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TransCanada Seeks Speedy Verdict on Pipeline Plan

TransCanada Corp. has set out to obtain a speedy verdict on plans to overhaul and enlarge its pipeline network by brushing aside objections from natural gas distribution companies in Ontario, Quebec and the northeastern United States.

TransCanada fired off a swift reply -- saying no -- to calls for a reprieve from the C$13.5 billion (US$12 billion) scheme by Union Gas, Enbridge Gas, Gaz Metro and Alberta Northeast Gas, a supply procurement agency for 16 distribution companies in New England, New York and New Jersey (see Daily GPI, Nov. 21).

The response, filed Friday at the National Energy Board (NEB), requests an efficient proceeding on the overhaul’s elements: the C$12 billion (US$10.7 billion) Energy East partial conversion of TransCanada’s Mainline to oil service, the C$1.5 billion (US$1.3 billion) Eastern Mainline proposal for a new conduit to replace lost gas capacity, and an associated asset transfer.

The 30,000 pages of applications for the changes deal with the contested issues described by the eastern gas distribution companies. A preliminary agenda circulated by the NEB already shows that their concerns will be considered, TransCanada said.

The filing also repeated a pledge made frequently since the pipeline overhaul began to take shape more than a year ago.

TransCanada said, “The Mainline will continue to meet all firm contractual requirements for gas transportation, both before and after the transfer of facilities to Energy East.”

The pledge has consistently steered clear of making promises about costs of building replacement gas delivery capacity, or resulting tolls for using them. The gas distributors’ grievances include claims that the proposed Eastern Mainline would be at least twice as expensive as the aging, depreciated facilities designated for the planned conversion to carry 1.1 million boe/d.

TransCanada also told the NEB there is no Canadian precedent for granting the distribution companies’ demands: putting the applications on hold by declaring them “deficient,” calling a timeout for more market studies, and an order to repeat an open-season auction of gas delivery capacity that was held last winter.

The TransCanada filing describes the distributors’ requests as an abuse of the regulatory process that distort the record of consultations on the proposed pipeline overhaul to the point of making outright misrepresentations.

The distributors’ request for a reprieve before the NEB formally begins proceedings and seeks to buy time denied by efficiency reforms to the regulatory regime that the pro-development Conservative government in Ottawa enacted in 2012. The rules include a 15-month deadline for approval decisions on major pipeline projects after construction applications are accepted as complete.

TransCanada has volunteered to submit safety, environmental and socioeconomic aspects of its plans to the provincial governments in Ontario and Quebec, where the premiers have agreed to collaborate on a single review. The provincial leaders have yet to spell out firm positions on gas cost and supply issues raised by the distribution firms.

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