Jefferson National Forest; Monroe County, West Virginia; Giles and Montgomery County, Virginia; Mountain Valley Pipeline and Equitrans Expansion Project Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, 45863-45865 [2020-16507]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 147 / Thursday, July 30, 2020 / Notices Description of Respondents: Farmers and Ranchers. Number of Respondents: 36,550. Frequency of Responses: Reporting: Annually. Total Burden Hours: 20,428. Ruth Brown, Departmental Information Collection Clearance Officer. [FR Doc. 2020–16493 Filed 7–29–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–20–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Jefferson National Forest; Monroe County, West Virginia; Giles and Montgomery County, Virginia; Mountain Valley Pipeline and Equitrans Expansion Project Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Forest Service, USDA. Notice of intent to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement. AGENCY: ACTION: The USDA Forest Service (FS) is preparing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to the 2017 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Equitrans Expansion Project. The MVP project proposed action that is specific to National Forest System (NFS) lands is to construct and operate a buried 42-inch natural gas pipeline across approximately 3.5 miles of the Jefferson National Forest (JNF). The FS, as the lead agency, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as the Federal cooperating agency, have decisions to be made based on a review of the 2017 FERC FEIS and this supplemental analysis. SUMMARY: The Draft SEIS is expected to be available by September 2020 and the Final SEIS is anticipated later in 2020. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For media inquiries or to leave a message about the project on the JNF, please contact Nadine Siak via email at SM.FS.GWJNF-PA@usda.gov or leave a voicemail at 1–888–603–0261. Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1–800–877–8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. For inquiries for the BLM, contact Francis Piccoli by email at: Fpiccoli@blm.gov or by phone at (209) 912–7717. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES DATES: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:38 Jul 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 Background and History The MVP is a proposed 303.5 mile interstate natural gas pipeline that crosses about 3.5 miles of the JNF, in Monroe County, West Virginia and Giles and Montgomery County, Virginia. The FS and the BLM participated as cooperating agencies with the FERC in the preparation of the MVP EIS. On June 29, 2017, the Notice of Availability for the FERC FEIS and the FS Draft Record of Decision (ROD) for the Mountain Valley Project Land and Resource Management Plan Amendment was published in the Federal Register. On December 1, 2017, the FS adopted the FEIS and a ROD was signed by the JNF Forest Supervisor. The ROD amended the JNF Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) to allow the project to be consistent with the Forest Plan. The ROD included resource protection terms and conditions for the BLM to include should their decision be to grant a right-of-way (ROW). Therefore, both BLM and the FS have overlapping jurisdiction concerning the issuance of the terms and conditions, or stipulations included within the ROW grant. Under the Mineral Leasing Act (30 U.S.C. 185 et seq.) (MLA), the BLM is the Federal agency responsible for issuing ROW grants for natural gas pipeline across Federal lands under the jurisdiction of two or more Federal agencies. The BLM is, therefore, responsible for considering the issuance of a ROW grant for the MVP for pipeline construction and operation across the lands under the jurisdiction of the FS and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). In 2017, the BLM received written concurrence to proceed from both federal agencies and on December 20, 2017 issued a ROD approving the MLA ROW grant to construct and operate the MVP pipeline across federal lands. The BLM ROD included a temporary use authorization. Project implementation began in December 2017 and continued until July 27, 2018 when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the FS’s decision approving the JNF plan amendment and BLM’s MLA ROW decision. However, the Court vacated the BLM’s MLA ROW decision only as it related to the portion through FS lands; the ROW across USACE lands was not affected and that decision remains in place. The Fourth Circuit concluded that aspects of the FS decision failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The Court upheld the BLM’s adoption of and PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 45863 reliance on FERC’s FEIS as satisfying the requirements of NEPA in support of the MLA ROW decision across federal lands. The Court, however, vacated BLM’s decision approving the MLA ROW across the JNF, concluding that the BLM did not analyze and determine whether the proposed route utilized rights-of-way in common to the extent practical, as required by the MLA, 30 U.S.C. 185(p). On May 1, 2020, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (Mountain Valley) submitted a revised MLA ROW application to the BLM seeking to construct and operate the natural gas pipeline across the JNF. Mountain Valley also requested that the FS amend the JNF Forest Plan consistent with the issues identified by the Fourth Circuit Court. On May 28, 2020, the BLM deemed Mountain Valley’s revised application complete. For more detailed information on the background and history of the MVP project, see the project website at: https:// www.fs.usda.gov/detail/gwj/ landmanagement/projects/ ?cid=stelprd3827827. Purpose and Need for Action The FS’s purpose and need for the proposed action is to respond to a proposal from Mountain Valley to construct and operate a buried 42-inch interstate natural gas pipeline that would cross NFS lands on the JNF along a proposed 3.5-mile corridor. A FS decision is needed because the project would not be consistent with several JNF Forest Plan standards including utility corridors, soil, riparian, old growth, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST), and scenic integrity without a project-specific amendment. Relatedly, there is a need to determine what terms and conditions, or stipulations should be provided to the BLM in order to protect resources and the public interest consistent with the MLA, 30 U.S.C. 185(h). For the FS, a supplemental analysis and new decision are needed because the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the FS ROD. The Court identified both NFMA and NEPA issues. To resolve the Court’s NFMA issues, there is a need, at a minimum, to apply FS Planning Rule requirements to soil and riparian resources and evaluate both the purpose and the effects of the amendment to threatened and endangered aquatic species, consistent with 36 CFR 219.13(b)(5). To ensure all resources potentially affected by the amendment receive equal consideration, there is a need to apply the Planning Rule requirements to resources including water; terrestrial and E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES 45864 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 147 / Thursday, July 30, 2020 / Notices botanical threatened and endangered species; old growth; the ANST; scenic integrity; and to evaluate the purpose and effect of the amendment. The Court also identified NEPA deficiencies. There is a need for the FS, at a minimum, to demonstrate that an independent review of the sedimentation analysis has occurred, that predicted effects are supported with rationale, and that previous concerns and comments related to erosion and its effects have been satisfied. To meet this objective, there is a need to evaluate and assess erosion, sedimentation, and water quality effects in relation to anticipated mitigation effectiveness. To address Court issues related to meeting MLA requirements (30 U.S.C. 185(p)), there is a need to analyze and determine whether the proposed route utilizes rights-of-way in common to the extent practicable. Relatedly, the FS needs to re-evaluate the feasibility and practicality of having routes that are not on NFS lands. There is new information and changed circumstances to consider since the FS ROD was signed in December 2017. New information includes recent federally listed threatened and endangered species and critical habitat designations. Changed circumstances include the status of the project and road use. Over fifty percent of the MVP project has been implemented and stabilization efforts are ongoing; and, the proposal no longer includes the use of the Pocahontas, Mystery Ridge, or Brush Mountain Forest Roads. Given the new information and changed circumstances, the FS needs to evaluate the sufficiency of the terms and conditions, or stipulations that would be submitted to the BLM. The BLM’s purpose and need for action is to respond to Mountain Valley’s revised MLA ROW application for the MVP project to construct and operate a natural gas pipeline across NFS lands consistent with the MLA, 30 U.S.C. 185, and BLM’s implementing regulations, 43 CFR part 2880. Under the MLA, the BLM has responsibility for reviewing Mountain Valley’s ROW application and authority to issue a decision on whether to approve, approve with modifications, or deny the application. The BLM’s review of the ROW application will focus, in part, on the FS supplemental analysis for NFS lands to make their decision, but also intends to rely on the FERC FEIS, consistent with the Fourth Circuit’s decision. The BLM will work as a cooperating agency with the FS to complete the necessary environmental VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:38 Jul 29, 2020 Jkt 250001 analysis to address the issues identified by the Fourth Circuit. Proposed Action In response to the purpose and need, the FS would provide construction and operation terms and conditions, or stipulations (terms) as needed for the actions listed below. The terms and conditions, or stipulations would be submitted to the BLM for inclusion in the ROW grant. The FS would also provide concurrence to the BLM to proceed with the ROW grant. The operation and maintenance actions that need terms and conditions, or stipulations and FS concurrence include: • Construction of a 42-inch pipeline across 3.5 miles of the JNF. • The use of a 125-foot-wide temporary construction ROW for pipeline installation and trench spoil. The width would be reduced to approximately 75 feet to cross most wetlands. Once construction is complete, the MVP would retain a 50foot permanent ROW to operate the pipeline. • The use of above-ground facilities, limited to pipeline markers (e.g., at road and trail crossings) to advise the public of pipeline presence, and cathodic pipeline protection test stations that are required by Department of Transportation. An integral part of the proposed action is the Plan of Development (POD) that guides pipeline construction, operation, and maintenance. The POD includes resource mitigation for reducing or eliminating impacts to resources. See the FERC FEIS, Sec. 1.5 for a complete list of requirements for the MVP that is managed by the FERC. Forest Plan Amendments Eleven Forest Plan standards on the JNF are proposed to be amended to make the project compliant with the Forest Plan, i.e., allow the BLM to grant a ROW. Standards include: FW–248 (utility corridors); FW–5 (revegetation); FW–8 (soil compaction in water saturated areas); FW–9 (soil impacts from heavy equipment use); FW–13 and FW–14 (exposed soil and residual basal area within the channeled ephermal zone); 11–003 (exposed soil within the riparian corridor); 6C–007 and 6C–026 (tree clearing and utility corridors in the old growth management area); 4A–028 (Appalachian National Scenic Trail and utility corridors); and FW–184 (scenic integrity objectives). The FS’s Planning Rule at 36 CFR 219.13(b)(2) requires responsible officials to provide notice of which substantive requirements of 36 CFR PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 219.8 through 219.11 are likely to be directly related to the amendment. Whether a Planning Rule provision is directly related to an amendment is determined by any one of the following: The purpose for the amendment, a beneficial effect of the amendment, a substantial adverse effect of the amendment, or a lessening of plan protections by the amendment (36 CFR 219.13(b)(5)). Based on those criteria, the substantive Planning Rule provisions that are likely to be directly related to the amendments are: § 219.8(a)(1) (terrestrial ecosystems); § 219.8(a)(2)(ii) (soils and water productivity); § 219.8(a)(2)(iv) (water resources); § 219.8(a)(3)(i) (ecological integrity of riparian areas); § 219.9(b) (contributions to recovery of threatened and endangered species); § 219.10(a)(3) (utility corridors); § 219.10(b)(1)(vi) (other designated areas); § 219.10(b)(1)(i) (scenic character); and § 219.11(c) (timber harvesting for purposes other than timber production). Responsible Officials For the FS, the responsible official is the Forest Supervisor of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. For the BLM, the responsible official is the Eastern States State Director. Nature of Decision To Be Made Forest Service Given the purpose and need, the Forest Supervisor will review the proposed action including the POD, alternatives, the terms and conditions, stipulations, the environmental consequences that would be applicable to NFS lands, public comment, and the project record in order to make the following decisions: (1) Whether to approve a Forest Plan amendment that would modify eleven standards in the JNF’s Forest Plan; (2) Determine what terms and conditions, or stipulations should apply to a BLM ROW grant; and, (3) Whether to adopt all or portions of the FERC FEIS that is relevant to NFS lands. The NEPA decisions will be used to determined whether the FS will provide concurrence to the BLM for the ROW grant across NFS lands. While the Equitrans Expansion project was included in the FERC FEIS, it is not on NFS lands. Therefore, no analysis will be prepared or decision made on that project. Bureau of Land Management Consistent with the MLA, 30 U.S.C. 185, and BLM’s implementing regulations, 43 CFR part 2880, the BLM will review Mountain Valley’s revised E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 147 / Thursday, July 30, 2020 / Notices MLA ROW application, the FERC FEIS, and the FS supplemental anlaysis to determine whether to approve, approve with modifications, or deny the MLA ROW application through the NFS lands. As a cooperating agency, the BLM intends to rely on and adopt the FS supplemental analysis for its decision, as long as the analysis provides sufficient evidence to support the decision and the FS addresses the BLM’s comments and suggestions to the BLM’s satisfaction. Before issuing a decision on Mountain Valley’s application, the BLM would need the FS’s written concurrence. Through the concurrence process, if the BLM’s decision is to approve the ROW, the FS would submit to the BLM any stipulations for inclusion in the ROW grant that are deemed necessary to protect the environment and otherwise protect the public interest consistent with 30 U.S.C. 185(h); 43 CFR 2885.11. The BLM decision would be documented in a separate ROD. Public Engagement Process JNF Forest Plan Amendment • The purpose and effects of the Forest Plan amendment on resources including those within the utility corridor; soil; water; riparian; terrestrial; botanical, and aquatic threatened and endangered species; old growth; the ANST, scenic integrity; and, • How the proposed amendment meets Planning Rule requirements. khammond on DSKJM1Z7X2PROD with NOTICES Independent Review of Sedimentation Analysis • An evaluation and assessment of erosion and sedimentation and its associated effects to water quality and threatened and endangered aquatic species; • An evaluation of predicted effects in relation to anticpated mitigation effectiveness, supported with rationale; and, • Disclosure on how previous concerns and comments related to erosion and its effects that were provided to the FERC have been satisfied. 16:38 Jul 29, 2020 There is new information and changed circumstances to consider since the FS ROD was signed in December 2017. New information includes recent Federally listed threatened and endangered species and critical habitat designations. Changed circumstances include the status of the project and road use (see Purpose and Need for Action). Additional opportunities for public comment will be provided when the Draft SEIS is available. A FS decision to amend the Forest Plan will be subject to the Forest Service predecisional administrative review procedures established in 36 CFR part 218 (per 36 CFR 219.59(b)). Those wishing to object must meet the requirements at 36 CFR part 218, subpart A and B for the project. Tina Terrell, Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System. [FR Doc. 2020–16507 Filed 7–29–20; 8:45 am] Scoping was completed and summarized in the FERC FEIS (FEIS, Section ES–2, 1.4). Written, specific comments, including those that were relevant to NFS lands, identified concerns and issues that were addressed in the FEIS. Scoping will not be repeated and this SEIS will focus on the topics identified by the Fourth Circuit Court and others that are closely related to the Court’s findings including: VerDate Sep<11>2014 New Information and Changed Circumstances Jkt 250001 BILLING CODE 3411–15–P COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS Notice of Public Meeting of the West Virginia Advisory Committee Commission on Civil Rights. Announcement of meeting. AGENCY: ACTION: Notice is hereby given, pursuant to the provisions of the rules and regulations of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Commission), and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) that a meeting of the West Virginia Advisory Committee to the Commission will convene by conference call at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss possible topics for the Committee’s civil rights project. DATES: Tuesday, August 4, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. (ET). Public Call-In Information: Conference call-in number: 1–800–367– 2403 and conference call ID number: 2629531. SUMMARY: Ivy Davis at ero@usccr.gov or by phone at 202–376–7533. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Interested members of the public may listen to the discussion by calling the following tollfree conference call-in number: 1–800– 367–2403 and conference call ID number: 2629531. Please be advised that before being placed into the conference call, the conference call operator will FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 45865 ask callers to provide their names, their organizational affiliations (if any), and email addresses (so that callers may be notified of future meetings). Callers can expect to incur charges for calls they initiate over wireless lines, and the Commission will not refund any incurred charges. Callers will incur no charge for calls they initiate over landline connections to the toll-free conference call-in number. Persons with hearing impairments may also follow the discussion by first calling the Federal Relay Service at 1– 888–364–3109 and providing the operator with the toll-free conference call-in number: 1–800–367–2403 and conference call ID number: 2629531. Members of the public are invited to make statements during the Public Comments section of the Agenda. They are also invited to submit written comments, which must be received in the regional office approximately 30 days after the scheduled meeting. Written comments may be mailed to the Eastern Regional Office, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 1150, Washington, DC 20425 or emailed to Corrine Sanders at ero@usccr.gov. Persons who desire additional information may contact the Eastern Regional Office at (202) 376–7533. Records and documents discussed during the meeting will be available for public viewing as they become available at: https://www.facadatabase.gov/ FACA/FACAPublicViewCommittee Details?id=a10t0000001gzmCAAQ; click the ‘‘Meeting Details’’ and ‘‘Documents’’ links. Records generated from this meeting may also be inspected and reproduced at the Eastern Regional Office, as they become available, both before and after the meetings. Persons interested in the work of this advisory committee are advised to go to the Commission’s website, www.usccr.gov, or to contact the Eastern Regional Office at the above phone number, email or street address. Agenda: August 4, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. (EST) I. Rollcall II. Welcome III. Project Planning IV. Other Business V. Next Planning VI. Meeting VII. Open Comments VIII. Adjourn Dated: July 27, 2020. David Mussatt, Supervisory Chief, Regional Programs Unit. [FR Doc. 2020–16511 Filed 7–29–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P E:\FR\FM\30JYN1.SGM 30JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 147 (Thursday, July 30, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 45863-45865]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-16507]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Jefferson National Forest; Monroe County, West Virginia; Giles 
and Montgomery County, Virginia; Mountain Valley Pipeline and Equitrans 
Expansion Project Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a supplemental environmental impact 
statement.

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SUMMARY: The USDA Forest Service (FS) is preparing a Supplemental 
Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to the 2017 Federal Energy 
Regulatory Commission (FERC) Final Environmental Impact Statement 
(FEIS) for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Equitrans Expansion 
Project. The MVP project proposed action that is specific to National 
Forest System (NFS) lands is to construct and operate a buried 42-inch 
natural gas pipeline across approximately 3.5 miles of the Jefferson 
National Forest (JNF). The FS, as the lead agency, and the Bureau of 
Land Management (BLM), as the Federal cooperating agency, have 
decisions to be made based on a review of the 2017 FERC FEIS and this 
supplemental analysis.

DATES: The Draft SEIS is expected to be available by September 2020 and 
the Final SEIS is anticipated later in 2020.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For media inquiries or to leave a 
message about the project on the JNF, please contact Nadine Siak via 
email at [email protected] or leave a voicemail at 1-888-603-
0261. Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. For 
inquiries for the BLM, contact Francis Piccoli by email at: 
[email protected] or by phone at (209) 912-7717.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background and History

    The MVP is a proposed 303.5 mile interstate natural gas pipeline 
that crosses about 3.5 miles of the JNF, in Monroe County, West 
Virginia and Giles and Montgomery County, Virginia. The FS and the BLM 
participated as cooperating agencies with the FERC in the preparation 
of the MVP EIS. On June 29, 2017, the Notice of Availability for the 
FERC FEIS and the FS Draft Record of Decision (ROD) for the Mountain 
Valley Project Land and Resource Management Plan Amendment was 
published in the Federal Register.
    On December 1, 2017, the FS adopted the FEIS and a ROD was signed 
by the JNF Forest Supervisor. The ROD amended the JNF Land and Resource 
Management Plan (Forest Plan) to allow the project to be consistent 
with the Forest Plan. The ROD included resource protection terms and 
conditions for the BLM to include should their decision be to grant a 
right-of-way (ROW). Therefore, both BLM and the FS have overlapping 
jurisdiction concerning the issuance of the terms and conditions, or 
stipulations included within the ROW grant.
    Under the Mineral Leasing Act (30 U.S.C. 185 et seq.) (MLA), the 
BLM is the Federal agency responsible for issuing ROW grants for 
natural gas pipeline across Federal lands under the jurisdiction of two 
or more Federal agencies. The BLM is, therefore, responsible for 
considering the issuance of a ROW grant for the MVP for pipeline 
construction and operation across the lands under the jurisdiction of 
the FS and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). In 2017, 
the BLM received written concurrence to proceed from both federal 
agencies and on December 20, 2017 issued a ROD approving the MLA ROW 
grant to construct and operate the MVP pipeline across federal lands. 
The BLM ROD included a temporary use authorization.
    Project implementation began in December 2017 and continued until 
July 27, 2018 when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and 
remanded the FS's decision approving the JNF plan amendment and BLM's 
MLA ROW decision. However, the Court vacated the BLM's MLA ROW decision 
only as it related to the portion through FS lands; the ROW across 
USACE lands was not affected and that decision remains in place. The 
Fourth Circuit concluded that aspects of the FS decision failed to 
comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the 
National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The Court upheld the BLM's 
adoption of and reliance on FERC's FEIS as satisfying the requirements 
of NEPA in support of the MLA ROW decision across federal lands. The 
Court, however, vacated BLM's decision approving the MLA ROW across the 
JNF, concluding that the BLM did not analyze and determine whether the 
proposed route utilized rights-of-way in common to the extent 
practical, as required by the MLA, 30 U.S.C. 185(p).
    On May 1, 2020, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (Mountain Valley) 
submitted a revised MLA ROW application to the BLM seeking to construct 
and operate the natural gas pipeline across the JNF. Mountain Valley 
also requested that the FS amend the JNF Forest Plan consistent with 
the issues identified by the Fourth Circuit Court. On May 28, 2020, the 
BLM deemed Mountain Valley's revised application complete. For more 
detailed information on the background and history of the MVP project, 
see the project website at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/gwj/landmanagement/projects/?cid=stelprd3827827.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The FS's purpose and need for the proposed action is to respond to 
a proposal from Mountain Valley to construct and operate a buried 42-
inch interstate natural gas pipeline that would cross NFS lands on the 
JNF along a proposed 3.5-mile corridor. A FS decision is needed because 
the project would not be consistent with several JNF Forest Plan 
standards including utility corridors, soil, riparian, old growth, the 
Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST), and scenic integrity without 
a project-specific amendment. Relatedly, there is a need to determine 
what terms and conditions, or stipulations should be provided to the 
BLM in order to protect resources and the public interest consistent 
with the MLA, 30 U.S.C. 185(h).
    For the FS, a supplemental analysis and new decision are needed 
because the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the FS ROD. The 
Court identified both NFMA and NEPA issues. To resolve the Court's NFMA 
issues, there is a need, at a minimum, to apply FS Planning Rule 
requirements to soil and riparian resources and evaluate both the 
purpose and the effects of the amendment to threatened and endangered 
aquatic species, consistent with 36 CFR 219.13(b)(5). To ensure all 
resources potentially affected by the amendment receive equal 
consideration, there is a need to apply the Planning Rule requirements 
to resources including water; terrestrial and

[[Page 45864]]

botanical threatened and endangered species; old growth; the ANST; 
scenic integrity; and to evaluate the purpose and effect of the 
amendment.
    The Court also identified NEPA deficiencies. There is a need for 
the FS, at a minimum, to demonstrate that an independent review of the 
sedimentation analysis has occurred, that predicted effects are 
supported with rationale, and that previous concerns and comments 
related to erosion and its effects have been satisfied. To meet this 
objective, there is a need to evaluate and assess erosion, 
sedimentation, and water quality effects in relation to anticipated 
mitigation effectiveness. To address Court issues related to meeting 
MLA requirements (30 U.S.C. 185(p)), there is a need to analyze and 
determine whether the proposed route utilizes rights-of-way in common 
to the extent practicable. Relatedly, the FS needs to re-evaluate the 
feasibility and practicality of having routes that are not on NFS 
lands.
    There is new information and changed circumstances to consider 
since the FS ROD was signed in December 2017. New information includes 
recent federally listed threatened and endangered species and critical 
habitat designations. Changed circumstances include the status of the 
project and road use. Over fifty percent of the MVP project has been 
implemented and stabilization efforts are ongoing; and, the proposal no 
longer includes the use of the Pocahontas, Mystery Ridge, or Brush 
Mountain Forest Roads. Given the new information and changed 
circumstances, the FS needs to evaluate the sufficiency of the terms 
and conditions, or stipulations that would be submitted to the BLM.
    The BLM's purpose and need for action is to respond to Mountain 
Valley's revised MLA ROW application for the MVP project to construct 
and operate a natural gas pipeline across NFS lands consistent with the 
MLA, 30 U.S.C. 185, and BLM's implementing regulations, 43 CFR part 
2880. Under the MLA, the BLM has responsibility for reviewing Mountain 
Valley's ROW application and authority to issue a decision on whether 
to approve, approve with modifications, or deny the application. The 
BLM's review of the ROW application will focus, in part, on the FS 
supplemental analysis for NFS lands to make their decision, but also 
intends to rely on the FERC FEIS, consistent with the Fourth Circuit's 
decision. The BLM will work as a cooperating agency with the FS to 
complete the necessary environmental analysis to address the issues 
identified by the Fourth Circuit.

Proposed Action

    In response to the purpose and need, the FS would provide 
construction and operation terms and conditions, or stipulations 
(terms) as needed for the actions listed below. The terms and 
conditions, or stipulations would be submitted to the BLM for inclusion 
in the ROW grant. The FS would also provide concurrence to the BLM to 
proceed with the ROW grant. The operation and maintenance actions that 
need terms and conditions, or stipulations and FS concurrence include:
     Construction of a 42-inch pipeline across 3.5 miles of the 
JNF.
     The use of a 125-foot-wide temporary construction ROW for 
pipeline installation and trench spoil. The width would be reduced to 
approximately 75 feet to cross most wetlands. Once construction is 
complete, the MVP would retain a 50-foot permanent ROW to operate the 
pipeline.
     The use of above-ground facilities, limited to pipeline 
markers (e.g., at road and trail crossings) to advise the public of 
pipeline presence, and cathodic pipeline protection test stations that 
are required by Department of Transportation.
    An integral part of the proposed action is the Plan of Development 
(POD) that guides pipeline construction, operation, and maintenance. 
The POD includes resource mitigation for reducing or eliminating 
impacts to resources. See the FERC FEIS, Sec. 1.5 for a complete list 
of requirements for the MVP that is managed by the FERC.

Forest Plan Amendments

    Eleven Forest Plan standards on the JNF are proposed to be amended 
to make the project compliant with the Forest Plan, i.e., allow the BLM 
to grant a ROW. Standards include: FW-248 (utility corridors); FW-5 
(revegetation); FW-8 (soil compaction in water saturated areas); FW-9 
(soil impacts from heavy equipment use); FW-13 and FW-14 (exposed soil 
and residual basal area within the channeled ephermal zone); 11-003 
(exposed soil within the riparian corridor); 6C-007 and 6C-026 (tree 
clearing and utility corridors in the old growth management area); 4A-
028 (Appalachian National Scenic Trail and utility corridors); and FW-
184 (scenic integrity objectives).
    The FS's Planning Rule at 36 CFR 219.13(b)(2) requires responsible 
officials to provide notice of which substantive requirements of 36 CFR 
219.8 through 219.11 are likely to be directly related to the 
amendment. Whether a Planning Rule provision is directly related to an 
amendment is determined by any one of the following: The purpose for 
the amendment, a beneficial effect of the amendment, a substantial 
adverse effect of the amendment, or a lessening of plan protections by 
the amendment (36 CFR 219.13(b)(5)). Based on those criteria, the 
substantive Planning Rule provisions that are likely to be directly 
related to the amendments are: Sec.  219.8(a)(1) (terrestrial 
ecosystems); Sec.  219.8(a)(2)(ii) (soils and water productivity); 
Sec.  219.8(a)(2)(iv) (water resources); Sec.  219.8(a)(3)(i) 
(ecological integrity of riparian areas); Sec.  219.9(b) (contributions 
to recovery of threatened and endangered species); Sec.  219.10(a)(3) 
(utility corridors); Sec.  219.10(b)(1)(vi) (other designated areas); 
Sec.  219.10(b)(1)(i) (scenic character); and Sec.  219.11(c) (timber 
harvesting for purposes other than timber production).

Responsible Officials

    For the FS, the responsible official is the Forest Supervisor of 
the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. For the BLM, the 
responsible official is the Eastern States State Director.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

Forest Service

    Given the purpose and need, the Forest Supervisor will review the 
proposed action including the POD, alternatives, the terms and 
conditions, stipulations, the environmental consequences that would be 
applicable to NFS lands, public comment, and the project record in 
order to make the following decisions: (1) Whether to approve a Forest 
Plan amendment that would modify eleven standards in the JNF's Forest 
Plan; (2) Determine what terms and conditions, or stipulations should 
apply to a BLM ROW grant; and, (3) Whether to adopt all or portions of 
the FERC FEIS that is relevant to NFS lands. The NEPA decisions will be 
used to determined whether the FS will provide concurrence to the BLM 
for the ROW grant across NFS lands.
    While the Equitrans Expansion project was included in the FERC 
FEIS, it is not on NFS lands. Therefore, no analysis will be prepared 
or decision made on that project.

Bureau of Land Management

    Consistent with the MLA, 30 U.S.C. 185, and BLM's implementing 
regulations, 43 CFR part 2880, the BLM will review Mountain Valley's 
revised

[[Page 45865]]

MLA ROW application, the FERC FEIS, and the FS supplemental anlaysis to 
determine whether to approve, approve with modifications, or deny the 
MLA ROW application through the NFS lands. As a cooperating agency, the 
BLM intends to rely on and adopt the FS supplemental analysis for its 
decision, as long as the analysis provides sufficient evidence to 
support the decision and the FS addresses the BLM's comments and 
suggestions to the BLM's satisfaction. Before issuing a decision on 
Mountain Valley's application, the BLM would need the FS's written 
concurrence. Through the concurrence process, if the BLM's decision is 
to approve the ROW, the FS would submit to the BLM any stipulations for 
inclusion in the ROW grant that are deemed necessary to protect the 
environment and otherwise protect the public interest consistent with 
30 U.S.C. 185(h); 43 CFR 2885.11. The BLM decision would be documented 
in a separate ROD.

Public Engagement Process

    Scoping was completed and summarized in the FERC FEIS (FEIS, 
Section ES-2, 1.4). Written, specific comments, including those that 
were relevant to NFS lands, identified concerns and issues that were 
addressed in the FEIS. Scoping will not be repeated and this SEIS will 
focus on the topics identified by the Fourth Circuit Court and others 
that are closely related to the Court's findings including:

JNF Forest Plan Amendment

     The purpose and effects of the Forest Plan amendment on 
resources including those within the utility corridor; soil; water; 
riparian; terrestrial; botanical, and aquatic threatened and endangered 
species; old growth; the ANST, scenic integrity; and,
     How the proposed amendment meets Planning Rule 
requirements.

Independent Review of Sedimentation Analysis

     An evaluation and assessment of erosion and sedimentation 
and its associated effects to water quality and threatened and 
endangered aquatic species;
     An evaluation of predicted effects in relation to 
anticpated mitigation effectiveness, supported with rationale; and,
     Disclosure on how previous concerns and comments related 
to erosion and its effects that were provided to the FERC have been 
satisfied.

New Information and Changed Circumstances

    There is new information and changed circumstances to consider 
since the FS ROD was signed in December 2017. New information includes 
recent Federally listed threatened and endangered species and critical 
habitat designations. Changed circumstances include the status of the 
project and road use (see Purpose and Need for Action).
    Additional opportunities for public comment will be provided when 
the Draft SEIS is available. A FS decision to amend the Forest Plan 
will be subject to the Forest Service predecisional administrative 
review procedures established in 36 CFR part 218 (per 36 CFR 
219.59(b)). Those wishing to object must meet the requirements at 36 
CFR part 218, subpart A and B for the project.

Tina Terrell,
Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. 2020-16507 Filed 7-29-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3411-15-P