Notice of Availability of Draft Environmental Assessment on the Effects of Issuing an Incidental Take Permit No. 23148

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 84 Issue 231 (Monday, December 2, 2019)
[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 231 (Monday, December 2, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 65970-65972]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-26006]
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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
[RTID 0648-XR015]
Notice of Availability of Draft Environmental Assessment on the
Effects of Issuing an Incidental Take Permit No. 23148
AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.
ACTION: Notice; availability of a Draft Environmental Assessment;
request for comments.
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SUMMARY: NMFS announces the availability of the Draft Environmental
Assessment (EA) on the effects of issuing an Incidental Take Permit
(ITP) (No. 23148) to Exelon Generating Company, LLC, pursuant to the
Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended, for the incidental
take of shortnose (Acipenser brevirostrum) and Atlantic (Acipenser
oxyrinchus) sturgeon associated with the otherwise lawful operation of
the Eddystone Generating Station in Eddystone, PA. The facility is
requesting the permit be issued for a duration of 10 years. NMFS is
requesting comment on the draft EA.
DATES: Written comments must be received at the appropriate address or
[[Page 65971]]
fax number (see ADDRESSES) on or before January 2, 2020.
ADDRESSES: The EA is available for download and review at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/action/incidental-take-permit-eddystone-generating-station under the section heading Supporting Materials. The
application and conservation plan are also available upon written
request or by appointment in the following office: Endangered Species
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-
West Highway, Room 13631, Silver Spring, MD 20910; phone (301) 427-
8402; fax (301) 713-4060.
    You may submit comments, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2019-0076, by any
of the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public
comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0076 click the ``Comment Now'' icon,
complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
     Fax: (301) 713-4060; Attn: Celeste Stout.
     Mail: Submit written comments to the Endangered Species
Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, NMFS, 1315 East-
West Highway, Room 13631, Silver Spring, MD 20910; Attn: Celeste Stout.
    Instructions: You must submit comments by one of the above methods
to ensure that we receive, document, and consider them. Comments sent
by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received
after the end of the comment period may not be considered. All comments
received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted
for public viewing on http://www.regulations.gov without change. All
personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.)
confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information
submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. We
will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if
you wish to remain anonymous).
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Celeste Stout, Phone: (301) 427-8436
or Email: [email protected].
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Publication of this notice begins the
official public comment period for this draft EA. Per the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the purpose of the draft EA is to
evaluate the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts caused
by the issuance of Permit No. 23148 to Exelon Generating Company, LLC,
for the incidental take of shortnose (Acipenser brevirostrum) and
Atlantic (Acipenser oxyrinchus) sturgeon. All comments received will
become part of the public record and will be available for review.
    Section 9 of the ESA and Federal regulations prohibit the `taking'
of a species listed as endangered or threatened. The ESA defines
``take'' to mean harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap,
capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. NMFS
may issue permits, under limited circumstances to take listed species
incidental to, and not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities.
Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA provides a mechanism for authorizing
incidental take of listed species. NMFS regulations governing permits
for threatened and endangered species are promulgated at 50 CFR
222.307.
Background
    Exelon Generating Company, LLC, owns Eddystone Generating Station
(the facility), a natural gas/fuel oil-fired electric power generating
facility that operates as a peaking plant, (i.e., typically running at
higher levels of generation capacity during the summer and winter
periods). The facility is located at 1 Industrial Highway, Eddystone,
PA 19022. The facility presently consists of two natural gas/fuel oil-
fired electric generating units that are steam-electric generators.
Cooling water for each unit is withdrawn from the Delaware River
through a cooling water intake structure (CWIS), which is located along
the west shore of the River, directly in front of the facility. The
operation of the CWIS is the primary aspect of the facility operations
under consideration for this ITP due to the potential impacts to ESA-
listed sturgeon. Exelon conducted entrainment sampling at the facility
in 2005-2006, 2016, and 2017. One Atlantic sturgeon yolk-sac larva was
collected in May 2017. Thus, Exelon determined it was necessary to
apply for an ITP in accordance with the requirements under Section
10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA.
    NMFS received a draft permit application from Exelon on June 28,
2018. Based on our review of the draft application, we requested
further information and clarification. On December 21, 2018, Exelon
submitted an application. Based on review of the updated application,
NMFS and Exelon held further discussions regarding what needed to be
incorporated in the Conservation Plan. On June 21, 2019, Exelon
submitted a revised application and Conservation plan. This application
was considered complete and on July 16, 2019, NMFS published a notice
of receipt of the Exelon application for the Eddystone facility in the
Federal Register (84 FR 33924). The comment period ended on August 15,
2019. No comments were received.
Conservation Plan
    Section 10 of the ESA specifies that no permit may be issued unless
an applicant submits an adequate conservation plan. The conservation
plan prepared by Exelon Generation Company, LLC, describes measures to
monitor, minimize and mitigate the impacts of incidental takes of ESA-
listed shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon. To avoid and minimize take of
sturgeon, Exelon will only operate Eddystone's circulating water pumps
(CWPs): (1) When the station is generating electricity; and (2) for
incidental maintenance or testing (generally once per month) (referred
to collectively as ``Essential Station Operations''); or as required by
a governmental agency or other entity with jurisdiction to require
operations. Depending on station generation and ambient water
temperatures, Exelon will also limit operations to one CWP per unit
when possible. In addition, Exelon will rely on the river water pumps
(RWPs) to provide cooling water for other critical station operations
outside of Essential Station Operations. These measures will avoid and
minimize the incidental take of sturgeon due to entrainment or
impingement by eliminating or reducing water withdrawals at times when
such withdrawals are not specifically required for Essential Station
Operations or for governmental agency-mandated use. Additionally,
Exelon will make all reasonable efforts to schedule fuel oil deliveries
outside March 15-July 15. Continued monitoring related to the take of
shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon will be ongoing and funding will be
provided through the facility's annual operating budget.
National Environmental Policy Act
    This notice is provided pursuant to section 10(c) of the ESA and
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations (40 CFR
1506.6). The draft EA was prepared in accordance with NEPA (42 U.S.C.
4321, et seq.), 40 CFR 1500-1508 and NOAA policy and procedures (NAO
216-6A and the Companion Manual for the NAO 216-6A).
Alternatives Considered
    In preparing the draft EA, NMFS considered the following 2
alternatives for the action.
[[Page 65972]]
    Alternative 1: No Action. In accordance with the NOAA Companion
Manual (CM) for NAO 216-6A, Section 6.B.i, NMFS is defining the no
action alternative as not authorizing the requested incidental take of
ESA-listed shortnose (Acipenser brevirostrum) and Atlantic sturgeon
(Acipenser oxyrhychus). This is consistent with our statutory
obligation under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA to either: (1) Deny the
requested ITP or (2) grant the requested ITP and prescribe mitigation,
monitoring, and reporting requirements. Under the no action
alternative, NMFS would not issue the ITP, in which case we assume
Exelon would continue to operate the Eddystone facility as described in
the application without implementing the full suite of specific
mitigation measures, monitoring, reporting explained in the
Conservation Plan. The CEQ Regulations and the Companion Manual for NAO
216-6A require consideration and analysis of a no action alternative
for the purposes of presenting a comparative analysis to the action
alternatives. The no action alternative, serves as a baseline against
which the impacts of the action alternatives will be compared and
contrasted.
    Alternative 2: Issue Permit as Requested in Application (Proposed
Action): Under Alternative 2, an ITP would be issued to exempt Exelon
Generating Company, LLC, from the ESA prohibition on taking of
shortnose (Acipenser brevirostrum), Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser
oxyrhychus) during the otherwise lawful operation of the Eddystone
Generating Station. As required under Section 10(a)(1)(B), the ITP
would require Eddystone to operate as described in the proposed
Conservation Plan to avoid and minimize take of shortnose and Atlantic
sturgeon.
    Final permit determinations will not be completed until after the
end of the 30-day comment period and will fully consider all public
comments received during the comment period. NMFS will publish a record
of its final action in the Federal Register.
    Dated: November 26, 2019.
Angela Somma,
Chief, Endangered Species Conservation Division, Office of Protected
Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-26006 Filed 11-29-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P