Record of Decision for Issuing a Presidential Permit to Transmission Developers, Inc.-New England, for the New England Clean Power Link Transmission Line Project, 89450-89453 [2016-29700]

Download as PDF mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES 89450 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 238 / Monday, December 12, 2016 / Notices the President’s scheduling convenience and to maintain Secret Service protection. This meeting will be closed to the public because such portion of the meeting is likely to disclose matters that are to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy under 5 U.S.C. 552b(c)(1). Public Comments: It is the policy of the PCAST to accept written public comments of any length, and to accommodate oral public comments whenever possible. The PCAST expects that public statements presented at its meetings will not be repetitive of previously submitted oral or written statements. The public comment period for this meeting will take place on January 6, 2017 at a time specified in the meeting agenda posted on the PCAST Web site at http://whitehouse.gov/ostp/pcast. This public comment period is designed only for substantive commentary on PCAST’s work, not for business marketing purposes. Oral Comments: To be considered for the public speaker list at the meeting, interested parties should register to speak at http://whitehouse.gov/ostp/ pcast, no later than 9:00 a.m. (Eastern Time) on December 30, 2016. Phone or email reservations will not be accepted. To accommodate as many speakers as possible, the time for public comments will be limited to two (2) minutes per person, with a total public comment period of up to 15 minutes. If more speakers register than there is space available on the agenda, PCAST will randomly select speakers from among those who applied. Those not selected to present oral comments may always file written comments with the committee. Speakers are requested to bring at least 25 copies of their oral comments for distribution to the PCAST members. Written Comments: Although written comments are accepted continuously, written comments should be submitted to PCAST no later than 12:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) on December 30, 2016 so that the comments may be made available to the PCAST members prior to this meeting for their consideration. Information regarding how to submit comments and documents to PCAST is available at http://whitehouse.gov/ostp/ pcast in the section entitled ‘‘Connect with PCAST.’’ Please note that because PCAST operates under the provisions of FACA, all public comments and/or presentations will be treated as public documents and will be made available for public inspection, including being posted on the PCAST Web site. VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:59 Dec 09, 2016 Jkt 241001 Meeting Accommodations: Individuals requiring special accommodation to access this public meeting should contact Ms. Jennifer Michael at least ten business days prior to the meeting so that appropriate arrangements can be made. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Washington, DC 20585; phone 202–586– 8267; email Brian.Mills@hq.doe.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information on the NECPL Project EIS, contact Mr. Brian Mills as indicated in the ADDRESSES section above. For general information on 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; email askNEPA@hq.doe.gov; or facsimile to 202–586–7031. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: [OE Docket No. PP 400] Background Issued in Washington, DC, on December 6, 2016. LaTanya R. Butler, Deputy Committee Management Officer. [FR Doc. 2016–29657 Filed 12–9–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450–01–P Record of Decision for Issuing a Presidential Permit to Transmission Developers, Inc.—New England, for the New England Clean Power Link Transmission Line Project Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy. ACTION: Record of decision. AGENCY: The Department of Energy (DOE) announces its decision to issue a Presidential permit to Champlain VT, LLC, d/b/a Transmission Developers, Inc.—New England (TDI–NE), to construct, operate, maintain, and connect an electric transmission line across the U.S./Canada international border in northern Vermont. The potential environmental impacts associated with the transmission line are analyzed in the New England Clean Power Link (NECPL) Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/ EIS–0503). As proposed, the NECPL Transmission Line would extend south from the U.S./Canada international border approximately 154 miles to a new converter station in Ludlow, Vermont and the existing Coolidge Substation in the towns of Ludlow and Cavendish, Vermont. ADDRESSES: The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and this Record of Decision (ROD) are available on the DOE National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Web site at http:// nepa.energy.gov/ and on the NECPL Project EIS Web site at http:// necplinkeis.com. Copies of the Final EIS and ROD are also available for review on the NECPL Project EIS Web site. Copies of the Final EIS and this ROD may be requested by contacting Mr. Brian Mills, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE–20), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Executive Order (EO) 10485 (September 9, 1953), as amended by EO 12038 (February 7, 1978), requires that a Presidential permit be issued by DOE before electricity transmission facilities may be constructed, operated, maintained, or connected at the U.S. border. DOE may issue or amend a permit if it determines that the permit is in the public interest and after obtaining favorable recommendations from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense. In determining whether issuance of a permit for a proposed action is in the public interest, DOE considers the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project, the project’s impact on electricity reliability by ascertaining whether the proposed project would adversely affect the operation of the U.S. electric power supply system under normal and contingency conditions, and any other factors that DOE considers relevant to the public interest. On June 23, 2014, TDI–NE applied to DOE for a Presidential permit to construct, operate, maintain, and connect a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line across the U.S./Canada international border. The proposed transmission line would be capable of transmitting up to 1,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The line would extend south from the U.S./ Canada international border approximately 154 miles. The transmission line would be located underground in Alburgh, Vermont, for approximately 0.5 miles and would enter Lake Champlain. The cables would then be installed in Lake Champlain, primarily buried in sediments, for 97.6 miles in a southern direction. The cables would emerge from Lake Champlain in the town of Benson, Vermont, and would be buried primarily along town roads and state highway rights-of-way for approximately 55.7 miles in a south- E:\FR\FM\12DEN1.SGM 12DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 238 / Monday, December 12, 2016 / Notices easterly direction until terminating at a proposed converter station in Ludlow, Vermont. The alternating current (AC) system would run approximately 0.3 miles from the converter station in Ludlow to the Coolidge Substation located in the towns of Ludlow and Cavendish, Vermont. mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES Consultation Pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, DOE has consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding the potential impacts on federally listed threatened or endangered species in the area of the proposed NECPL Project, and DOE has prepared a Biological Assessment (BA). The USFWS concurred on December 1, 2015, with DOE’s determination that the project would not adversely impact the Indiana bat and the northern long eared bat. DOE and the Vermont State Historic Preservation Officer (VTSHPO) consulted under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and signed a Programmatic Agreement (PA) regarding historic properties in October 2015. The PA requires TDI–NE to prepare a Cultural Resources Management Plan, which will meet the survey, data collection and mitigation measures necessary as identified by the VTSHPO. Documents associated with both these consultations are available on the NECPL Project EIS Web site at http:// necplinkeis.com. NEPA Review On August 26, 2014, DOE issued a Notice of Intent (79 FR 50901) to prepare an EIS for the NECPL Project and conduct public scoping. On June 12, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Notice of Availability (NOA) of the Draft EIS (80 FR 33519), that began a 60-day public review period. DOE held two public hearings on the Draft EIS in Burlington and Rutland, Vermont, and received no oral comments on the Draft EIS. Throughout the EIS process, DOE worked with the cooperating agencies to ensure that impacts will be appropriately addressed. DOE considered all comments received on the Draft EIS in the preparation of the Final EIS. The comments received and DOE’s responses are contained in Appendix M of the Final EIS. DOE issued the Final EIS in October 2015. On November 6, 2015, the U.S. EPA published a NOA of the Final EIS (80 FR 68868). The U.S. EPA Region 1 (USEPA), the New England District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:59 Dec 09, 2016 Jkt 241001 U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) participated as cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS. Alternatives Considered In the EIS, DOE analyzed the No Action Alternative and the Proposed Action of granting the Presidential permit for the construction, operation, maintenance, and connection of the proposed NECPL Project facilities. Under the No Action Alternative, DOE would not issue a Presidential permit for the proposed NECPL Project and the transmission line would not be built. Under the Proposed Action of granting the Presidential permit (the DOE Preferred Alternative), the transmission line would be constructed from the U.S./Canada international border to the new converter station in Ludlow, Vermont and the existing Coolidge Substation in the towns of Ludlow and Cavendish, Vermont. Analysis of Environmental Impacts The EIS analyzes potential environmental impacts associated with the alternatives for each of the following resource areas: Land use, transportation and traffic, water resources and quality, aquatic and terrestrial habitats and species, aquatic and terrestrial protected and sensitive species, wetlands, geology and soils, cultural resources, infrastructure, recreation, public health and safety, hazardous materials and wastes, air quality, noise, socioeconomics, environmental justice, and cumulative impacts. This analysis assumes the implementation of all TDI– NE-proposed measures to avoid or minimize adverse impacts (Section 5 and Appendix G of the EIS). The potential impacts of the Proposed Action would be predominantly associated with construction activities and would generally have either no effect (e.g., on infrastructure) or minor, temporary, and/or short-term impacts (e.g., on water quality and recreation). In the floodplain analysis contained in Sections 5.1.3 and 5.2.3 of the EIS, DOE concluded that the proposed NECPL Project would avoid floodplains to the maximum extent practicable, and that appropriate measures to minimize potential harm to or within the floodplains would be taken. The Vermont Secretary of Natural Resources issued a Flood Hazard Area & River Corridor Individual Permit to TDI–NE on November 24, 2015. This permit is available under Public Documents on the NECPL Project EIS Web site at http://necplinkeis.com. Implementation of the No Action Alternative would not result in changes to existing conditions in these resource PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 89451 areas and is, therefore, the environmentally preferable alternative. Comments Received on the Final EIS EPA provided comments on the Final EIS to DOE on December 4, 2015. EPA noted that earlier comments on the Draft EIS focused on impacts during construction, operation and maintenance of the project to wetlands, water quality, drinking water, environmental justice, and air quality and that the Final EIS addressed many of their environmental concerns. The EPA provided additional comments on ‘‘areas where more could be done to characterize and address project impacts.’’ The comments, and DOE’s responses, are discussed herein. EPA referred to its comments on the Draft EIS regarding DOE’s purpose and need and stated that ‘‘an analysis of a broader set of alternatives would have improved the environmental review process’’ for the NECPL Project. DOE reiterates that its role is limited to deciding whether the issuance of a Presidential permit is in the public interest, and that the purpose and need is to respond to the applicant’s request for a Presidential permit. EPA expressed support for the overland routing approach for the project adjacent to and within existing transportation corridor right-of-way, and added that proper mitigation to address impacts from project construction and operation would be an important part of the project design. In regard to the segment within Lake Champlain, EPA observed that the project ‘‘appears to be designed to avoid impacts to shallow water areas’’ and expressed support for the use of horizontal directional drilling to achieve that objective. Regarding water supply and water resources, EPA recommended that any future maps of the project mark the location of the ten surface water systems, nine groundwater systems, and four private wells in the vicinity of the project. DOE notes that the locations of the public water supply system sources (lake intakes and groundwater wells) and associated Source Protection Areas are depicted on the Natural Resource and Public Water Supply Map Series (December 2, 2014) that is available at www.necplink.com. TDI–NE intends to add the locations of the ten surface water systems and nine groundwater systems to the issued-for-construction drawings. Mapping of these features is intended as a precautionary measure and would not imply that construction activities would have an impact on these features. Also, EPA pointed out that the Final EIS indicates that the ‘‘deep intake of one supplier (Grand Isle E:\FR\FM\12DEN1.SGM 12DEN1 mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES 89452 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 238 / Monday, December 12, 2016 / Notices Consolidated Water District [GICWD]) is within one hundred feet of the project.’’ DOE notes that more recent information on intake locations from the Applicant indicates that the GICWD’s deep intake is over 300 feet from the NECPL Project alignment. EPA commented that the Final EIS does not describe how the proposed project would meet state regulations and any state guidance for protection of surface and groundwater drinking supplies and recommends that DOE provide this information before the close of the NEPA process. EPA encourages DOE to underscore the importance that TDI–NE consider all state and local land use restrictions designed to protect water supplies. DOE notes that oversight of public water systems is managed by ‘‘primacy’’ agencies, which are either state government agencies or EPA regional offices. The State of Vermont received primacy approval from EPA to supervise the public water systems in its jurisdiction. TDI–NE received a 401 Water Quality Certificate from the State of Vermont on November 24, 2015. The Vermont Agency for Natural Resources (VT ANR) considered the potential impact of the project on groundwater, in accordance with Section 1–04(A)(2) of the Vermont Water Quality Standards (CVR–12–030–025), and associated Anti-degradation Implementation Procedure. TDI–NE also prepared an Overall Oil and Hazardous Materials Spill Prevention and Contingency Plan for the NECPL Project. EPA commented that TDI–NE should provide real-time turbidity data to water suppliers that draw water from Lake Champlain to inform water treatment decisions. EPA recommended that DOE include in the ROD a specific requirement that TDI–NE provide water suppliers this notification. DOE notes that TDI–NE will be required by its permit from the Vermont Public Service Board to notify public water systems, which would involve notifying all ten public water systems with lake intakes near the project in writing at least three weeks prior to construction. The notification would include detailed information regarding the Project schedule, methods, and predicted effects (if any) to sediment and turbidity. Also, the public water systems monitor turbidity in real time at their own intakes already, as required by permits issued by VT ANR. EPA also recommended to DOE that TDI–NE provide construction management plans to water suppliers prior to construction. TDI–NE will be required by state permit to notify water suppliers in advance of construction VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:59 Dec 09, 2016 Jkt 241001 and to provide details on the construction process and contact information. Regarding spill notification, TDI–NE would comply with all applicable state and federal laws and would request approval of the Oil and Hazardous Materials Spill Prevention and Contingency Plan from the VT ANR at least 90 days prior to construction. Regarding sediments and water quality, EPA recommended that town and state culverts be replaced whenever necessary to avoid or minimize any negative environmental impacts. DOE notes that TDI–NE received a stream alternation permit from the VT ANR on November 24, 2015. Specific techniques for crossing all regulated streams were approved after consultation with VT ANR, local towns, and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). In a limited number of circumstances, the replacement of a culvert may be necessary due to the size or condition of the culvert. For the majority of streams that are crossed, the culverts would either not be impacted by the project or the need for replacement would be assessed during construction. The specific design at each stream crossing would ensure that the cable is buried at a sufficient depth below each stream’s stable longitudinal profile to allow the culverts to be replaced by appropriatelysized structures in the future without needing to disturb the cable. This additional burial depth would help avoid and minimize future negative environmental impacts that would occur when these structures are replaced. EPA also recommended that TDI–NE commit to compliance with Vermont road and bridge standards during roadside ditch construction. TDI–NE made such commitments in their agreements with VTrans and the Towns of Alburgh, Benson and Ludlow. These commitments can be viewed on TDI– NE’s project Web site at www.necplink.com. EPA commented that DOE should require TDI–NE to consult with the Lake Champlain Basin Project (LCBP) on the issue of invasive species prior to project construction. TDI–NE would be subject to State of Vermont stipulations related to invasive species, which are documented in the Section 401 Water Quality Certificate, Lake Encroachment Permits, and Vermont Wetlands Permits issued by the VT ANR. For the Lake segment, TDI–NE would: Prior to placing any equipment (e.g., boat, trailer, vehicle, or gear) that has been in or on any other waterbody other than Lake Champlain into public waters for Project construction or related to Project operation, PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 the Permittee shall inspect and decontaminate the equipment in accordance with the ‘‘Aquatic Invasive Species Management and Control Plan, for the New England Clean Power Link HVDC Transmission Project.’’ DOE notes that TDI–NE consulted with the LCBP staff during the development of the NECPL Project, as well as with parties staffing a similar program in New York. TDI–NE’s Invasive Species Management Plan is based on a guidance document that was developed in cooperation with the LCBP and was reviewed and approved by the VT ANR. Regarding the overland segment of the NECPL Project, TDI–NE is obligated to comply with a Vegetation Management Plan which details the plan for managing, monitoring and controlling non-native invasive species along the project corridor. Monitoring of invasive species per this plan would be required for three years after construction. In regard to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change, EPA commented that it was inappropriate for DOE to compare Project emissions to global levels in Section 5 of the Final EIS. DOE notes that the Final EIS concludes that GHG emissions from construction and operation of the project would be small in comparison to total annual emissions for the state. Moreover, the Final EIS explains that operation of the Project would be expected to offset the need for other sources of electricity, including those with higher levels of GHG emissions. As such, the proposed project could contribute positively to Vermont achieving its GHG reduction goals. EPA stated that DOE should recommend that TDI–NE ensure that specific detailed mitigation measures are implemented during construction to help reduce and minimize air quality impacts from the construction phase of the project. The Presidential permit will include conditions requiring TDI–NE to implement mitigation measures in the Final EIS including those related to local air emissions during construction of the project. EPA also commented that DOE could have improved the Final EIS by discussing the emissions profile of the electricity to be imported with that of the ‘‘electricity it would likely displace from the New England Power grid.’’ EPA recommends that DOE use tools on the Council of Environmental Quality’s NEPA.gov Web site. DOE notes that it consulted directly with EPA staff on the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) program to quantify GHG emissions and associated effects and E:\FR\FM\12DEN1.SGM 12DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 238 / Monday, December 12, 2016 / Notices mstockstill on DSK3G9T082PROD with NOTICES presented the analysis in Section 5 and Appendix K of the Final EIS. EPA also commented that the Final EIS could have been ‘‘improved with a discussion of the environmental effects that would be avoided through potential reductions in the need to operate power plants with significant cooling water needs.’’ DOE notes that such a discussion might be beneficial but would be premised on substantial uncertainty. In regard to environmental justice, EPA acknowledged that analysis in the Final EIS identifies low-income populations and minority populations at the census tract level but commented that it ‘‘does not differentiate between the overland and lake segments.’’ EPA further commented that, ‘‘This is significant in that populations likely to be affected by the project will be in the overland section, and the proximity of the project to those populations would be useful to examine.’’ DOE notes that its analysis did include potential impacts to low-income populations and minority populations in communities throughout the potentially affected area. EPA also recommended that DOE and TDI–NE conduct public outreach during the construction phase of the project to keep environmental justice populations informed about the project’s progress and potential impacts, even those anticipated to be minor in nature. DOE notes that in addition to the four public meetings held during DOE’s NEPA process, TDI–NE conducted comprehensive outreach throughout the development of the project using town offices, Front Porch Forums, and targeted letters to landowners in the vicinity of the project route to communicate project information. TDI– NE conducted six local open house meetings in several communities along the project route. TDI–NE plans to continue to use these forums to communicate with local citizens along the project route. The construction phase of the NECPL project including stipulations, mitigation measures, and public outreach efforts, would be under the jurisdiction of the USACE, VT–ANR, VTrans, the VT Public Service Board, and the Towns of Alburgh, Benson and Ludlow. Decision DOE has decided to issue Presidential Permit PP–400 to authorize TDI–NE to construct, operate, maintain, and connect a 1,000-MW HVDC transmission line across the U.S./ Canada international border. The permit will include a condition requiring TDI– NE to implement the Applicant- VerDate Sep<11>2014 18:59 Dec 09, 2016 Jkt 241001 proposed avoidance and minimization measures identified in the EIS. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Basis for Decision 89453 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission DOE’s decision to grant this Presidential permit is based on consideration of environmental impacts, impacts on the reliability of the U.S. electric power supply system under normal and contingency conditions, and the favorable recommendations of the U.S. Departments of State and Defense (which were provided, respectively, in July and August of 2015). DOE determined that the proposed international electric transmission line would not have an adverse impact on the reliability of the U.S. electric power supply system. In reaching this determination, DOE reviewed the System Impact Study produced by the Independent System Operator New England Inc. (ISO–NE) in October 2016 and a November 1, 2016, letter from ISO–NE. Based on the information available, DOE staff has determined that the 1000 MW of incremental north-tosouth transfer, which represents southbound transmission service requests from Quebec to the United States, will not have a negative impact on the reliability of the United States electric grid if operated consistent with both ISO-New England and North American Electric Reliability Corporation policies and standards, terms and conditions of the Presidential Permit and other regulatory and statutory requirements. Neither DOE nor ISO–NE has studied a south-to-north transfer, so the permit does not authorize such a transfer. Mitigation All practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm from the alternative selected have been, or will be, adopted. TDI–NE’s proposed measures to avoid and minimize adverse impacts are described in the EIS, the BA, and the PA. TDI–NE will be responsible for implementing these avoidance and minimization measures. Additional measures will be required as a result of ongoing consultations (e.g., regarding Clean Water Act Section 404, the Cultural Resources Management Plan) between TDI–NE and state and federal agencies as part of approval and permitting processes. Issued in Washington, DC, on December 5, 2016. Meghan Conklin, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. [FR Doc. 2016–29700 Filed 12–9–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6450–01–P PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 [Project No. 2242–078] Eugene Water and Electric Board; Notice of Settlement Agreement and Soliciting Comments Take notice that the following settlement agreement has been filed with the Commission and is available for public inspection. a. Type of Application: Settlement agreement (amending settlement agreement filed October 23, 2008). b. Project No.: 2242–078. c. Date filed: November 30, 2016. d. Applicant: Eugene Water and Electric Board. e. Name of Project: Carmen-Smith Hydroelectric Project. f. Location: On the McKenzie River in Lane and Linn counties, near the town of McKenzie Bridge, Oregon. The project occupies approximately 560 acres of the Willamette National Forest. g. Filed Pursuant to: Rule 602 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, 18 CFR 385.602. h. Applicant Contact: Frank Lawson, General Manager, Eugene Water and Electric Board, 500 East 4th Avenue, P.O. Box 10148, Eugene, Oregon 97440– 2148; (541) 685–7000. i. FERC Contact: Dianne Rodman; (202) 502–6077 or dianne.rodman@ ferc.gov. j. Deadline for Filing Comments: January 2, 2017. Reply comments due January 17, 2017. The Commission strongly encourages electronic filing. Please file comments using the Commission’s eFiling system at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ efiling.asp. Commenters can submit brief comments up to 6,000 characters, without prior registration, using the eComment system at http:// www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ ecomment.asp. You must include your name and contact information at the end of your comments. For assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at FERCOnlineSupport@ferc.gov, (866) 208–3676 (toll free), or (202) 502–8659 (TTY). In lieu of electronic filing, please send a paper copy to: Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE., Washington, DC 20426. The first page of any filing should include docket number P–2242–078. The Commission’s Rules of Practice require all intervenors filing documents with the Commission to serve a copy of that document on each person on the official service list for the project. Further, if an intervenor files comments E:\FR\FM\12DEN1.SGM 12DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 238 (Monday, December 12, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 89450-89453]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-29700]


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DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

[OE Docket No. PP 400]


Record of Decision for Issuing a Presidential Permit to 
Transmission Developers, Inc.--New England, for the New England Clean 
Power Link Transmission Line Project

AGENCY: Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. 
Department of Energy.

ACTION: Record of decision.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Department of Energy (DOE) announces its decision to issue 
a Presidential permit to Champlain VT, LLC, d/b/a Transmission 
Developers, Inc.--New England (TDI-NE), to construct, operate, 
maintain, and connect an electric transmission line across the U.S./
Canada international border in northern Vermont. The potential 
environmental impacts associated with the transmission line are 
analyzed in the New England Clean Power Link (NECPL) Project Final 
Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0503).
    As proposed, the NECPL Transmission Line would extend south from 
the U.S./Canada international border approximately 154 miles to a new 
converter station in Ludlow, Vermont and the existing Coolidge 
Substation in the towns of Ludlow and Cavendish, Vermont.

ADDRESSES: The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and this 
Record of Decision (ROD) are available on the DOE National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Web site at http://nepa.energy.gov/ and 
on the NECPL Project EIS Web site at http://necplinkeis.com. Copies of 
the Final EIS and ROD are also available for review on the NECPL 
Project EIS Web site.
    Copies of the Final EIS and this ROD may be requested by contacting 
Mr. Brian Mills, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability 
(OE-20), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., 
Washington, DC 20585; phone 202-586-8267; email Brian.Mills@hq.doe.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information on the NECPL 
Project EIS, contact Mr. Brian Mills as indicated in the ADDRESSES 
section above. For general information on 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; email askNEPA@hq.doe.gov; or facsimile to 202-
586-7031.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Executive Order (EO) 10485 (September 9, 1953), as amended by EO 
12038 (February 7, 1978), requires that a Presidential permit be issued 
by DOE before electricity transmission facilities may be constructed, 
operated, maintained, or connected at the U.S. border. DOE may issue or 
amend a permit if it determines that the permit is in the public 
interest and after obtaining favorable recommendations from the U.S. 
Departments of State and Defense. In determining whether issuance of a 
permit for a proposed action is in the public interest, DOE considers 
the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project, the 
project's impact on electricity reliability by ascertaining whether the 
proposed project would adversely affect the operation of the U.S. 
electric power supply system under normal and contingency conditions, 
and any other factors that DOE considers relevant to the public 
interest.
    On June 23, 2014, TDI-NE applied to DOE for a Presidential permit 
to construct, operate, maintain, and connect a high-voltage direct 
current (HVDC) transmission line across the U.S./Canada international 
border. The proposed transmission line would be capable of transmitting 
up to 1,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The line would extend south 
from the U.S./Canada international border approximately 154 miles. The 
transmission line would be located underground in Alburgh, Vermont, for 
approximately 0.5 miles and would enter Lake Champlain. The cables 
would then be installed in Lake Champlain, primarily buried in 
sediments, for 97.6 miles in a southern direction. The cables would 
emerge from Lake Champlain in the town of Benson, Vermont, and would be 
buried primarily along town roads and state highway rights-of-way for 
approximately 55.7 miles in a south-

[[Page 89451]]

easterly direction until terminating at a proposed converter station in 
Ludlow, Vermont. The alternating current (AC) system would run 
approximately 0.3 miles from the converter station in Ludlow to the 
Coolidge Substation located in the towns of Ludlow and Cavendish, 
Vermont.

Consultation

    Pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, DOE has 
consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding the 
potential impacts on federally listed threatened or endangered species 
in the area of the proposed NECPL Project, and DOE has prepared a 
Biological Assessment (BA). The USFWS concurred on December 1, 2015, 
with DOE's determination that the project would not adversely impact 
the Indiana bat and the northern long eared bat.
    DOE and the Vermont State Historic Preservation Officer (VTSHPO) 
consulted under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act 
and signed a Programmatic Agreement (PA) regarding historic properties 
in October 2015. The PA requires TDI-NE to prepare a Cultural Resources 
Management Plan, which will meet the survey, data collection and 
mitigation measures necessary as identified by the VTSHPO.
    Documents associated with both these consultations are available on 
the NECPL Project EIS Web site at http://necplinkeis.com.

NEPA Review

    On August 26, 2014, DOE issued a Notice of Intent (79 FR 50901) to 
prepare an EIS for the NECPL Project and conduct public scoping.
    On June 12, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
published a Notice of Availability (NOA) of the Draft EIS (80 FR 
33519), that began a 60-day public review period. DOE held two public 
hearings on the Draft EIS in Burlington and Rutland, Vermont, and 
received no oral comments on the Draft EIS. Throughout the EIS process, 
DOE worked with the cooperating agencies to ensure that impacts will be 
appropriately addressed. DOE considered all comments received on the 
Draft EIS in the preparation of the Final EIS. The comments received 
and DOE's responses are contained in Appendix M of the Final EIS. DOE 
issued the Final EIS in October 2015. On November 6, 2015, the U.S. EPA 
published a NOA of the Final EIS (80 FR 68868).
    The U.S. EPA Region 1 (USEPA), the New England District of the U.S. 
Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) 
participated as cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS.

Alternatives Considered

    In the EIS, DOE analyzed the No Action Alternative and the Proposed 
Action of granting the Presidential permit for the construction, 
operation, maintenance, and connection of the proposed NECPL Project 
facilities. Under the No Action Alternative, DOE would not issue a 
Presidential permit for the proposed NECPL Project and the transmission 
line would not be built. Under the Proposed Action of granting the 
Presidential permit (the DOE Preferred Alternative), the transmission 
line would be constructed from the U.S./Canada international border to 
the new converter station in Ludlow, Vermont and the existing Coolidge 
Substation in the towns of Ludlow and Cavendish, Vermont.

Analysis of Environmental Impacts

    The EIS analyzes potential environmental impacts associated with 
the alternatives for each of the following resource areas: Land use, 
transportation and traffic, water resources and quality, aquatic and 
terrestrial habitats and species, aquatic and terrestrial protected and 
sensitive species, wetlands, geology and soils, cultural resources, 
infrastructure, recreation, public health and safety, hazardous 
materials and wastes, air quality, noise, socioeconomics, environmental 
justice, and cumulative impacts. This analysis assumes the 
implementation of all TDI-NE-proposed measures to avoid or minimize 
adverse impacts (Section 5 and Appendix G of the EIS). The potential 
impacts of the Proposed Action would be predominantly associated with 
construction activities and would generally have either no effect 
(e.g., on infrastructure) or minor, temporary, and/or short-term 
impacts (e.g., on water quality and recreation).
    In the floodplain analysis contained in Sections 5.1.3 and 5.2.3 of 
the EIS, DOE concluded that the proposed NECPL Project would avoid 
floodplains to the maximum extent practicable, and that appropriate 
measures to minimize potential harm to or within the floodplains would 
be taken. The Vermont Secretary of Natural Resources issued a Flood 
Hazard Area & River Corridor Individual Permit to TDI-NE on November 
24, 2015. This permit is available under Public Documents on the NECPL 
Project EIS Web site at http://necplinkeis.com.
    Implementation of the No Action Alternative would not result in 
changes to existing conditions in these resource areas and is, 
therefore, the environmentally preferable alternative.

Comments Received on the Final EIS

    EPA provided comments on the Final EIS to DOE on December 4, 2015. 
EPA noted that earlier comments on the Draft EIS focused on impacts 
during construction, operation and maintenance of the project to 
wetlands, water quality, drinking water, environmental justice, and air 
quality and that the Final EIS addressed many of their environmental 
concerns. The EPA provided additional comments on ``areas where more 
could be done to characterize and address project impacts.'' The 
comments, and DOE's responses, are discussed herein.
    EPA referred to its comments on the Draft EIS regarding DOE's 
purpose and need and stated that ``an analysis of a broader set of 
alternatives would have improved the environmental review process'' for 
the NECPL Project. DOE reiterates that its role is limited to deciding 
whether the issuance of a Presidential permit is in the public 
interest, and that the purpose and need is to respond to the 
applicant's request for a Presidential permit.
    EPA expressed support for the overland routing approach for the 
project adjacent to and within existing transportation corridor right-
of-way, and added that proper mitigation to address impacts from 
project construction and operation would be an important part of the 
project design. In regard to the segment within Lake Champlain, EPA 
observed that the project ``appears to be designed to avoid impacts to 
shallow water areas'' and expressed support for the use of horizontal 
directional drilling to achieve that objective.
    Regarding water supply and water resources, EPA recommended that 
any future maps of the project mark the location of the ten surface 
water systems, nine groundwater systems, and four private wells in the 
vicinity of the project. DOE notes that the locations of the public 
water supply system sources (lake intakes and groundwater wells) and 
associated Source Protection Areas are depicted on the Natural Resource 
and Public Water Supply Map Series (December 2, 2014) that is available 
at www.necplink.com. TDI-NE intends to add the locations of the ten 
surface water systems and nine groundwater systems to the issued-for-
construction drawings. Mapping of these features is intended as a 
precautionary measure and would not imply that construction activities 
would have an impact on these features. Also, EPA pointed out that the 
Final EIS indicates that the ``deep intake of one supplier (Grand Isle

[[Page 89452]]

Consolidated Water District [GICWD]) is within one hundred feet of the 
project.'' DOE notes that more recent information on intake locations 
from the Applicant indicates that the GICWD's deep intake is over 300 
feet from the NECPL Project alignment.
    EPA commented that the Final EIS does not describe how the proposed 
project would meet state regulations and any state guidance for 
protection of surface and groundwater drinking supplies and recommends 
that DOE provide this information before the close of the NEPA process. 
EPA encourages DOE to underscore the importance that TDI-NE consider 
all state and local land use restrictions designed to protect water 
supplies. DOE notes that oversight of public water systems is managed 
by ``primacy'' agencies, which are either state government agencies or 
EPA regional offices. The State of Vermont received primacy approval 
from EPA to supervise the public water systems in its jurisdiction. 
TDI-NE received a 401 Water Quality Certificate from the State of 
Vermont on November 24, 2015. The Vermont Agency for Natural Resources 
(VT ANR) considered the potential impact of the project on groundwater, 
in accordance with Section 1-04(A)(2) of the Vermont Water Quality 
Standards (CVR-12-030-025), and associated Anti-degradation 
Implementation Procedure. TDI-NE also prepared an Overall Oil and 
Hazardous Materials Spill Prevention and Contingency Plan for the NECPL 
Project.
    EPA commented that TDI-NE should provide real-time turbidity data 
to water suppliers that draw water from Lake Champlain to inform water 
treatment decisions. EPA recommended that DOE include in the ROD a 
specific requirement that TDI-NE provide water suppliers this 
notification. DOE notes that TDI-NE will be required by its permit from 
the Vermont Public Service Board to notify public water systems, which 
would involve notifying all ten public water systems with lake intakes 
near the project in writing at least three weeks prior to construction. 
The notification would include detailed information regarding the 
Project schedule, methods, and predicted effects (if any) to sediment 
and turbidity. Also, the public water systems monitor turbidity in real 
time at their own intakes already, as required by permits issued by VT 
ANR.
    EPA also recommended to DOE that TDI-NE provide construction 
management plans to water suppliers prior to construction. TDI-NE will 
be required by state permit to notify water suppliers in advance of 
construction and to provide details on the construction process and 
contact information. Regarding spill notification, TDI-NE would comply 
with all applicable state and federal laws and would request approval 
of the Oil and Hazardous Materials Spill Prevention and Contingency 
Plan from the VT ANR at least 90 days prior to construction.
    Regarding sediments and water quality, EPA recommended that town 
and state culverts be replaced whenever necessary to avoid or minimize 
any negative environmental impacts. DOE notes that TDI-NE received a 
stream alternation permit from the VT ANR on November 24, 2015. 
Specific techniques for crossing all regulated streams were approved 
after consultation with VT ANR, local towns, and the Vermont Agency of 
Transportation (VTrans). In a limited number of circumstances, the 
replacement of a culvert may be necessary due to the size or condition 
of the culvert. For the majority of streams that are crossed, the 
culverts would either not be impacted by the project or the need for 
replacement would be assessed during construction. The specific design 
at each stream crossing would ensure that the cable is buried at a 
sufficient depth below each stream's stable longitudinal profile to 
allow the culverts to be replaced by appropriately-sized structures in 
the future without needing to disturb the cable. This additional burial 
depth would help avoid and minimize future negative environmental 
impacts that would occur when these structures are replaced.
    EPA also recommended that TDI-NE commit to compliance with Vermont 
road and bridge standards during roadside ditch construction. TDI-NE 
made such commitments in their agreements with VTrans and the Towns of 
Alburgh, Benson and Ludlow. These commitments can be viewed on TDI-NE's 
project Web site at www.necplink.com.
    EPA commented that DOE should require TDI-NE to consult with the 
Lake Champlain Basin Project (LCBP) on the issue of invasive species 
prior to project construction. TDI-NE would be subject to State of 
Vermont stipulations related to invasive species, which are documented 
in the Section 401 Water Quality Certificate, Lake Encroachment 
Permits, and Vermont Wetlands Permits issued by the VT ANR. For the 
Lake segment, TDI-NE would:

    Prior to placing any equipment (e.g., boat, trailer, vehicle, or 
gear) that has been in or on any other waterbody other than Lake 
Champlain into public waters for Project construction or related to 
Project operation, the Permittee shall inspect and decontaminate the 
equipment in accordance with the ``Aquatic Invasive Species 
Management and Control Plan, for the New England Clean Power Link 
HVDC Transmission Project.''

    DOE notes that TDI-NE consulted with the LCBP staff during the 
development of the NECPL Project, as well as with parties staffing a 
similar program in New York. TDI-NE's Invasive Species Management Plan 
is based on a guidance document that was developed in cooperation with 
the LCBP and was reviewed and approved by the VT ANR.
    Regarding the overland segment of the NECPL Project, TDI-NE is 
obligated to comply with a Vegetation Management Plan which details the 
plan for managing, monitoring and controlling non-native invasive 
species along the project corridor. Monitoring of invasive species per 
this plan would be required for three years after construction.
    In regard to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change, EPA 
commented that it was inappropriate for DOE to compare Project 
emissions to global levels in Section 5 of the Final EIS. DOE notes 
that the Final EIS concludes that GHG emissions from construction and 
operation of the project would be small in comparison to total annual 
emissions for the state. Moreover, the Final EIS explains that 
operation of the Project would be expected to offset the need for other 
sources of electricity, including those with higher levels of GHG 
emissions. As such, the proposed project could contribute positively to 
Vermont achieving its GHG reduction goals. EPA stated that DOE should 
recommend that TDI-NE ensure that specific detailed mitigation measures 
are implemented during construction to help reduce and minimize air 
quality impacts from the construction phase of the project. The 
Presidential permit will include conditions requiring TDI-NE to 
implement mitigation measures in the Final EIS including those related 
to local air emissions during construction of the project.
    EPA also commented that DOE could have improved the Final EIS by 
discussing the emissions profile of the electricity to be imported with 
that of the ``electricity it would likely displace from the New England 
Power grid.'' EPA recommends that DOE use tools on the Council of 
Environmental Quality's NEPA.gov Web site. DOE notes that it consulted 
directly with EPA staff on the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) 
program to quantify GHG emissions and associated effects and

[[Page 89453]]

presented the analysis in Section 5 and Appendix K of the Final EIS.
    EPA also commented that the Final EIS could have been ``improved 
with a discussion of the environmental effects that would be avoided 
through potential reductions in the need to operate power plants with 
significant cooling water needs.'' DOE notes that such a discussion 
might be beneficial but would be premised on substantial uncertainty.
    In regard to environmental justice, EPA acknowledged that analysis 
in the Final EIS identifies low-income populations and minority 
populations at the census tract level but commented that it ``does not 
differentiate between the overland and lake segments.'' EPA further 
commented that, ``This is significant in that populations likely to be 
affected by the project will be in the overland section, and the 
proximity of the project to those populations would be useful to 
examine.'' DOE notes that its analysis did include potential impacts to 
low-income populations and minority populations in communities 
throughout the potentially affected area.
    EPA also recommended that DOE and TDI-NE conduct public outreach 
during the construction phase of the project to keep environmental 
justice populations informed about the project's progress and potential 
impacts, even those anticipated to be minor in nature. DOE notes that 
in addition to the four public meetings held during DOE's NEPA process, 
TDI-NE conducted comprehensive outreach throughout the development of 
the project using town offices, Front Porch Forums, and targeted 
letters to landowners in the vicinity of the project route to 
communicate project information. TDI-NE conducted six local open house 
meetings in several communities along the project route. TDI-NE plans 
to continue to use these forums to communicate with local citizens 
along the project route.
    The construction phase of the NECPL project including stipulations, 
mitigation measures, and public outreach efforts, would be under the 
jurisdiction of the USACE, VT-ANR, VTrans, the VT Public Service Board, 
and the Towns of Alburgh, Benson and Ludlow.

Decision

    DOE has decided to issue Presidential Permit PP-400 to authorize 
TDI-NE to construct, operate, maintain, and connect a 1,000-MW HVDC 
transmission line across the U.S./Canada international border. The 
permit will include a condition requiring TDI-NE to implement the 
Applicant-proposed avoidance and minimization measures identified in 
the EIS.

Basis for Decision

    DOE's decision to grant this Presidential permit is based on 
consideration of environmental impacts, impacts on the reliability of 
the U.S. electric power supply system under normal and contingency 
conditions, and the favorable recommendations of the U.S. Departments 
of State and Defense (which were provided, respectively, in July and 
August of 2015).
    DOE determined that the proposed international electric 
transmission line would not have an adverse impact on the reliability 
of the U.S. electric power supply system. In reaching this 
determination, DOE reviewed the System Impact Study produced by the 
Independent System Operator New England Inc. (ISO-NE) in October 2016 
and a November 1, 2016, letter from ISO-NE. Based on the information 
available, DOE staff has determined that the 1000 MW of incremental 
north-to-south transfer, which represents south-bound transmission 
service requests from Quebec to the United States, will not have a 
negative impact on the reliability of the United States electric grid 
if operated consistent with both ISO-New England and North American 
Electric Reliability Corporation policies and standards, terms and 
conditions of the Presidential Permit and other regulatory and 
statutory requirements. Neither DOE nor ISO-NE has studied a south-to-
north transfer, so the permit does not authorize such a transfer.

Mitigation

    All practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm from 
the alternative selected have been, or will be, adopted. TDI-NE's 
proposed measures to avoid and minimize adverse impacts are described 
in the EIS, the BA, and the PA. TDI-NE will be responsible for 
implementing these avoidance and minimization measures. Additional 
measures will be required as a result of ongoing consultations (e.g., 
regarding Clean Water Act Section 404, the Cultural Resources 
Management Plan) between TDI-NE and state and federal agencies as part 
of approval and permitting processes.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on December 5, 2016.
Meghan Conklin,
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy 
Reliability.
[FR Doc. 2016-29700 Filed 12-9-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 6450-01-P