The two days of the 2021 Technical Conference on Environmental Permitting & Construction were an exploration of the innovation and sustainability driving our industry toward its place at the forefront of a clean energy future.
Over 120 virtual attendees jumped in for a packed two days of learning, featuring 18 sessions, 11.65 PDH hours, and a special virtual event proving that a great happy hour can be done virtually.
Keynote speaker Angela John, Williams Companies’ Director of Business Development, kicked off the virtual conference with An Industry in Transition. Exploring the innovative, out-of-the-box thinking that has driven Williams to integrate renewable energy sources into conventional natural gas transportation and processing operations in pursuit of net zero by the year 2050, this opening seminar brought a fresh perspective on how thinking around corners is important to all natural gas operators. An important distinction was made between no carbon and net-zero with the understanding that natural gas has an important role in delivering an affordable, sustainable energy solution for tomorrow.
Day one was capped off with a closing keynote address featuring Dave Swearingen with FERC, in a much-anticipated update from the regulatory body titled Catching Up with FERC After a Year+ of Masking and Vaxxing. The seminar dove into the Division’s recent and ongoing environmental oversight; the Commission’s new Office of Public Participation; new regulations concerning CWA permitting and NEPA processing; FERC’s NEPA reviews including augmented greenhouse gas, climate change, and environmental justice discussions; FERC’s “Rule 871”; and current construction and compliance issues.
Themes of sustainability and innovation were common threads throughout the conference’s 17 additional learning sessions. Please see highlights and key insights below:
ESG Metrics for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Disclosure
Kris Macoskey of Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. spoke on the topic of Greenhouse gases and ESG reporting metrics. The session aimed to help attendees obtain an organized and structured understanding of common frameworks around ESG reporting. Kris provided wonderful insights into key greenhouse gases and their sources in the industry. A wide variety of ESG reporting frameworks exist (Kris looked at 34 or more!) so understanding the basic concepts behind these is key. Existing frameworks were grouped into three categories for discussion: Disclosure frameworks, Rating frameworks, and Guidance frameworks.
Embedding ESG Objectives into Front-End Planning
Now front-end involves much more focus on the appropriate ESG ambitions, and how their needs align due to the need to plan for projects more efficiently so planning is very critical.
A lot of what could be looked at as risk in a project should also be looked at from a different angle as an opportunity, such as working within the community around the gulf coast area and upscaling capabilities.
Achieving Sustainability Through Restoration
Natural Capital can provide benefits such as reducing unnecessary mitigation efforts and costs, moving closer to net-zero carbon goal, and increasing biodiversity. All of these values can be inventoried and quantified.
HEA (Habitat Equivalency Analysis) could be used to determine what level of restoration is necessary to provide no net loss of ecosystem
Planning a project with a specific End Vision, such as providing a baseline, implementing and monitoring the project, and documenting for the ESG is key to maximize capital.
Virtual Stakeholder Engagement – Past, Present and Future
Josie Wilson and Liz Valsamidis with ERM shared an engaging session that covered the following
- Understanding the factors to consider with virtual engagement
- How to evaluate when and how best to engage stakeholders virtually
- Explained best practices in virtual engagement and a variety of virtual engagement tools
- Understanding of the “S” in ESG as a factor in thoughtful engagement planning and risk mitigation
- How to apply the stakeholder engagement regulations and manage regulatory requirements with virtual tools
Day Two | Environmental Permitting Sessions
Show Me the Data: FERC Environmental Information Requests
- Identifying Trends and areas of focus: Top 10 Overall Information Request areas
- Tips, Tricks, and Lessons Learned:
- Data Sources: Ask applicants to provide information, but also cross-check and utilize existing resources and comments for other projects in the area. Utilize internal and public databases to identify what has worked for similar projects. Complete field analysis early.
- HTD Guidewire and Clearing: Quantify the area and clearly define the actions you are taking so you can clearly articulate the impact to FERC
- Drilling Mud: Have clear plans for the products you are using, most importantly how they will be managed before and after the project
- Filing an Environmental Information Request is more than checking a box. If you have a plan on the request, it is an active task to maintain the plan and project through FERC’s questions
HDD Permitting – It’s Not Just a FERC Thing
Stacey Atella, Ray Loving and Tavis Faul delivered an interesting session on HDD Permitting: As part of the session, participants were shown how to:
- Learn how various state agencies are regulating the HDD construction method for FERC-regulated and non-FERC projects (e.g., oil and gas product lines).
- Gain insight into the HDD permitting experiences of their industry peers.
And, they were given the opportunity to engage in an open discussion about what’s next in the regulation and permitting of HDDs.
Navigating with No Map: How the Definition, Then Re-Defining of America’s Waters Have Impacted Project Development
- The waters of the U.S. were not defined.
- Here is what has been happening in the last 20 years. We are without a map changing month by month.
- WOTUS is related to: Climate change; environmental justice; relevant science; regional; state and tribal interests; and implementation.
- Scope of jurisdictional waters include tributaries; ditches; wetlands; and exclusions from the definition.
- There is uncertainty on projects, because of WOTUS uncertainty.
- This is more of an art than a science.
- Nationwide Permit 12 can still be used. There is on-going litigation with this permit. If it is vacated trying using Nationwide Permit 3, 14 & 33, 18, or 19.
- The Panel stressed being creative as well as communicating with your core groups.
Poke Patch Historic District and Underground Railroad Research Alternative Mitigation – A Case Study in Creative Alternative Mitigation for Projects Within a Historic District
Poke Patch, Ohio is a historic nineteenth-century Free Black community with historical connections to the Underground Railroad. There is little information known about Poke Patch, its residents, and their historic connections to the Underground Railroad. This informative session explored how TC Energy and the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office successfully collaborated to create an alternative mitigation project that provides a foundation of historical information on Poke Patch, the goal of which is to aid and guide future researchers on their quest to identify properties associated with Underground Railroad Activities.
Methane Rules and Compliance
This session, led by Lane Miller of TRC, highlighted the new methane rules and regulations impacting the natural gas industry as well as some of the technology available to aid in compliance activities. Topics included the PIPES Act of 2020 and regulation development from PHMSA.
Where in the World is NEPA Sandiego?
- Current and projected state of NEPA process: where it’s been, where it is now, and where it may be headed. How may this impact our projects both large and small and what risks should we consider when assessing projects in the interim of decision making.
- Went over what Issues to watch for
- Evaluation of “significant” impacts from GHG emissions
- Social Cost of Greenhouse gases
- Environmental Justice
Day Two | Construction Sessions
Pipeline Replacements & Upgrades in Congested Corridors
- Congested corridors are defined as a corridor shared by 10 – 15+ utilities
- America’s Gulf Coast has a high concentration of congested corridors
- The Land Services department at your company is a valuable asset for navigating this issue
- When replacing pipe in congested corridors, collect physical data (e.g., line locates, core samples) as early as possible
Migratory Bird Treaty Act Implementation – Chasing a Moving Target
What do fashion and energy have in common? The Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Sara Throndson with ERM shared how the parlor act became a political act and through a series of iterations in 1918 the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as we know it today came into effect. Lack of definition of the word “take” has created the tumultuous legal history that surrounds the act. Sara and Julie unpacked three different types of “taking” of migratory birds. Julie Arrison, also of ERM, distinguished activities that are lawful and unlawfulness in incidental take. She then walk participants through several case studies including Killdeer nesting in an active compressor station construction regulated by FERC, and a renewable wind farm. Each case study examined considerations, options and steps in resolution. The session wrapped up with a panel discussion and Q&A.
Drone Technology in Environmental Workflows
Nathan Kilgore & Brooke Hines from Burns & McDonnell spoke on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), the more formal name for Drone technology. A variety of types and sizes exist and used in an ever-growing range of applications. FAA Part 107 requires them to fly below 400 feet, maintain visual line of sight, and fly in daytime only. Burns & McDonnell has used UAS to fly their mitigation banks, using these as great test flight opportunities to assess their performance in analyzing biological and hydrological components. A variety of sensors exist and were discussed, from high-resolution cameras to thermal or infrared imaging and beyond. This drone data can be used for topography, 3D clouds, and even CAD integrations.
Restored Crossings: When and Where to Apply Stream Restoration Techniques to Protect Exposed Pipelines
- Exposure and severe weather events are a source of Natural Force Damage
- Stream restoration techniques for pipeline protection include: vegetation-integrated stone protection, flow deflectors, constructed riffles, vane structures, rootwads and toewood, and natural channel reconstruction or restoration
- Stream restoration techniques are a cost-effective option compared to hard armoring, are preferred by some permitting agencies and locations, and reduce long-term risk by preventing further channel alterations
- The exposure orientation and elevation relative to the stream channel has a great influence on the ability to incorporate stream restoration techniques
Protected Species Planning and Management During Project Construction: What Did We Get Ourselves Into?
- Informal and upfront agency communication is instrumental to understanding how regional districts/offices interpret the Endangered Species Act
- Involving the entire team in the construction phase is a recommended practice – engagement of construction crew members is critical to successful implementation
- During the permitting process, survey windows may or may not overlap and it is vital to plan ahead with those time considerations in mind
- Incentive programs can help companies ensure that various departments coordinate with each other throughout a project, from the planning phase through permitting and construction to restoration
Considering Project Effects on Historic Landscapes
- Compared to 20 years ago, the industry must now consider a much wider range of potential cultural resources, including historic landscapes
- Historic Landscapes can be considered a “combination resource” if they include any or all of the “traditional” types of cultural resources
- Historic designed landscapes, historic landscape sites, historic vernacular landscapes, and ethnographic landscapes are all considered cultural resources
- Historic landscapes effects are evaluated under Section 106, while impacts are evaluated under NEPA
SGA would like to extend our gratitude and recognize the superlative TCEPC 2021 Planning Committee for their hard work and dedication in making this conference a success:
TCEPC 2021 Planning Committee
Chair: Alex Miller – NextEra Energy Resources
Vice-Chair: Heidi Wray – ENSTOR
|Corrie Pere||Atmos Energy Corporation|
|Adrienne Mason||Kinder Morgan|
|Shauna Akers||The Williams Companies|
|Melissa Dettling||TC USA Pipeline Services, LLC|
|Catherine Mayhew||Cheniere Energy, Inc.|
|Latonia Viverette||Ecology & Environment, Inc.|
|Angela Lundy||MPAGAI Consultants|
|Chris Prah||On Pointe Consulting, LLC|
|Bryan C Jewett||Enercon Services, Inc.|
|Lauren H O’Donnell||TRC|
|William P. Athens||R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates|
|Wayne Boyko||R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates|
|Stacey Atella||POWER Engineers, Inc.|
|Scott Urwick||SWCA Environmental Consultants|
|Stephen Compton||Tetra Tech, Inc.|
|Peyton Ashmore, P.E.||Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co, Inc.|
|Susan Knabe||Stantec Consulting Services Inc.|
|Katelyn Kowalczyk||BGE, Inc.|
|W. Randall Freeman||Environmental Solutions & Innovations, Inc.|
|James Joseph Eberwine||TRC|
|Duane Peters||POWER Engineers, Inc.|
|Ababu Gelaye||Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.|