Scoping

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Last Update: June 19, 2012

David Swearingen of FERC leads a scoping meeting in Kaktovik on February 8, 2012.

The scoping process is an early step in a NEPA evaluation. It occurs before agencies start drafting an environmental impact statement.

Scoping for the pipeline project provides an opportunity for the public to evaluate environmental information contained in draft resource reports compiled by the pipeline project sponsor. The drafts are initial detailed versions of the final resource reports that must accompany an application to FERC. For the Alaska Pipeline Project, 11 resource reports were required to document and discuss the project's potential impact on such resources as soils, vegetation, streams, lakes, wetlands, water quality, wildlife and fish along the pipeline corridor. The resource reports also cover cultural and archeological sites the project could affect, as well as the expected impact on jobs, schools, housing and traffic. The resource reports eventually serve as a foundation for FERC's environmental document. FERC staff and its contractors, working with other federal and state agencies, verify the information in the reports and conduct additional environmental research as needed. The applicant submitted draft resource reports 1 through 11 in January 2012 for agency and public review.

During scoping, agencies solicit public feedback on the draft resource reports and the project in general to ensure that the impact statement will cover the issues that the public and regulatory agencies consider important.

Based on the issues identified during scoping, federal agencies will decide on alternatives to the project to be considered in the impact statement. By reviewing alternatives and their potential environmental effects, the agencies are able to compare impacts across different alternatives to help in evaluating the pipeline project.

In January and February 2012, federal and state agencies held scoping meetings in seven Alaska communities that could be affected by the project. To view the meeting transcripts and comments submitted to FERC during the scoping comment period, visit their e-library. Also, FERC solicited information from federal, state and local agencies during this time. The formal scoping period for the Alaska gas pipeline project began Aug. 1, 2011, and ended Feb. 27, 2012. At the end of the formal scoping period, FERC completed a summary document of the comments received.

Scoping period comments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Northern Alaska Environmental Center in Fairbanks, Tanana Chiefs Conference, the Din e'h Group representing village corporations in Alaska's Upper Tanana region and a couple dozen individuals addressed a wide range of issues in their scoping comments to FERC.

Some of the scoping issues are familiar to Alaskans and regulatory agencies from past development projects, including the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. No issue is new to such an environmental review, and many comments addressed information already included in the developer's draft environmental reports.

Still, although the gas pipeline project would span a corridor that's already developed and raise familiar issues, the project would be the biggest FERC has ever considered by far and would require the energy project regulator to consider Arctic construction issues new to the agency.

The public comments included:

  • Consider alternative river-crossing methods to limit harm to fisheries.
  • Minimize any adverse effects on wetlands and other aquatic resources toward the goal of no-net loss of these resources during construction and operation.
  • Identify any impact on fisheries from water withdrawals required for the project.
  • Look at potential effects on marine and near-shore habitat on the North Slope from vessel traffic, dock modifications and dredging.
  • Address emergency planning, response and clean-up of any natural gas, hazardous material or waste spills.
  • Consider construction and operations emissions from all major project facilities, including the impacts of black-carbon and other emissions from marine vessels, vehicles and diesel engines.
  • Identify risks to pipeline integrity from crossing active and inactive faults, and mitigation measures to reduce risks. Another comment asked of the potential that thawing permafrost might damage the buried pipeline.

Some comments dealt with issues particularly important to Alaska's Native communities:

  • Discuss the effects that previous pipeline projects have had on Native communities.
  • Integrate traditional knowledge of residents in the project area into the environmental impact statement.

Certainly, Alaskans want to know how the project might help deliver natural gas to their communities, including:

  • Identify the locations of take-off points along the pipeline for local gas distribution.
  • Include an analysis of using gas to lower heating costs in villages.

And some issues dealt with topics ranging far outside Alaska's borders:

  • Direct and indirect greenhouse-gas emissions from the project and their effect on climate change.
  • How an Alaska gas pipeline might affect development of Alberta's oilsands.

Scoping meetings resources

Date Meeting Location
Jan 30, 2012 Public scoping meeting Fairbanks
Jan 31, 2012 Public scoping meeting Delta Junction
Feb 1, 2012 Public scoping meeting Tok
Feb 6, 2012 Public scoping meeting Barrow
Feb 7, 2012 Public scoping meeting Nuiqsut
Feb 8, 2012 Public scoping meeting Kaktovik
Feb 13, 2012 Public scoping meeting Anchorage