assumes the implementation of all Applicant-proposed environmental protection measures (EPMs) to avoid or minimize adverse impacts (summarized in Appendix F of the Final EIS). In some resource sections, DOE identified best management practices (BMPs) that could further avoid or minimize potential adverse impacts. BMPs are summarized in Table 2.7–1 of Chapter 2 in the Final EIS. In accordance with DOE’s Compliance with Floodplain and Wetland Environmental Review Requirements (10 CFR part 1022), DOE prepared a floodplain assessment and has determined that the Applicant Proposed Project would avoid floodplains to the maximum extent practicable, that appropriate measures to minimize VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:09 Mar 30, 2016 Jkt 238001 adverse effects on human health and safety and the functions and values provided by floodplains would be taken, and that the Applicant Proposed Project would comply with applicable floodplain protection standards. The Floodplain Statement of Findings (Appendix N of the Final EIS) relied on the implementation of the EPMs developed and committed to by the Applicant and BMPs identified in consultation with USACE. DOE’s selected route for the HVDC transmission line is the Applicant Proposed Route (with one exception, as noted under the Basis for Decision section below in this ROD). Because DOE’s selected route is the HVDC route alternative with the lowest potential for environmental impacts when compared against the other HVDC route alternatives, DOE has designated it as the environmentally preferable HVDC route alternative with associated facilities. DOE’s selected route incorporates input on potential environmental impacts that DOE received from the public and agencies (during scoping and in comments on the Draft EIS). The selected route was developed through a series of stages including the preliminary routing process, refinements during DOE’s independent verification of that process, and further changes to address public and agency input. While the No Action Alternative would avoid the environmental impacts identified in the EIS, adoption of this alternative would not meet DOE’s purpose and need to implement Section 1222 of the EPAct 2005. Comments Received on the Final EIS DOE distributed the Final EIS to congressional members and committees; state and local governments; other federal agencies; certain American Indian Tribes or Nations; nongovernmental organizations; and other stakeholders, including members of the public who requested the Final EIS. The Final EIS also was made available to the public via the Internet. DOE subsequently received eight comment documents. As discussed in Appendix A to this ROD, DOE has concluded that these comment documents do not identify a need for further NEPA analysis. Decision DOE has decided to participate in the Project as defined in this ROD. Thus, this decision implements the preferred alternative described in Section 2.14 of the Final EIS for the Project, which is defined in this ROD as facilities in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Concurrent PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 18605 with this ROD, the Secretary of Energy has issued a determination that the Project meets the criteria of Section 1222 and merits the Department’s participation. (http://energy.gov/oe/ services/electricity-policy-coordinationand-implementation/transmissionplanning/section-1222-0). Basis for Decision The decision to participate in the Project considered the analysis of potential environmental impacts in the Final EIS, other statutory requirements (e.g., ESA and Section 106 of the NHPA), and the Department’s review of Clean Line’s application against the eligibility criteria in Section 1222 and the evaluation factors identified in the Department’s 2010 RFP. The Department’s analysis of the statutory eligibility criteria and the RFP evaluation factors is contained in the Summary of Findings, which the Department is publishing concurrent with this ROD and is incorporated herein. Also relevant to the Department’s decision is the Participation Agreement, which sets forth the terms and conditions under which the Department will participate. (Both the Summary of Findings and the Participation Agreement are available at http://energy.gov/oe/services/electricitypolicy-coordination-andimplementation/transmission-planning/ section-1222-0). There is no ‘‘impact-free’’ routing choice for a large transmission line. In some regions, where there are multiple resource conflicts, the HVDC alternative routes impact certain resources differently, and some alternative routes were included in DOE’s analysis to emphasize protection of one resource or land value over another. The Final EIS analyzed potential impacts for the HVDC transmission line by resource and highlighted substantive differences between the Applicant Proposed Route, route variations, and HVDC alternative routes. A detailed discussion of the route development and basis for identification of the Applicant Proposed Route is included in Appendix G of the Final EIS. To respond to public comments on the Draft EIS, DOE and the Applicant developed 23 route variations for the Applicant Proposed Route. These route variations were developed with the intent of reducing land use conflicts or minimizing potential environmental impacts of the Applicant Proposed Route from the levels of potential impacts described in the Draft EIS. In all but one instance, the route variations replaced their corresponding segments of the Applicant Proposed Route. This exception (Region 4, Applicant E:\FR\FM\31MRN1.SGM 31MRN1 18606 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2016 / Notices Proposed Route Link 3, Variation 2; approximately 3 miles northwest of Sallisaw, Oklahoma) was carried forward as an additional alternative for comparative analysis in the Final EIS with the corresponding segment of the Applicant Proposed Route. DOE has decided to implement the Applicant Proposed Route presented in the Final EIS, with one exception (Region 4, Applicant Proposed Route Link 3, Variation 2). The basis for DOE’s selection of this route variation over the corresponding segment of the Applicant Proposed Route includes the following: (1) The route variation crosses 32 percent fewer land parcels (17 versus 25); (2) the route variation parallels more than twice the length of existing infrastructure, including transmission lines and roads (4.42 miles versus 1.85 miles); (3) the representative ROW of the route variation would be located within 500 feet of 8 fewer residences (1 versus 9); and (4) the route variation would avoid a private airstrip whose operations could be impacted by the Applicant Proposed Route. DOE has considered the alternatives analyzed in the Final EIS and taken into consideration the comparison of potential impacts for each resource area along with comments received on the Draft EIS and the Final EIS. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Mitigation DOE’s environmental analyses in the Final EIS and consultations under Section 106 of the NHPA and Section 7 of the ESA have identified all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm. DOE’s decision to participate in the Project is contingent upon the Applicant implementing all of the EPMs in the Final EIS to avoid or minimize potential adverse effects resulting from construction, operations and maintenance, and decommissioning. Furthermore, the Applicant will be required to develop and implement all of the project plans listed in Appendix F of the Final EIS. DOE’s decision also requires that the Applicant implement the BMPs, set forth in the Final EIS and developed by DOE and in consultation with other agencies, to further avoid or minimize potential adverse impacts. Chapter 2 of the Final EIS (Table 2.7–1) summarizes the BMPs identified for applicable resource areas analyzed in Chapter 3. DOE’s decision to participate requires that the Applicant comply with the Biological Opinion issued by USFWS on November 20, 2015. This includes adhering to the terms of the incidental take statement, and implementing all reasonable and prudent measures and VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:09 Mar 30, 2016 Jkt 238001 implementing terms and conditions described in the Biological Opinion. The Programmatic Agreement executed in accordance with Section 106 of the NHPA addresses historic properties identification and evaluation, assessment of effects, and resolution of effects, including avoidance, minimization, and mitigation. Federal agencies that do not adopt the executed Programmatic Agreement, but whose involvement constitutes an undertaking pursuant to 36 CFR 800.16(y) would conduct consultations with State Historic Preservation Offices and/or Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and/ or other appropriate parties in accordance with 36 CFR part 800. Clean Line, as a signatory to the Programmatic Agreement, will be required to implement the stipulations as agreed to in the executed Programmatic Agreement as a condition of DOE’s decision to participate. The Applicant is responsible for implementing all of the measures identified above (EPMs, BMPs, the USFWS Biological Opinion, and stipulations in the executed Programmatic Agreement), as set forth in the MAP. Additional required actions will be identified as a result of ongoing consultations (e.g., regarding Clean Water Act Section 404) between the Applicant and state and federal agencies as part of approval and permitting processes. The MAP lists the mitigation requirements and provides for the development of the implementation and monitoring of the EPMs, BMPs, reasonable and prudent measures and other requirements identified in the Biological Opinion, and mitigation measures contained in the Programmatic Agreement. DOE will track and annually report progress made in implementing, and the effectiveness of, the mitigation commitments made in this ROD. The MAP is posted on the DOE NEPA Web site at http:// energy.gov/nepa and on the Plains & Eastern EIS Web site at http:// www.plainsandeasterneis.com/. Issued in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2016. Ernest J. Moniz, Secretary of Energy. Appendix A: Public Comments Received After the Publication of the Final EIS DOE received eight comment documents regarding the Final EIS after its publication. In order of their receipt, these documents were submitted by the following individuals or groups: (1) Bob Hardy; (2) Paul Nedlose; (3) Steve Clair on behalf of residents of Walnut Valley Estates (north of Dover, PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Arkansas); (4) Residents of Walnut Valley Estates; (5) Residents of Walnut Valley Estates; (6) J.D. Dyer; (7) Mark Fuksa; and (8) Steve Clair on behalf of residents of Walnut Valley Estates. Comment documents 4, 5, and 8 contain the same information as was presented in comment document 3. DOE considered all comments contained in these documents. DOE has concluded that these comment documents do not identify a need for further NEPA analysis. Six of these comment documents are similar to, and in most cases the same as, comments submitted on the Draft EIS, to which DOE responded in the Final EIS. DOE responses to comments similar to Mr. Hardy’s concerns regarding communication can be found in the General NEPA Process and Compliance section of Appendix Q, Chapter 3 of the Final EIS (beginning on page 3–27 of that appendix). Mr. Nedlose’s comment expresses that he does not want the Project on his property. DOE responses to similar comments can be found in the Easements and Property Rights/ Values and the General Opposition Comments sections of Appendix Q, Chapter 3 of the Final EIS (beginning on pages 3–103 and 3–473, respectively, of that appendix). Letters expressing similar concerns from residents of Walnut Valley Estates were submitted to DOE. Comment summaries and DOE’s responses can be found on pages 3– 161 and 3–338 to 3–339 of Appendix Q, Chapter 3 in the Final EIS. The discussion below summarizes the comment documents from J.D. Dyer and Mark Fuksa, which include comments that were not addressed in the Final EIS, and presents DOE’s responses. Comment. Mr. Dyer described a flooding issue associated with a section of the Applicant Proposed Route in the area of Dyer, Arkansas, within the 1,000-foot-wide corridor in Region 4, Link 6. Mr. Dyer stated that transmission towers could fail during a flooding event and would be difficult to repair for a considerable amount of time. Mr. Dyer expressed concern that there could be long periods of time when the transmission line would be unable to deliver electricity to customers. Response. The Final EIS evaluates the potential impacts related to floodplains. Appendix N of the Final EIS includes a Floodplain Statement of Findings in accordance with DOE’s Compliance with Floodplain and Wetland Environmental Review Requirements (10 CFR part 1022). Appendix N states, ‘‘All structures and facilities would be designed to be consistent with the intent of the standards and criteria of the National Flood Insurance Program (44 CFR part 60, Criteria for Land Management and Use).’’ Additionally, Appendix N explains that transmission line structures would not prohibit the flow of water within floodplains, because water can flow around structure foundations. Transmission structure foundation dimensions are shown in the Final EIS (Chapter 2; Table 2.1–4). Section 7 of Appendix N includes EPMs and BMPs that would minimize potential impacts associated with flooding. Appendix N explains that the ‘‘first measure to be taken to minimize potential adverse effects to floodplains would be avoidance.’’ In the case E:\FR\FM\31MRN1.SGM 31MRN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 62 / Thursday, March 31, 2016 / Notices of siting the transmission line, the span between structures would also provide some flexibility for avoiding floodplains. That is, in some areas it would be reasonable to minimize the number of structures in a floodplain by controlling the spans or to place the structures outside the floodplain, which would then be spanned by the transmission line.’’ If a transmission structure would be required to be sited in a floodplain, it would be designed and constructed to meet the anticipated design loads from a maximallycredible flooding event in accordance with applicable regulatory standards. Therefore, a flooding event would be unlikely to result in the failure of a transmission structure. In the unlikely event that structure failure did occur as a result of a flooding event, the system repair would be similar to failures from other off-normal events. As presented in the Final EIS comment response document (Appendix Q, page 3–307), ‘‘Temporary interruption of the power transmission system could occur to the Project from a variety of off-normal events such as natural disasters, terrorism, or accidents. The Project would be designed to prevent outages from these events to the maximum extent practicable. While it stands to reason that interruption of a smaller regional power transmission system would impact a smaller customer base than a larger system, neither situation is necessarily considered disastrous. There are multiple thousands of miles of aboveground electrical transmission lines providing electrical power to consumers over long distances in the United States. Interruptions of power have occurred to power transmission systems in the past and have been mitigated and power restored through standard industry, engineering, and security practices. The Project alone would not represent a critically high percentage of power transmission service to consumers nationally and therefore temporary disruption of the grid would be considered manageable. The Applicant would operate the system and respond to any unplanned outages according to those practices and identified EPMs, BMPs, plans and procedures, and applicable regulatory requirements.’’ Clean Line has provided additional information in their Operations and Maintenance Plan (Section 3.12; Corrective Actions), which states, ‘‘To minimize the frequency and duration of corrective activities, Clean Line has designed robust structures that incorporate the appropriate NESC [National Electric Safety Code] requirements. Current engineering plans call for stop-structures every 5–10 miles to prevent cascading events. Clean Line plans to utilize weather-monitoring systems currently in place in the project area . . . and to communicate elevated risk levels to interconnecting utilities in order to ensure operational readiness. A spare parts inventory will be put in place along the route to address both high and low probability weather events. Standby contracts for labor and emergency equipment will provide for quick responses to any outages. A spare parts inventory will include information on critical components and parts, storage location, and VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:09 Mar 30, 2016 Jkt 238001 lead times/current availability for replacement parts.’’ Comment. Mr. Fuksa’s email states that the National Park Service added the Fuksa portion of the Chisholm Trail to the National Registry of Historic Places (NRHP) in September 2015, and designated the John and Mary Fuksa Family Farm (including dustbowl-era farmyard, buildings, and structures) as a national historic area and added it to the NRHP in December 2015. Mr. Fuksa urges DOE to adopt Alternative Route 2B instead of the Applicant Proposed Route in this location. Response. The location of the Chisholm Trail relative to the Applicant Proposed Route is identified and discussed in Section 3.9.5.2 of the Final EIS. Impacts to property structures would be addressed through micrositing within the 1,000-foot-wide corridor and implementing EPM LU–5, which states that Clean Line will make reasonable efforts, consistent with design criteria, to accommodate requests from individual landowners to adjust the siting of the ROW on their properties. These adjustments may include consideration of routes along or parallel to existing divisions of land (e.g., agricultural fields and parcel boundaries) and existing compatible linear infrastructure (e.g., roads, transmission lines, and pipelines), with the intent of reducing the impact of the ROW on private properties. DOE has developed a Programmatic Agreement that, in accordance with the regulations that implement Section 106 of the NHPA, provides a framework for the assessment of potential Project effects to historic properties (this would include potential effects to the Fuksa portion of the Chisholm Trail and the John and Mary Fuksa Family Farm), and adoption of strategies to resolve potential effects. [FR Doc. 2016–07282 Filed 3–30–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450–01–P DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Notice of Extension of Rate Schedules Southeastern Power Administration, DOE. ACTION: Notice of Rate Extension. AGENCY: The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy confirmed and approved an extension of Rate Schedules JW–1–J and JW–2–F through September 30, 2016. This short 11 day extension will allow the billing and rate terms to align going forward in the new rate to be proposed effective October 1, 2016 and to be announced in a separate Federal Register Notice. DATES: Approval of extension of the rate schedules is effective September 20, 2016. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Virgil G. Hobbs III, Assistant Administrator, Finance & Marketing, Southeastern Power Administration, Department of Energy, 1166 Athens SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 18607 Tech Road, Elberton, Georgia 30635– 6711, (706) 213–3800. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Commission, by Order issued December 22, 2011, in Docket No. EF11–12–000, confirmed and approved Wholesale Power Rate Schedules JW–1–J and JW– 2–F for a period ending September 19, 2016. Dated: March 25, 2016. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Deputy Secretary. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Rate Order No. SEPA–60. In the Matter of: Southeastern Power Administration—Jim Woodruff Project Power Rates Order Confirming and Approving Power Rates On an Interim Basis Pursuant to Sections 302(a) of the Department of Energy Organization Act, Public Law 95–91, the functions of the Secretary of the Interior and the Federal Power Commission under Section 5 of the Flood Control Act of 1944, 16 U.S.C. 825s, relating to the Southeastern Power Administration (‘‘Southeastern’’ or ‘‘SEPA’’) were transferred to and vested in the Secretary of Energy. By Delegation Order No. 00–037.00A, effective October 25, 2013, the Secretary of Energy delegated to Southeastern’s Administrator the authority to develop power and transmission rates, delegated to the Deputy Secretary of Energy the authority to confirm, approve, and place in effect such rates on an interim basis, and delegated to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (‘‘Commission’’) the authority to confirm, approve, and place into effect on a final basis or to disapprove rates developed by the Administrator under the delegation. This rate order is issued by the Deputy Secretary pursuant to said delegation. Pursuant to 10 CFR 903.23(b), an existing rate may be extended on a temporary basis by the Deputy Secretary without advanced notice or comment. The Deputy Secretary shall publish said extension in the Federal Register and promptly advise the Commission of the extension. Background Power from the Jim Woodruff Project is presently sold under Wholesale Power Rate Schedules JW–1–J and JW– 2–F. These rate schedules were approved by the Commission on December 22, 2011, for a period ending September 19, 2016 (137 FERC ¶62,248). Effective June 21, 2015, Southeastern, Duke Energy Florida, and E:\FR\FM\31MRN1.SGM 31MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 62 (Thursday, March 31, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 18602-18607]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-07282]


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DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY


Record of Decision in re Application of Clean Line Energy 
Partners LLC

AGENCY: Department of Energy.

ACTION: Record of decision.

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SUMMARY: Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) 
grants the Secretary of Energy the authority to design, develop, 
construct, operate, maintain, or own, or participate with other 
entities in designing, developing, constructing, operating, 
maintaining, and owning new electric power transmission facilities and 
related facilities located within any state in which the Southwestern 
Power Administration (Southwestern) operates. In response to an 
application submitted by Clean Line Energy Partners LLC on behalf of 
itself and several corporate affiliates (collectively, Clean Line or 
the Applicant) the Department of Energy (DOE or the Department) 
announces its decision to participate in the development of 
approximately 705 miles of 600 kilovolt (kV) overhead, 
high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electric transmission facilities and 
related facilities from western Oklahoma to the eastern state-line of 
Arkansas near the Mississippi River (the Project). This decision 
implements DOE's preferred alternative in Oklahoma and Arkansas as 
described in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Plains & 
Eastern Clean Line Transmission Line Project (Final EIS) (DOE/EIS-
0486). Clean Line, acting on its own and without the Department's 
participation, would build additional facilities that would connect to 
the Project in Texas and Tennessee.
    Collectively, the facilities built by Clean Line would have the 
capacity to deliver approximately 4,000 megawatts (MW) from renewable 
energy generation facilities, located in the Oklahoma Panhandle and 
potentially Texas Panhandle regions, to the electrical grid in Arkansas 
and Tennessee. The potential environmental impacts associated with the 
Project, plus the additional facilities in Texas and Tennessee, are 
analyzed in the Final EIS. DOE's review included consultations in 
accordance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and 
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). DOE's 
decision requires the implementation of mitigation measures, and a 
complete list of these measures can be found in the Mitigation Action 
Plan (MAP).

ADDRESSES: Information regarding Section 1222 of EPAct 2005 can be 
found on the DOE Web site at http://energy.gov/oe/services/electricity-policy-coordination-and-implementation/transmission-planning/section-1222. The determination by the Secretary of Energy, Summary of 
Findings, and Participation Agreement are available on the DOE Web site 
at http://energy.gov/oe/services/electricity-

[[Page 18603]]

policy-coordination-and-implementation/transmission-planning/section-
1222-0. The Final EIS, associated errata, MAP, and this Record of 
Decision (ROD) are available on the DOE National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) Web site at http://energy.gov/nepa and on the Plains & 
Eastern EIS Web site at http://www.plainsandeasterneis.com/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information on the Section 1222 
process, contact Mr. Christopher Lawrence, U.S. Department of Energy, 
1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585; email at 
Christopher.Lawrence@hq.doe.gov; or phone (202) 586-5260.
    For information on the EIS or the consultation processes under 
Section 106 of the NHPA (54 U.S.C. 300101) or Section 7 of the ESA (16 
U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), contact Jane Summerson, Ph.D., DOE NEPA Document 
Manager, U.S. Department of Energy, DOE NNSA, Post Office Box 5400, 
Building 391, Kirtland Air Force Base East, Albuquerque, NM 87185; 
email at Jane.Summerson01@nnsa.doe.gov; or phone (505) 845-4091.
    For general information about the DOE NEPA process, contact Carol 
Borgstrom, Director, Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance (GC-54), U.S. 
Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 
20585; or phone at (202) 586-4600; voicemail at (800) 472-2756; or 
email at askNEPA@hq.doe.gov. Additional information regarding DOE's 
NEPA activities is available on the DOE NEPA Web site at http://energy.gov/nepa.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 1222 of EPAct 2005, 42 U.S.C. 16421, grants the Secretary 
of Energy authority, acting through the Western Area Power 
Administration (WAPA), Southwestern, or both, to design, develop, 
construct, operate, maintain, or own, or participate with other 
entities in designing, developing, constructing, operating, 
maintaining, and owning new electric power transmission facilities and 
related facilities located within any state in which WAPA or 
Southwestern operates. In June 2010, the Department issued Request for 
Proposals for New or Upgraded Transmission Line Projects Under Section 
1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (75 FR 32940; June 10, 2010). In 
response to the request for proposals (RFP), Clean Line Energy Partners 
LLC of Houston, Texas, the parent company of Plains and Eastern Clean 
Line LLC and Plains and Eastern Clean Line Oklahoma LLC, submitted a 
proposal to DOE in July 2010 for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line 
Project. In August 2011, Clean Line modified the proposal and, at DOE's 
request, subsequently submitted additional information (referred to as 
the Part 2 Application) in January 2015.
    This ROD uses two terms that describe related elements of the 
application being discussed. The Project \1\ refers to those facilities 
in Oklahoma and Arkansas included in DOE's decision to participate, 
e.g., approximately 705 miles of 600 kV overhead, HVDC 
electric transmission facilities running from western Oklahoma to the 
eastern state-line of Arkansas near the Mississippi River and related 
facilities, including a converter station in Arkansas. Applicant 
Proposed Project \2\ refers to the Project plus the additional 
facilities that Clean Line, acting on its own and without the 
Department's participation, would build in Texas and Tennessee to 
connect to the Project. Collectively, the facilities would have the 
capacity to deliver approximately 4,000 MW from renewable energy 
generation facilities, located in the Oklahoma Panhandle and 
potentially Texas Panhandle regions, to the electrical grid in Arkansas 
(500 MW) and Tennessee (3,500 MW).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ In the Final EIS, ``the Project'' is used as a broad term 
that generically refers to elements of the project as proposed by 
Clean Line and/or DOE Alternatives when differentiation between the 
two is not necessary. The definition of ``the Project'' used in the 
Final EIS is distinct from the meaning of ``the Project'' in this 
ROD.
    \2\ In the Final EIS, the term ``Applicant Proposed Project'' 
refers to the project as described in Clean Line's modified proposal 
to DOE. This is described in Section S.5.2 of the Final EIS and does 
not include the converter station in Arkansas or alternative routes 
for the HVDC transmission line that are referred to in the Final EIS 
as ``DOE Alternatives.''
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 1222 Authority

    Parallel with the NEPA process, DOE evaluated Clean Line's 
application under Section 1222 of the EPAct 2005. This evaluation under 
Section 1222 included a review of the application against statutory 
eligibility criteria and certain evaluation factors listed in the 2010 
RFP. To aid in this review, Clean Line's Part 2 Application was made 
available for public comment from April 28, 2015 until July 13, 2015 
(80 FR 23520 and 34626). Clean Line's application remains available on 
DOE's Web site at http://www.energy.gov/oe/services/electricity-policy-coordination-and-implementation/transmission-planning/section-1222-0. 
The results of DOE's evaluation under Section 1222 are addressed under 
the Decision section below in this ROD.

NEPA Review

    DOE prepared the EIS and this ROD pursuant to NEPA (42 U.S.C. 4321 
et seq.), the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) NEPA regulations 
(40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] parts 1500 through 1508), and 
DOE's NEPA implementing regulations (10 CFR part 1021). DOE's purpose 
and need for agency action is to implement Section 1222 of the EPAct 
2005. In the Final EIS, DOE analyzed the potential environmental 
impacts from the Applicant Proposed Project, as the term is used in 
this ROD, the range of reasonable alternatives, and a No Action 
Alternative.
    Major facilities associated with the Applicant Proposed Project 
include converter stations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee; 
approximately 720-miles of 600 kV HVDC transmission line 
facilities; an alternating current (AC) collection system; and access 
roads.
    In response to public comments on the Draft EIS, DOE and Clean Line 
developed 23 route variations for the Applicant Proposed Route \3\ for 
the HVDC transmission line, which were evaluated in the Final EIS. 
These route variations involved minor changes to the segment lengths 
and were developed with the intent of reducing land use conflicts or 
minimizing potential environmental impacts of the route as analyzed in 
the Draft EIS. In all but one instance, Clean Line concluded that the 
route variations were technically feasible and expressed support for 
DOE's adoption of these route variations (the instance is described 
under the Basis for Decision section below in this ROD).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \3\ The Applicant Proposed Route, as used in the Final EIS and 
this ROD, refers to the single 1,000-foot-wide route alternative 
defined by Clean Line to connect the converter station in the 
Oklahoma Panhandle to the converter station in western Tennessee. 
The Applicant Proposed Route is described in Section S.5.3.2 of the 
Final EIS.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The analysis of potential environmental impacts for the HVDC 
transmission facilities, including the 23 route variations addressed in 
the Final EIS, was based on a representative 200-foot-wide right of way 
(ROW) within a 1,000-foot-wide corridor. The final location of the 
transmission line ROW could be anywhere within this 1,000-foot-wide 
corridor and would be determined following the issuance of this ROD 
based on the completion of final engineering design, federal and state 
related construction permits and authorizations, ROW acquisition 
activities, and the incorporation of all measures identified in the 
MAP. Determination of this final location of

[[Page 18604]]

the ROW within the 1,000-foot-wide corridor is referred to as 
micrositing.
    In addition to the HVDC transmission facilities, the Applicant 
Proposed Project would include construction, operation, and maintenance 
of an AC collection system. The collection system would consist of four 
to six AC transmission lines up to 345 kV from the Oklahoma converter 
station to points in the Oklahoma Panhandle region and potentially 
Texas Panhandle region to facilitate efficient interconnection of wind 
energy generation. The Final EIS evaluated 13 possible routes, each 
consisting of a 2-mile-wide corridor within which a 200-foot-wide ROW 
could be located. The specific locations of these transmission lines 
cannot be known at this time and would depend on the locations of 
future wind farms in this area. DOE's analysis in the Final EIS also 
includes the potential environmental impacts resulting from connected 
actions (wind energy generation and currently identified substation and 
transmission upgrades related to the Applicant Proposed Project).
    On February 26, 2016, DOE issued errata to correct errors, 
inconsistencies, and omissions in the Final EIS. These included, for 
example, correcting inconsistencies in two tables identifying the 
lengths of the HVDC transmission line routes, updating emissions 
estimates for air quality impacts, correcting socioeconomic and 
transportation impact estimates to account for the Arkansas converter 
station, and including and responding to 26 comment documents that were 
inadvertently left out of Appendix Q of the Final EIS. DOE considered 
each of the errata individually and collectively and determined that 
they do not represent significant new information relevant to 
environmental consequences and do not change the conclusions in the 
Final EIS.

Cooperating Agencies

    DOE was the lead federal agency for the preparation of the EIS and, 
pursuant to 40 CFR 1501.6, prepared the EIS in consultation with the 
following cooperating agencies: Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Natural 
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Tennessee Valley Authority 
(TVA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
    BIA, NRCS, TVA, USACE, and USFWS can, to the extent permitted by 
law, rely on the Final EIS to fulfill their obligations under NEPA for 
any action, permit, or approval by these agencies for the Applicant 
Proposed Project. TVA conducted studies that indicate certain upgrades 
to its transmission system would be necessary for TVA to interconnect 
with the Applicant Proposed Project while maintaining reliable service 
to its customers. Additionally, TVA would need to construct a new 500 
kV transmission line to enable the injection of 3,500 MW of power from 
the Applicant Proposed Project. TVA would complete its own NEPA review, 
tiering from DOE's Final EIS, to assess the impact of the upgrades and 
the new 500 kV line. The USACE may consider the routing alternatives in 
Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee as presented in the Final EIS 
when making its permit decisions and can use the analysis contained in 
the Final EIS to inform all of its permit decisions for the Applicant 
Proposed Project.

Consultation

    DOE is the lead agency for consultation required under Section 106 
of the NHPA. In accordance with 36 CFR 800.8(c), DOE is using the NEPA 
process and documentation required for the EIS to comply with Section 
106 of the NHPA in lieu of the procedures set forth in 36 CFR 800.3 
through 800.6. This approach is consistent with the recommendations set 
forth in the CEQ NEPA regulations, 40 CFR 1500.2, and NEPA and NHPA: A 
Handbook for Integrating NEPA and Section 106, issued in 2013 by CEQ 
and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which encourage 
federal agencies to integrate the NEPA process with other planning and 
environmental reviews, such as Section 106 of the NHPA.
    DOE invited certain federal, state, Indian Tribes or Nations, and 
local agencies to consult under Section 106 of the NHPA in accordance 
with 36 CFR 800.2(c). The Programmatic Agreement, which satisfies DOE's 
Section 106 responsibilities, was executed on December 7, 2015. The 
Programmatic Agreement describes roles and responsibilities for DOE and 
the consulting parties; the tribal consultation protocol; the area of 
potential effects; the phased process to address historic properties, 
including continued consultation; procedures to address the 
unanticipated discovery of cultural resources or inadvertent discovery 
of human remains, graves or associated funerary objects; the 
communication plan; the historic properties management plan for 
operations and maintenance activities, annual reporting and close out 
report requirements; and dispute resolution requirements. The 
Programmatic Agreement is included as Appendix A of the MAP.
    In March 2015, DOE and TVA requested the initiation of formal 
consultation and conference with the USFWS under Section 7(a)(2) of the 
ESA and submitted a Biological Assessment (BA) regarding the Applicant 
Proposed Project and its potential effects on listed species and 
designated critical habitat. DOE responded to USFWS's request for 
additional information with a revised BA in May 2015. In July 2015, DOE 
submitted an addendum to the revised BA to address route variations 
based on public comments on the Draft EIS. The USFWS issued its 
Biological Opinion on November 20, 2015, which concluded formal 
consultation. The Biological Opinion is included as Appendix B of the 
MAP. The Biological Opinion concluded that implementation of the 
Applicant Proposed Project is not likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of the affected species, but likely will result in incidental 
take of certain species and, therefore, includes an enforceable 
incidental take statement. DOE's decision is conditioned on the 
Applicant complying with the incidental take statement and taking all 
practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm from the 
selected alternative as required by USFWS in the Biological Opinion. 
These conditions are further described under the Mitigation section 
below in this ROD. DOE also acknowledges that re-initiation of formal 
ESA consultation may be required in accordance with 50 CFR 402.16.

Public Comments

    On December 21, 2012, DOE issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) (77 FR 
75623) to prepare an EIS for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line 
Transmission Project. DOE conducted 13 public scoping meetings. DOE 
considered input from scoping in preparing the Draft EIS, which was 
issued on December 17, 2014. The 90-day public comment period for the 
Draft EIS began on December 19, 2014, and was scheduled to end on March 
19, 2015 (79 FR 78079). On February 12, 2015, DOE announced in the 
Federal Register that it was extending the comment period until April 
20, 2015 (80 FR 7850). As part of this public comment period, DOE 
invited comments on the NHPA Section 106 process and any potential 
adverse impacts to historic properties.
    The Final EIS and errata considered and responded to all comments 
submitted on the Draft EIS. During the comment period, DOE held 15 
public hearings in the following locations:

[[Page 18605]]

Woodward, Oklahoma; Guymon, Oklahoma; Beaver, Oklahoma; Perryton, 
Texas; Muskogee, Oklahoma; Cushing, Oklahoma; Stillwater, Oklahoma; 
Enid, Oklahoma; Newport, Arkansas; Searcy, Arkansas; Marked Tree, 
Arkansas; Millington, Tennessee; Russellville, Arkansas; Fort Smith, 
Arkansas; and Morrilton, Arkansas.
    In addition to numerous comments that provided a statement of 
general opposition to or support for the Project, the primary topics 
raised in comments on the Draft EIS included, but were not limited to: 
Concern about electric and magnetic fields; concern about reductions in 
property value; concern about impacts to agricultural resources such as 
crop production, irrigation, and aerial spraying; concern about the use 
of eminent domain; and concern about visual impacts.

Analysis of Potential Environmental Impacts

    The EIS analyzes potential environmental impacts associated with 
the alternatives for each of the following resource areas: Agricultural 
resources; air quality and climate change; electrical environment; 
environmental justice; geology, paleontology, minerals, and soils; 
groundwater; health, safety, and intentional destructive acts; historic 
and cultural resources; land use; noise; recreation; socioeconomics; 
special status wildlife and fish, aquatic invertebrate, and amphibian 
species; surface water; transportation; vegetation communities and 
special status plant species; visual resources; wetlands, floodplains, 
and riparian areas; wildlife, fish, and aquatic invertebrate species; 
and cumulative impacts.
    Analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the Applicant 
Proposed Project and DOE Alternatives on each resource area (Chapter 3 
of the Final EIS) assumes the implementation of all Applicant-proposed 
environmental protection measures (EPMs) to avoid or minimize adverse 
impacts (summarized in Appendix F of the Final EIS). In some resource 
sections, DOE identified best management practices (BMPs) that could 
further avoid or minimize potential adverse impacts. BMPs are 
summarized in Table 2.7-1 of Chapter 2 in the Final EIS.
    In accordance with DOE's Compliance with Floodplain and Wetland 
Environmental Review Requirements (10 CFR part 1022), DOE prepared a 
floodplain assessment and has determined that the Applicant Proposed 
Project would avoid floodplains to the maximum extent practicable, that 
appropriate measures to minimize adverse effects on human health and 
safety and the functions and values provided by floodplains would be 
taken, and that the Applicant Proposed Project would comply with 
applicable floodplain protection standards. The Floodplain Statement of 
Findings (Appendix N of the Final EIS) relied on the implementation of 
the EPMs developed and committed to by the Applicant and BMPs 
identified in consultation with USACE.
    DOE's selected route for the HVDC transmission line is the 
Applicant Proposed Route (with one exception, as noted under the Basis 
for Decision section below in this ROD). Because DOE's selected route 
is the HVDC route alternative with the lowest potential for 
environmental impacts when compared against the other HVDC route 
alternatives, DOE has designated it as the environmentally preferable 
HVDC route alternative with associated facilities. DOE's selected route 
incorporates input on potential environmental impacts that DOE received 
from the public and agencies (during scoping and in comments on the 
Draft EIS). The selected route was developed through a series of stages 
including the preliminary routing process, refinements during DOE's 
independent verification of that process, and further changes to 
address public and agency input.
    While the No Action Alternative would avoid the environmental 
impacts identified in the EIS, adoption of this alternative would not 
meet DOE's purpose and need to implement Section 1222 of the EPAct 
2005.

Comments Received on the Final EIS

    DOE distributed the Final EIS to congressional members and 
committees; state and local governments; other federal agencies; 
certain American Indian Tribes or Nations; non-governmental 
organizations; and other stakeholders, including members of the public 
who requested the Final EIS. The Final EIS also was made available to 
the public via the Internet. DOE subsequently received eight comment 
documents. As discussed in Appendix A to this ROD, DOE has concluded 
that these comment documents do not identify a need for further NEPA 
analysis.

Decision

    DOE has decided to participate in the Project as defined in this 
ROD. Thus, this decision implements the preferred alternative described 
in Section 2.14 of the Final EIS for the Project, which is defined in 
this ROD as facilities in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Concurrent with this 
ROD, the Secretary of Energy has issued a determination that the 
Project meets the criteria of Section 1222 and merits the Department's 
participation. (http://energy.gov/oe/services/electricity-policy-coordination-and-implementation/transmission-planning/section-1222-0).

Basis for Decision

    The decision to participate in the Project considered the analysis 
of potential environmental impacts in the Final EIS, other statutory 
requirements (e.g., ESA and Section 106 of the NHPA), and the 
Department's review of Clean Line's application against the eligibility 
criteria in Section 1222 and the evaluation factors identified in the 
Department's 2010 RFP. The Department's analysis of the statutory 
eligibility criteria and the RFP evaluation factors is contained in the 
Summary of Findings, which the Department is publishing concurrent with 
this ROD and is incorporated herein. Also relevant to the Department's 
decision is the Participation Agreement, which sets forth the terms and 
conditions under which the Department will participate. (Both the 
Summary of Findings and the Participation Agreement are available at 
http://energy.gov/oe/services/electricity-policy-coordination-and-implementation/transmission-planning/section-1222-0).
    There is no ``impact-free'' routing choice for a large transmission 
line. In some regions, where there are multiple resource conflicts, the 
HVDC alternative routes impact certain resources differently, and some 
alternative routes were included in DOE's analysis to emphasize 
protection of one resource or land value over another. The Final EIS 
analyzed potential impacts for the HVDC transmission line by resource 
and highlighted substantive differences between the Applicant Proposed 
Route, route variations, and HVDC alternative routes. A detailed 
discussion of the route development and basis for identification of the 
Applicant Proposed Route is included in Appendix G of the Final EIS. To 
respond to public comments on the Draft EIS, DOE and the Applicant 
developed 23 route variations for the Applicant Proposed Route. These 
route variations were developed with the intent of reducing land use 
conflicts or minimizing potential environmental impacts of the 
Applicant Proposed Route from the levels of potential impacts described 
in the Draft EIS. In all but one instance, the route variations 
replaced their corresponding segments of the Applicant Proposed Route. 
This exception (Region 4, Applicant

[[Page 18606]]

Proposed Route Link 3, Variation 2; approximately 3 miles northwest of 
Sallisaw, Oklahoma) was carried forward as an additional alternative 
for comparative analysis in the Final EIS with the corresponding 
segment of the Applicant Proposed Route.
    DOE has decided to implement the Applicant Proposed Route presented 
in the Final EIS, with one exception (Region 4, Applicant Proposed 
Route Link 3, Variation 2). The basis for DOE's selection of this route 
variation over the corresponding segment of the Applicant Proposed 
Route includes the following: (1) The route variation crosses 32 
percent fewer land parcels (17 versus 25); (2) the route variation 
parallels more than twice the length of existing infrastructure, 
including transmission lines and roads (4.42 miles versus 1.85 miles); 
(3) the representative ROW of the route variation would be located 
within 500 feet of 8 fewer residences (1 versus 9); and (4) the route 
variation would avoid a private airstrip whose operations could be 
impacted by the Applicant Proposed Route.
    DOE has considered the alternatives analyzed in the Final EIS and 
taken into consideration the comparison of potential impacts for each 
resource area along with comments received on the Draft EIS and the 
Final EIS.

Mitigation

    DOE's environmental analyses in the Final EIS and consultations 
under Section 106 of the NHPA and Section 7 of the ESA have identified 
all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm. DOE's 
decision to participate in the Project is contingent upon the Applicant 
implementing all of the EPMs in the Final EIS to avoid or minimize 
potential adverse effects resulting from construction, operations and 
maintenance, and decommissioning. Furthermore, the Applicant will be 
required to develop and implement all of the project plans listed in 
Appendix F of the Final EIS. DOE's decision also requires that the 
Applicant implement the BMPs, set forth in the Final EIS and developed 
by DOE and in consultation with other agencies, to further avoid or 
minimize potential adverse impacts. Chapter 2 of the Final EIS (Table 
2.7-1) summarizes the BMPs identified for applicable resource areas 
analyzed in Chapter 3.
    DOE's decision to participate requires that the Applicant comply 
with the Biological Opinion issued by USFWS on November 20, 2015. This 
includes adhering to the terms of the incidental take statement, and 
implementing all reasonable and prudent measures and implementing terms 
and conditions described in the Biological Opinion.
    The Programmatic Agreement executed in accordance with Section 106 
of the NHPA addresses historic properties identification and 
evaluation, assessment of effects, and resolution of effects, including 
avoidance, minimization, and mitigation. Federal agencies that do not 
adopt the executed Programmatic Agreement, but whose involvement 
constitutes an undertaking pursuant to 36 CFR 800.16(y) would conduct 
consultations with State Historic Preservation Offices and/or Tribal 
Historic Preservation Offices and/or other appropriate parties in 
accordance with 36 CFR part 800. Clean Line, as a signatory to the 
Programmatic Agreement, will be required to implement the stipulations 
as agreed to in the executed Programmatic Agreement as a condition of 
DOE's decision to participate.
    The Applicant is responsible for implementing all of the measures 
identified above (EPMs, BMPs, the USFWS Biological Opinion, and 
stipulations in the executed Programmatic Agreement), as set forth in 
the MAP. Additional required actions will be identified as a result of 
ongoing consultations (e.g., regarding Clean Water Act Section 404) 
between the Applicant and state and federal agencies as part of 
approval and permitting processes.
    The MAP lists the mitigation requirements and provides for the 
development of the implementation and monitoring of the EPMs, BMPs, 
reasonable and prudent measures and other requirements identified in 
the Biological Opinion, and mitigation measures contained in the 
Programmatic Agreement. DOE will track and annually report progress 
made in implementing, and the effectiveness of, the mitigation 
commitments made in this ROD. The MAP is posted on the DOE NEPA Web 
site at http://energy.gov/nepa and on the Plains & Eastern EIS Web site 
at http://www.plainsandeasterneis.com/.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on March 25, 2016.
Ernest J. Moniz,
Secretary of Energy.

Appendix A: Public Comments Received After the Publication of the Final 
EIS

    DOE received eight comment documents regarding the Final EIS 
after its publication. In order of their receipt, these documents 
were submitted by the following individuals or groups: (1) Bob 
Hardy; (2) Paul Nedlose; (3) Steve Clair on behalf of residents of 
Walnut Valley Estates (north of Dover, Arkansas); (4) Residents of 
Walnut Valley Estates; (5) Residents of Walnut Valley Estates; (6) 
J.D. Dyer; (7) Mark Fuksa; and (8) Steve Clair on behalf of 
residents of Walnut Valley Estates. Comment documents 4, 5, and 8 
contain the same information as was presented in comment document 3.
    DOE considered all comments contained in these documents. DOE 
has concluded that these comment documents do not identify a need 
for further NEPA analysis. Six of these comment documents are 
similar to, and in most cases the same as, comments submitted on the 
Draft EIS, to which DOE responded in the Final EIS. DOE responses to 
comments similar to Mr. Hardy's concerns regarding communication can 
be found in the General NEPA Process and Compliance section of 
Appendix Q, Chapter 3 of the Final EIS (beginning on page 3-27 of 
that appendix). Mr. Nedlose's comment expresses that he does not 
want the Project on his property. DOE responses to similar comments 
can be found in the Easements and Property Rights/Values and the 
General Opposition Comments sections of Appendix Q, Chapter 3 of the 
Final EIS (beginning on pages 3-103 and 3-473, respectively, of that 
appendix). Letters expressing similar concerns from residents of 
Walnut Valley Estates were submitted to DOE. Comment summaries and 
DOE's responses can be found on pages 3-161 and 3-338 to 3-339 of 
Appendix Q, Chapter 3 in the Final EIS. The discussion below 
summarizes the comment documents from J.D. Dyer and Mark Fuksa, 
which include comments that were not addressed in the Final EIS, and 
presents DOE's responses.
    Comment. Mr. Dyer described a flooding issue associated with a 
section of the Applicant Proposed Route in the area of Dyer, 
Arkansas, within the 1,000-foot-wide corridor in Region 4, Link 6. 
Mr. Dyer stated that transmission towers could fail during a 
flooding event and would be difficult to repair for a considerable 
amount of time. Mr. Dyer expressed concern that there could be long 
periods of time when the transmission line would be unable to 
deliver electricity to customers.
    Response. The Final EIS evaluates the potential impacts related 
to floodplains. Appendix N of the Final EIS includes a Floodplain 
Statement of Findings in accordance with DOE's Compliance with 
Floodplain and Wetland Environmental Review Requirements (10 CFR 
part 1022). Appendix N states, ``All structures and facilities would 
be designed to be consistent with the intent of the standards and 
criteria of the National Flood Insurance Program (44 CFR part 60, 
Criteria for Land Management and Use).''
    Additionally, Appendix N explains that transmission line 
structures would not prohibit the flow of water within floodplains, 
because water can flow around structure foundations. Transmission 
structure foundation dimensions are shown in the Final EIS (Chapter 
2; Table 2.1-4).
    Section 7 of Appendix N includes EPMs and BMPs that would 
minimize potential impacts associated with flooding. Appendix N 
explains that the ``first measure to be taken to minimize potential 
adverse effects to floodplains would be avoidance.'' In the case

[[Page 18607]]

of siting the transmission line, the span between structures would 
also provide some flexibility for avoiding floodplains. That is, in 
some areas it would be reasonable to minimize the number of 
structures in a floodplain by controlling the spans or to place the 
structures outside the floodplain, which would then be spanned by 
the transmission line.''
    If a transmission structure would be required to be sited in a 
floodplain, it would be designed and constructed to meet the 
anticipated design loads from a maximally-credible flooding event in 
accordance with applicable regulatory standards. Therefore, a 
flooding event would be unlikely to result in the failure of a 
transmission structure.
    In the unlikely event that structure failure did occur as a 
result of a flooding event, the system repair would be similar to 
failures from other off-normal events. As presented in the Final EIS 
comment response document (Appendix Q, page 3-307), ``Temporary 
interruption of the power transmission system could occur to the 
Project from a variety of off-normal events such as natural 
disasters, terrorism, or accidents. The Project would be designed to 
prevent outages from these events to the maximum extent practicable. 
While it stands to reason that interruption of a smaller regional 
power transmission system would impact a smaller customer base than 
a larger system, neither situation is necessarily considered 
disastrous. There are multiple thousands of miles of aboveground 
electrical transmission lines providing electrical power to 
consumers over long distances in the United States. Interruptions of 
power have occurred to power transmission systems in the past and 
have been mitigated and power restored through standard industry, 
engineering, and security practices. The Project alone would not 
represent a critically high percentage of power transmission service 
to consumers nationally and therefore temporary disruption of the 
grid would be considered manageable. The Applicant would operate the 
system and respond to any unplanned outages according to those 
practices and identified EPMs, BMPs, plans and procedures, and 
applicable regulatory requirements.''
    Clean Line has provided additional information in their 
Operations and Maintenance Plan (Section 3.12; Corrective Actions), 
which states, ``To minimize the frequency and duration of corrective 
activities, Clean Line has designed robust structures that 
incorporate the appropriate NESC [National Electric Safety Code] 
requirements. Current engineering plans call for stop-structures 
every 5-10 miles to prevent cascading events. Clean Line plans to 
utilize weather-monitoring systems currently in place in the project 
area . . . and to communicate elevated risk levels to 
interconnecting utilities in order to ensure operational readiness. 
A spare parts inventory will be put in place along the route to 
address both high and low probability weather events. Standby 
contracts for labor and emergency equipment will provide for quick 
responses to any outages. A spare parts inventory will include 
information on critical components and parts, storage location, and 
lead times/current availability for replacement parts.''
    Comment. Mr. Fuksa's email states that the National Park Service 
added the Fuksa portion of the Chisholm Trail to the National 
Registry of Historic Places (NRHP) in September 2015, and designated 
the John and Mary Fuksa Family Farm (including dustbowl-era 
farmyard, buildings, and structures) as a national historic area and 
added it to the NRHP in December 2015. Mr. Fuksa urges DOE to adopt 
Alternative Route 2B instead of the Applicant Proposed Route in this 
location.
    Response. The location of the Chisholm Trail relative to the 
Applicant Proposed Route is identified and discussed in Section 
3.9.5.2 of the Final EIS. Impacts to property structures would be 
addressed through micrositing within the 1,000-foot-wide corridor 
and implementing EPM LU-5, which states that Clean Line will make 
reasonable efforts, consistent with design criteria, to accommodate 
requests from individual landowners to adjust the siting of the ROW 
on their properties. These adjustments may include consideration of 
routes along or parallel to existing divisions of land (e.g., 
agricultural fields and parcel boundaries) and existing compatible 
linear infrastructure (e.g., roads, transmission lines, and 
pipelines), with the intent of reducing the impact of the ROW on 
private properties. DOE has developed a Programmatic Agreement that, 
in accordance with the regulations that implement Section 106 of the 
NHPA, provides a framework for the assessment of potential Project 
effects to historic properties (this would include potential effects 
to the Fuksa portion of the Chisholm Trail and the John and Mary 
Fuksa Family Farm), and adoption of strategies to resolve potential 
effects.

[FR Doc. 2016-07282 Filed 3-30-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 6450-01-P