[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 165 (Tuesday, August 26, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 50901-50904]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-20270]


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DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

[OE Docket No. PP-400]


Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and 
To Conduct Public Scoping Meetings, and Notice of Floodplains and 
Wetlands Involvement; New England Clean Power Link Project

AGENCY: Department of Energy.

ACTION: Notice of intent.

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SUMMARY: The Department of Energy (DOE) announces its intent to prepare 
an environmental impact statement (EIS) to assess the potential 
environmental impacts from its proposed federal action of granting a 
Presidential permit to Champlain VT, LLC, doing business as TDI-New 
England (TDI-NE; the Applicant), to construct, operate, maintain, and 
connect a new electric transmission line across the U.S.-Canada border 
in northern Vermont. The New England Clean Power Link Environmental 
Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0503) will address potential environmental 
impacts from the proposed action and reasonable alternatives.
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)--New England District, the 
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)--Region 1 (New England), and 
the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) are cooperating agencies in the preparation 
of the EIS. The purpose of this Notice of Intent (NOI) is to inform the 
public about the proposed action, announce public scoping meetings, and 
solicit public comments regarding the scope of the EIS. Because the 
proposed project would involve actions in floodplains and wetlands, in 
accordance with DOE regulations, the EIS will include a floodplain and 
wetland assessment.

DATES: The public scoping period starts with the publication of this 
Notice in the Federal Register and will continue until October 10, 
2014. Written and oral comments will be given equal weight, and DOE 
will consider all comments submitted or postmarked by October 10, 2014 
in defining the scope of this EIS. Comments submitted or postmarked 
after that date will be considered to the extent practicable.
    Two public scoping meetings will be held as follows:

1. Burlington, VT: Sheraton Burlington Hotel and Conference Center, 870 
Williston Road, Burlington, VT 05403, Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 
starting at 6:00 p.m.
2. Rutland, VT: Holiday Inn Rutland, 476 Holiday Drive, Rutland, VT 
05701, Wednesday, September 17, 2014, starting at 6:00 p.m.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the scope of the EIS and requests to be added to 
the document mailing list should be addressed to: Brian Mills, Office 
of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE-20), U.S. Department 
of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585; by 
electronic mail to Brian.Mills@hq.doe.gov; or by facsimile to 202-586-
8008.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Mills at the addresses above, or 
at 202-586-8267. For general information on the DOE National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, contact Ms. Carol M. 
Borgstrom, Director, Office of NEPA Policy and Compliance (GC-54) at: 
U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 
20585; by electronic mail at askNEPA@hq.doe.gov; by facsimile at 202-
586-7031; by phone at 202-586-4600 or leave a message at 800-472-2756.
    For information on the USACE's role as a cooperating agency and its 
permit process, contact Michael S. Adams by electronic mail at 
Michael.S.Adams@usace.army.mil; by phone at 978-318-8485; or by mail at 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, 11 Lincoln Street, 
Room 210, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
    For information on the EPA's role as a cooperating agency, contact 
Timothy Timmermann by electronic mail at Timmermann.Timothy@epa.gov; by 
phone at 617-918-1025; or by mail at 5 Post Office Square, Suite 100 
(Mail code: ORA-17-1), Boston, MA 02109-3912.
    For information on the USCG's role as a cooperating agency, contact 
Daniel Hubbard by electronic mail at daniel.l.hubbard@uscg.mil; or by 
phone at 617-223-8372; or by mail at Maritime Energy & Marine Spatial 
Planning, First Coast Guard District (dpw-3), 408 Atlantic Avenue, 
Boston, MA 02110.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Executive Order (E.O.) 10485, as amended by 
E.O. 12038, requires that a Presidential permit be issued by DOE before 
electric transmission facilities may be constructed, operated, 
maintained, or connected at the U.S. international border. The E.O. 
provides that a Presidential permit may be issued after a finding that 
the proposed project is consistent with the public interest and after 
favorable recommendations from the U.S. Departments of State and 
Defense. In determining consistency with the public interest, DOE 
considers the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project 
pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act

[[Page 50902]]

(NEPA), determines the project's impact on electric reliability 
(including whether the proposed project would adversely affect the 
operation of the U.S. electric power supply system under normal and 
contingency conditions), and considers any other factors that DOE may 
find relevant to the public interest. The regulations implementing the 
E.O. have been codified at 10 CFR Part 205. DOE's issuance of a 
Presidential permit indicates that there is no federal objection to the 
project, but does not mandate that the project be undertaken.
    TDI-NE applied on May 20, 2014, to DOE's Office of Electricity 
Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) for a Presidential permit to 
construct, operate, maintain, and connect an electric transmission line 
across the U.S.-Canada border in northern Vermont. The proposed 
project, the New England Clean Power Link (NECPL), is a high voltage 
direct current (HVDC) electric transmission line with an operating 
voltage of +/-300 to 320 kilovolts (kV). The project would be 
constructed in both aquatic (underwater) and terrestrial (underground) 
environments.
    As proposed, the NECPL project would have a transfer rating of 
1,000 megawatts (MW). The proposed project would originate in the 
Canadian province of Quebec, cross the border in Alburgh, Vermont, and 
terminate at the existing Coolidge Substation in the towns of Ludlow 
and Cavendish, Vermont. The total length of the proposed project from 
the U.S. border to the Coolidge Substation is approximately 154.1 miles 
(248 km). The proposed route is described in more detail below, under 
Applicant's Proposal.
    The NECPL Presidential permit application, including associated 
maps and drawings, can be viewed or downloaded in its entirety from the 
OE program Web site at: http://energy.gov/oe/services/electricity-policy-coordination-and-implementation/international-electricity-regulatio-2. The July 9, 2014, Federal Register Notice of Receipt of 
Application (79 FR 38869) is also available at this same Web site.
    The proposed federal action is the granting of the Presidential 
permit for the international border crossing. The proposed 
construction, operation, maintenance, and connection of the portion of 
the transmission line within the United States are connected actions to 
DOE's proposed action. DOE will analyze potential environmental impacts 
from the proposed federal action and the connected actions in the EIS. 
The EIS will be prepared in accordance with NEPA as amended (42 U.S.C. 
4321 et seq.), the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) NEPA 
regulations (40 CFR Parts 1500-1508), and the DOE NEPA implementing 
procedures (10 CFR Part 1021). Because the proposed project may involve 
actions in floodplains and wetlands, in accordance with 10 CFR Part 
1022, Compliance with Floodplain and Wetland Environmental Review 
Requirements, the EIS will include a floodplain and wetland assessment. 
DOE will include a floodplain statement of findings in the Record of 
Decision.
    DOE invites Tribal governments and federal, state, and local 
agencies with jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to 
environmental issues to be cooperating agencies in the preparation of 
the EIS, as defined at 40 CFR 1501.6.
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), New England District, is 
a cooperating agency on this EIS. A Department of the Army permit is 
expected to be required for proposed discharges of dredged or fill 
material into waters of the United States, including wetlands, under 
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1344), and also for 
proposed crossing(s) of navigable waterways under Section 10 of the 
Rivers and Harbors Act (33 U.S.C. 403). TDI-NE will apply to the USACE 
for the required Department of the Army permits. EPA Region 1 and the 
USCG are cooperating agencies due to their special expertise related to 
the proposed action.

Applicant's Proposal

    TDI-NE describes its proposed route for the Project in terms of two 
segments, the Lake Champlain Segment and the Overland Segment. The U.S. 
portion of the proposed project is entirely within the State of 
Vermont.
    The Lake Champlain segment would begin in Vermont at the U.S.-
Canada border. The HVDC transmission line would be located underground 
within the Town of Alburgh, VT, for approximately 0.5 miles (0.8 km). 
The HVDC transmission line would then enter Lake Champlain via 
horizontal directional drilling (HDD) on privately-owned property, and 
the transmission line would be buried in the bed of Lake Champlain, or 
placed on the bottom of the lake at lake depths of 150 feet (46 m) or 
more. The total distance through the lake is approximately 97.6 miles 
(157.1 km), entirely within the jurisdictional waters of the State of 
Vermont.
    The Overland Segment would begin at the southern end of Lake 
Champlain in the Town of Benson where the HVDC transmission line would 
exit the water, via HDD installation on privately-owned property. The 
cables would be buried within the rights-of-way (ROW) of town roads 
east for approximately 4.4 miles (7.1 km) to Route 22A and then travel 
south within the Route 22A ROW for approximately 8.1 miles (13.0 km) to 
Route 4 in the Town of Fair Haven. The cables would be buried within 
the Route 4 ROW east for approximately 17.2 miles (27.7 km) to Route 7 
in the Town of Rutland before travelling south buried within the Route 
7 ROW for approximately 2.6 miles (4.2 km) to Route 103 in the Town of 
North Clarendon. Within the Route 103 ROW the cables would be buried 
for approximately 17.8 miles (28.6 km) south by southeast to Route 100 
in the Town of Ludlow where the cables would be buried for 
approximately 0.8 miles (1.3 km) in the Route 100 ROW to connect with 
Town of Ludlow roads. The cables would be buried for approximately 4.8 
miles (7.6 km) before terminating at the proposed HVDC converter 
station. Underground single-circuit 345-kV AC cables would be installed 
for approximately 0.3 miles (.5 km) to the south to connect the 
proposed HVDC converter station with the existing Coolidge Substation, 
which connects to the electric grid. The Applicant represents that the 
Project's precise final route would be subject to a number of factors, 
including resource issues, federal and state permitting, land 
acquisition, and stakeholder input.
    In addition to the proposed route, TDI-NE's Presidential permit 
application describes four segment alternatives that it considered but 
decided not to incorporate into its proposed route. These include one 
alternative for the Lake Champlain segment and three alternatives for 
the overland segment (i.e., from Lake Champlain to the proposed HVDC 
converter station).
    The alternative considered by TDI-NE for the Lake Champlain segment 
would have overlapped the proposed route within the lake and then 
proceeded for an additional 3 miles (4.8 km) south in Lake Champlain to 
exit the lake via HDD in the Town of West Haven, rather than Benson. 
The routing would proceed east through West Haven undergrounded along 
local roads (Cold Spring Road, Pettis Road, and Main Street) for 
approximately 8 miles (12.9 km) before transferring to the Route 22A 
ROW. At this point the alternative would continue south in the Route 
22A ROW, approximately 3.4 miles (5.6 km) to the Town of Fair Haven.
    The three Overland segment alternatives included a Western Segment 
alternative whereby the

[[Page 50903]]

transmission cables would exit Route 4 at the intersection with Route 
4A and would travel along Route 4A and then a railroad ROW to the Town 
of West Rutland for a distance of 13 miles (20.9 km). The route would 
then re-enter Route 4 and continue along the proposed route to the 
proposed converter station location. Additionally, there were two 
Eastern Segment alternatives that considered routing the cables: (1) 
within the railroad ROW in the Town of North Clarendon and travel 
south, then east, to Route 103 in Ludlow for a distance of 23.3 miles 
(37.5 km), at which point it would overlap again with the proposed 
route to reach the proposed HVDC converter station location in 7.5 
miles (12.1 km); or (2) in the Vermont Electric Power Company ROW 
beginning in West Rutland for approximately 24 miles (38.6) to the 
proposed HVDC converter station location.

Agency Purpose and Need, Proposed Action, and Alternatives

    DOE's proposed action is to grant a Presidential permit to TDI-NE 
to construct, operate, maintain, and connect a new electric 
transmission line across the U.S.-Canada border near Alburgh, Vermont. 
The New England Clean Power Link Transmission Line Environmental Impact 
Statement (DOE/EIS-0503) will address potential environmental impacts 
from the proposed action and the range of reasonable alternatives. The 
purpose and need for DOE's action is to decide whether to grant TDI-NE 
a Presidential permit. DOE's decision will be based on the NEPA review, 
the impact of the proposed action on electric reliability, and any 
other factors that DOE may find relevant to the public interest.
    Under the Proposed Action, DOE would grant a Presidential permit to 
TDI-NE to construct, operate, maintain, and connect a new electric 
transmission line across the U.S.-Canada border in northern Vermont.
    Under the No Action alternative, DOE would not grant a Presidential 
permit for the proposed project. Under the No Action alternative, the 
EIS assumes for purposes of analysis that the proposed line and 
associated facilities would not be constructed.

Identification of Environmental Issues

    The EIS will examine potential public health and safety effects and 
environmental impacts in the U.S. from the proposed transmission 
facilities. This notice is intended to inform agencies and the public 
of the proposed project, and to solicit comments and suggestions for 
consideration in the preparation of the EIS. To help the public frame 
its comments, the following is a list of examples of several potential 
environmental issues that DOE has identified for analysis:
    1. Protected, threatened, endangered, or sensitive species of 
animals or plants, or their critical habitats: The EIS will consider 
the potential effects of the construction and operation of the project 
on protected or candidate species, including but not limited to the 
Indiana bat, dwarf wedgemussel, and Northeastern bulrush (federally 
listed endangered species) and northern long-eared bat (proposed 
federally listed endangered species as of June 30, 2014).
    2. Biological resources: The EIS will consider the potential 
effects of the construction and operation of the project on fish and 
shellfish, insects, birds and other wildlife, as well as effects on 
forests, shrubland, wetland, and grassland plant species, and the 
potential for introduction of invasive species.
    3. Floodplains and wetlands: The EIS will consider the potential 
effects of the construction and operation of the project on floodplains 
and wetlands, including those associated with lowland forest type 
vegetation.
    4. Cultural or historic resources: The EIS will consider the 
potential effects of the construction and operation of the project on 
archeological, architectural, and Traditional Cultural Properties 
(i.e., properties of religious and cultural importance), National 
Historic Landmarks, historic properties currently listed and 
potentially eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic 
Places, prehistoric sites, and cultural landscape.
    5. Human health and safety: The EIS will consider the nature and 
potential effects of electric and magnetic fields that may be generated 
by the operation of the project.
    6. Air quality: The EIS will consider the potential effects of the 
construction and operation of the project on air quality, including the 
emission and effects of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
    7. Soil: The EIS will consider the potential effects of the 
construction and operation of the project on the loss or disturbance of 
soils.
    8. Water resources: The EIS will consider the potential effects of 
the construction and operation of the project on a diverse set of water 
resource types that are found throughout the proposed project area 
including, but not limited to, major watersheds, public water inventory 
watercourses and basins, groundwater, and impaired water bodies.
    9. Land use: The EIS will consider the potential effects of the 
installation and operation of the project on land uses, including 
agricultural lands, parks, recreational areas, and other public lands.
    10. Noise: The EIS will consider the potential effects of the 
installation and operation of the project on noise levels at locations 
along the proposed line as well as at the location of the proposed HVDC 
converter station in Ludlow.
    11. Socioeconomics: The EIS will consider potential impacts on 
community services and the potential for disproportionately high and 
adverse impacts on minority or low-income populations.
    This list is not intended to be all inclusive or to imply any 
predetermination of impacts. DOE invites interested parties to suggest 
specific issues within these general categories, or other issues not 
included above, to be considered in the EIS.

Scoping Process

    Interested parties are invited to participate in the scoping 
process, both to help define the environmental issues to be analyzed 
and to identify the range of reasonable alternatives. DOE invites 
interested agencies, organizations, Native American tribes, and members 
of the public to submit comments to assist in identifying significant 
environmental issues and in determining the appropriate scope of the 
EIS. Written and oral comments will be given equal weight. All comments 
received by DOE will be publicly available on the project EIS Web site 
at: http://www.NECPLinkEIs.com. Personally identifiable information, 
other than individuals' names, will be withheld.
    The scoping meetings will be structured in two parts: first, a 
``workshop'' period with presentations on the proposed NECPL project, 
and the associated federal decisions, followed by informal discussion 
that will not be recorded; and, second, the formal taking of comments 
with transcription by a court reporter. The meetings will provide 
interested parties the opportunity to view proposed project exhibits, 
ask questions, and make comments. The Applicant, DOE, and cooperating 
agency personnel will be available to answer questions.
    Persons submitting comments during the scoping process, whether 
orally or in writing, will receive either paper or electronic copies of 
the draft EIS, according to their preference. Persons who do not wish 
to submit comments or suggestions at this time but who would like to 
receive a copy of the draft EIS for review and comment when it is 
issued

[[Page 50904]]

should notify Brian Mills as provided above, with their paper-or-
electronic preference.

EIS Preparation and Schedule

    In preparing the draft EIS, DOE will consider comments submitted 
during the scoping period. Comments can be submitted to Brian Mills 
either electronically or by paper copy; if the latter, consider using a 
delivery service because materials submitted by regular mail are 
subject to security screening, which both causes extended delay and 
potential damage to the contents. DOE will summarize all comments 
received in a ``Scoping Report'' that will be available on a project 
EIS Web site, and will be distributed either electronically to all 
parties of record or by mailing paper copies upon request. DOE expects 
to issue the draft NECPL EIS in April 2015 and the final EIS in October 
2015.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on August 20, 2014.
Patricia A. Hoffman,
Assistant Secretary, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy 
Reliability.
[FR Doc. 2014-20270 Filed 8-25-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6450-01-P