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REX-East Brings Problems Crossing Coal Country to FERC

Rockies Express Pipeline LLC (REX) has asked FERC to schedule a public technical conference to discuss how the company may pursue an environmental construction requirement for its 639-mile REX-East Pipeline to cross Murray Energy Corp. coal mining reserves, saying it may need an alternative route. It suggested Aug. 5 or 7 for an expedited conference.

REX said it has had extensive discussion with the Murray coal companies, gathering information for a construction and operation plan. The certificate issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on May 30 (see NGI, June 2) directed REX to develop a collaborative plan with the Murray companies that would "maintain pipeline integrity and operation while not impeding the mining operation." Failing that the company could offer an alternative route.

REX said it had questions for FERC relating to the Commission's review of an alternative route, for instance the extent of that review. The pipeline company listed its three options: (1) to develop a plan ensuring safe operations on the existing route, relying on its "years of pipeline industry experience, including experience working with subsidence as an operating condition, in coal producing regions...;" (2) to reroute completely to avoid mining areas and areas where Murray has coal reserves; or (3) a combination of the first two.

The pipeline company said it is working with Murray Energy "to understand alternative routes and any coal reserves that Murray currently holds an interest in that may underlie a particular route. If such a mutually agreeable reroute can be developed, the degree of regulatory oversight of such a reroute will have a significant bearing on its feasibility from a schedule and cost perspective; thus, the primary reason for requesting this technical conference."

"Discussions are going well" with Murray, an attorney for the pipeline said. The problem involves eight miles over coal reserves land that Murray may develop some time in the future, and the question is whether future monitoring and possible remediation would be more expensive than rerouting now. Since Murray has filed a rehearing petition in the case, the pipeline company cannot consult with FERC staff outside of a public forum.

Murray Energy, a privately held mining corporation based in Cleveland, OH, is said to operate 19 mines in five states, including Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky. The route for the 42-inch Rockies East Pipeline, part of the $4.4 billion, 1,678-mile REX Pipeline, transporting Rocky Mountain gas to Midwest and eastern markets, goes from Audrain County, Mo. to Clarington, OH.

FERC authorized the start of construction earlier this month (see NGI, July 14), and the pipeline is aiming to be fully in service by June 2009.

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