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The Ruby Pipeline: A First-of-its-Kind Natural Gas Pipeline Project
Ruby Pipeline, L.L.C. (Ruby) is sponsoring the proposed Ruby Pipeline Project (Project) (www.rubypipeline.com) to provide Nevada and West Coast consumers with increased access to abundant Rocky Mountain natural gas supplies, as well as to meet increasing demand for clean natural gas by households, businesses, industrial facilities, solar- and wind-power generators, and utilities operating in a carbon-constrained environment. Now in its second year of regulatory review before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and other regulatory agencies, the Project is proposed as a 675-mile, 42-inch-diameter, interstate natural gas pipeline. It will begin in Opal, Wyoming and terminate at an existing pipeline interconnection point at Malin, Oregon. Subject to regulatory approval, the pipeline will be constructed beginning in early 2010 and commence operations in March 2011. From its inception, the Project has served as an industry-wide model for planning a pipeline in a transparent, environmentally sensitive, and culturally conscientious manner. For example, Ruby has already undertaken numerous, significant routing changes to address habitat and cultural resource concerns raised by stakeholders along the proposed route. Ruby has also volunteered to enter into unprecedented agreements with federal and state natural resource agencies to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse environmental impacts
arising from the Project’s construction and operation. Summarized below, these conservation efforts set the Project apart from any other natural gas pipeline project in the western U.S., establish a new standard for environmental and cultural stewardship in the industry, and reflect Ruby’s unmatched commitment and vision to be “The Neighbor to Have.”
Measures to Minimize Impacts to Natural and Cultural Resources
Voluntary Reroutes After significant GIS analysis and extensive on-the-ground assessments, Ruby selected the original Project route to avoid special management areas, including National Wildlife Refuges, Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs), Areas of Critical Environment Concern (ACECs), Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs), Instant Study Areas (ISAs), and other sensitive areas including wild and scenic rivers and locations with unique visual resources. After commencing public outreach, Ruby learned of additional sensitive environmental locations. Based on additional data and input from local stakeholders, Ruby realigned the proposed pipeline right-of-way to avoid additional features. For example, Ruby rerouted the Project to avoid a citizen-proposed wilderness area near Terrace Basin in western Utah and northern Nevada, after determining that there was a constructable and viable alternative. Similarly, Ruby’s cultural resources inventory identified several resource issues and resulted in several reroutes. This includes the Southern Langell Valley realignment in Oregon, which was implemented in large part to avoid and protect the proposed Antelope Creek Archeological District. Additionally, Ruby
Ruby Environmental Commitment
rerouted the Project due to concerns about specific sensitive areas raised by Native American representatives in Wyoming (Bell Butte Reroute) and Nevada (Mosquito Rim). Also in Oregon, numerous micro-realignments and construction techniques such as narrowing the construction right-of-way are being used to avoid impacting rock features that are considered significant to local tribes. Finally, in Wyoming and Nevada, Ruby avoided Historic Trails, or crossed trails at previously disturbed/non-qualifying locations, and shifted the alignment for about 30 miles to avoid a culturally rich area north of Winnemucca, Nevada. Ultimately, reroutes to accommodate sensitive environmental and cultural resources have affected approximately 25 percent of the initially proposed pipeline route. These reroutes were not without significant economic and construction consequences for the Project. They were, however, the right thing to do. Ruby’s transparency, proactive engagement, willingness to listen to stakeholders, and commitment to respond with concrete measures demonstrate that Ruby is taking an unprecedented approach in energy infrastructure development —one centered on humble stewardship for the land and for the environment. Ruby will continue taking that same approach during the Project’s construction and when the pipeline enters into service.
Voluntary Natural Resources Conservation Agreements
As further demonstration of the Ruby Pipeline Project’s commitment to environmental stewardship, Ruby has volunteered to enter into three separate conservation agreements with state and federal regulatory authorities. Taken together, these contractual pledges are unprecedented in the industry. Endangered Species Act Conservation Action Plan Species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and designated critical habitat occur in the project area. Ruby has undertaken a proactive initiative, in coordination with numerous agencies and landowners, to route, construct, and maintain the pipeline and associated features to minimize impacts to ESA-listed species and designated and proposed critical habitats. Ruby’s analysis of such impacts indicates the project is not likely to adversely affect currently listed threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat. The USFWS is reviewing the project and will make the final determination of effects on threatened or endangered species. Even so, Ruby has voluntarily agreed to commit to implement and fund conservation measures beneficial to listed species
Ruby Environmental Commitment
and their habitats. These measures will contribute meaningfully to conservation and recovery of these species and are in addition to any requirements by federal agencies authorizing the Ruby Project pursuant to their responsibilities under the ESA. Likewise, the actions in the ESA Conservation Action Plan are not required for, or a part of, the Project that is currently being reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The conservation actions in the ESA Conservation Action Plan have been extracted from listed species recovery plans, other ESA action plans, or recovery team activities, and reflect high priority actions for these listed species and critical habitat. They are designed to offset potential adverse impacts to listed species and critical habitat that are not otherwise offset or addressed though regulatory requirements associated with the various permits, authorizations, and other approvals required for the Project, as well as to assist with conservation of these listed species. The conservation projects identified will be the result of a collaborative effort between the USFWS, BLM, and other state and federal cooperating agencies. Migratory Bird Treaty Act Memorandum of Understanding The Project will pass through habitat of migratory bird species that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Ruby has agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the USFWS to implement voluntary conservation measures to advance the conservation goals of the MBTA (MBTA MOU). This voluntary agreement reflects the high value Ruby places on conserving MBTA species and their habitat in the Project area. As part of the MBTA MOU, Ruby has committed to a pipeline alignment that minimizes adverse effects on migratory bird habitats. To identify areas with the highest likelihood of adverse impacts to migratory birds, Ruby conducted habitat assessments to identify the major types of vegetation communities that will be disturbed by construction of the Project. Ruby subsequently created a habitat matrix to identify high-quality habitat that would support species protected under the MBTA and bird habitat conservation areas. In addition, Ruby has conducted a habitat mapping exercise to define the relative quality of migratory bird habitat that will be affected by the Project. Ruby sponsored habitat mapping workshops with State and Federal officials in the four states in the Project area, and collaboratively defined the main habitats of concern. Ruby has committed to avoiding or minimizing impacts to these
habitats, as well as agreeing to follow Best Management Practices in construction of the pipeline. Finally, within the MBTA MOU, Ruby will agree to fund a series of programs to promote migratory bird habitat conservation and mitigation actions within the Project area to offset potential impacts from the pipeline’s construction and operation. Sage Steppe Habitat Conservation and Mitigation Agreement Ruby, the USFWS, BLM, and appropriate state agencies are discussing habitat quality and conservation and mitigation strategies for the Project, with a primary focus on greater sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat. Ruby is working with these federal and state agencies to develop a detailed habitat classification and mitigation plan specific to the Project. The habitat map will identify high-quality habitat and unique wildlife conditions. Habitat mapping will be the foundation for discussing minor route modifications to avoid or minimize impacts on high-quality or unique habitats. The information will augment and support Ruby’s efforts to reclaim and rehabilitate the route upon the Project’s completion. In addition, this unprecedented habitat mapping will also inform the binding conservation and mitigation agreement within which Ruby will commit to implement a plan that will avoid impacting such habitat; or where not possible, minimize or mitigate defined impacts to levels acceptable to these state and federal regulatory authorities. These efforts will include temporal restrictions in the vicinity of sage-grouse leks, pre-construction mowing in lieu of full grading where topographically possible, and making use of existing roads where parallel to and in the immediate vicinity of the Project alignment.
Land Restoration and Waterway Crossing Best Management Practices
Although not required by current pipeline construction standards, Ruby has agreed to implement restoration practices that will further ensure that immediate and remnant impacts from the pipeline’s installation are minimized or eliminated. For example, along numerous segments of the pipeline, Ruby has committed to meet heightened topsoiling requirements and additional depth of cover requested by landowners.
Ruby Environmental Commitment Measures will be undertaken to assure that sensitive aquatic species are not entrained or injured during the construction process. After the construction is complete, the stream bottom will be contoured to the original elevation and the streambed restored. Steps will also be taken to assure that no invasive species are brought into the stream crossing site during construction. The site will then be monitored on an annual basis for a minimum of three years to assure that banks are properly stabilized and the streambed has been properly restored and stabilized.
Cultural Resource Sensitivity and Tribal Outreach
Ruby is taking unprecedented steps to build positive relationships with Native American communities along the proposed project route. While the route does not enter any Indian trust lands, Ruby recognizes the enduring historical, rich cultural, and unique spiritual significance of ancestral lands within the project area to many diverse Native people, tribes, and nations. Ruby team members have conducted extensive outreach to Native American communities along the proposed pipeline route. In addition to attending public outreach and scoping meetings with tribal representatives and stakeholders, Ruby representatives have made in-person visits to Indian reservations within the project area at the invitation of elected tribal council members or their representatives. Ruby also has engaged a Native American Coordinator for the project, Mr. Les Anderson, a Modoc Tribe tribal member who was formerly with the cultural resources staff of the Klamath
Neutralizing Ruby’s Carbon Footprint
Ruby will be the first major interstate pipeline in U.S. history to incorporate greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation measures in its design, construction, and operation. Even further, Ruby is committed to offsetting 100 percent of its carbon footprint and to achieving carbon-neutrality both in its construction and its ultimate operations. Ruby will employ an array of technologies and a diverse portfolio of measures to neutralize its carbon footprint, including: N Electric motor compression at the largest compressor station on the pipeline in lieu of natural gas-fired combustion engines, using power that is, in part, “e-tagged” (or attributed in the wholesale power grid) by the supplying utility to renewable energy sources; Special internal polymer pipeline coatings to reduce friction and the amount of fuel required to run its facilities, thereby reducing emissions from compressor stations; Employment of state-of-the-art Best Management Practices to keep fugitive methane emissions as close to zero as possible from the pipeline. Such emissions are of particular concern in the mechanics of anthropogenic climate change; Purchased emissions credits to offset GHG plant/facility emissions; GHG mitigation via credits for reforestation and carbon sequestration, including reforestation of fire-devastated areas in the West through a partnership with the National Forest Foundation; and, U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of Ruby’s field offices.
Tribes. Mr. Anderson has extensive experience in ethnographic and archaeological consulting, including both cultural monitoring and the training of tribal monitors on previous pipeline-related projects. Working with the Ruby Project team, Mr. Anderson will assist with identifying and training local Native American tribal Cultural Resource Technicians (CRTs) along the pipeline route, who will monitor all pre-construction data recovery and required construction activities to ensure that potential cultural resources are properly recognized, protected and respected. Toward this end, Ruby has already conducted CRT training in August for more than 20 tribal members. Six tribal CRTs are now active on project crews. An additional twelve CRTs have been retained as part of a "Special Advisory Committee of Tribal Monitors,” who will assist Ruby on an as-needed basis and help facilitate Tribal Council and elder visits to the pipeline
Ruby Environmental Commitment
route, as well as serve as a crew ready to provide supplemental cultural resources work at any areas of particular tribal concern. In addition, Ruby has partnered closely with the Council of Energy Resource Tribes, the leading non-profit coalition representing major energy-producing Indian tribes and nations throughout North America. Ruby sponsored an event entitled, “...El Paso Corporation has engaged in more and better Tribal outreach on the Ruby project than I have ever seen any energy company do in more than 30 years of working on Indian energy development”
A. David Lester, Executive Director Council of Energy Resource Tribes
within the Ruby Project area. Three follow-on workshops are planned in coming months to assist tribal members in obtaining union apprenticeships and achieving other employment opportunities in the project’s construction. Finally, the Ruby Project team is working proactively with natural gas-producing Indian tribes in the Rocky Mountain region that will benefit once the Ruby pipeline enters service. These tribes have submitted letters to FERC supporting the Project.
Ruby’s Commitment to be “The Neighbor to Have”
Ruby is proud of its industry-leading efforts to engage environmental and cultural resource stakeholders throughout the Project’s geographic footprint. Ruby is committed to listening to stakeholder concerns, learning from their experience, and bringing a problem-solving attitude to each issue they raise. This commitment will continue throughout the project’s construction and throughout the many decades of the pipeline’s operational life. Only by approaching its stakeholders in this way will Ruby be able to carry out its vision of being “The Neighbor to Have.” Ruby will hold itself accountable for carrying out this commitment, day in and day out, as the Project proceeds.
“Bear Talk: An Energy Discussion for Tribes Along the Ruby Pipeline Route,” which took place in Reno, Nevada, July 20-21, 2009 and which included more than 70 tribal leaders from area tribes. This special workshop brought tribal leaders together, provided education on national energy policy and markets, presented detailed information on the Ruby Project and its benefits, and encouraged tribal leaders’ participation in the formal government-to-government consultation process, as well as the ongoing NEPA review process. The two-day workshop was free of charge and open to leaders from all tribes
2 North Nevada Avenue Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?