On 31 October 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a notice of intent to review its Upland Erosion Control and Revegetation and Maintenance Plan ("Erosion Control Plan") and Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures ("Wetland Mitigation Procedures") (collectively "Plan and Procedures") to determine whether there are appropriate updates or improvements to adopt at this time, in light of current laws and regulations and improved environmental protection measures. Commission Staff is seeking comments from the natural gas industry, federal and state regulators, and others with expertise in environmental issues commonly associated with pipeline projects. Comments are due 18 January 2012.
The Plan and Procedures are environmental guidance documents which specify baseline environmental mitigation measures the Commission requires for pipeline certificate applications. The applicants seeking certificates for new pipelines are required to either adopt the measures outlined in Plan and Procedures in their application or demonstrate why particular measures are unnecessary, infeasible, or not suitable due to local conditions. The Erosion Control Plan specifies a set of measures to minimize soil erosion from pipeline construction and operation. Similarly, the Wetland Mitigation Procedures specify measures intended to minimize the extent and duration of project-related disturbance on wetlands and waterbodies. The Plan and Procedures were last updated in 2003. According to the notice, the updated measures will be of vital importance in certificating the new pipeline construction that is expected in light of changing gas patterns resulting from the development of shale gas.