“Work by the applicant is still not authorized to begin until or if a right-of-way permit is approved and issued,” said Yellowstone public information specialist Linda Veress. “Also, just because a FONSI is signed doesn’t mean the project has been approved. It just means there would be no significant environmental impacts if the project went forward.”
The project had been criticized by the nonprofit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility which claimed burying cable runs the “risk of permanently impairing the Old Faithful hydrothermal system.” The group pointed to a 2014 report to support its claim.
“Infrastructure and thermal ground don’t easily coexist,” said USGS geologist and Science Review Panel co-chair Jacob Lowenstern in the 2014 news release. “Hot ground isn’t good for buildings, roads and pipelines; conversely, parking lots and sewer lines disrupt the natural hydrology.”