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Millennium Pipeline Approaches Long-Awaited Finish Line

More than 10 years after the project was first proposed, Millennium Pipeline Co. LLC plans to complete construction of the 182-mile, 30-inch diameter Millennium natural gas pipeline across New York's Southern Tier and lower Hudson Valley by Dec. 1 and the pipeline could begin carrying gas as soon as that same day, a company spokesman said last Wednesday.

Testing of the pipeline, which has already begun on the project's western end, "may or may not be done by Dec. 1," said Millennium spokesman Michael Armiak. "As soon as that testing is done and the test proves to be satisfactory, that's when gas flows. So as we get closer to that date we'll have a better idea...it could very well be that we will be flowing gas on Dec. 1, but it's too early to tell that at this point."

Millennium had previously scheduled completion in November (see NGI, June 2). Above-average rainfall in spring 2008, combined with late delivery of some materials and construction delays at environmentally sensitive areas in the Catskill Mountains and in horizontal directional drilling at some rivers, led to the postponement, Armiak said.

Construction on the pipeline was begun last year with the installation of 12 miles of pipeline, mostly in New York's Orange and Rockland counties (see NGI, May 12). While most of the mainline pipeline installation work is being completed this year, some land restoration and environmental monitoring work is expected to extend into 2009 and beyond, Millennium said.

Millennium, which would transport up to 525,400 Dth/d when it goes in service, is the centerpiece of a $1 billion investment in new energy infrastructure that includes new facilities by Empire State Pipeline, Algonquin Gas Transmission and Iroquois Gas Transmission. The pipeline is anchored by National Grid, Consolidated Edison of New York, Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corp. and Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. Millennium is jointly owned by affiliates of NiSource Inc., National Grid and DTE Energy.

The bidirectional pipeline will directly or indirectly serve markets in New York, New Jersey and New England. Western New York gas storage and production can be accessed directly through Millennium, and Canadian gas can be delivered through interconnections with Empire State Pipeline and National Fuel Gas Supply. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week issued a pair of orders accepting tariff sheets for the project which had been filed by Millennium Pipeline Co. and Empire Pipeline effecive on Nov. 1 or on the date the pipeline is placed into service.

Plans for the Millennium pipeline were forced to clear a series of hurdles since the company first made the proposal in 1997. FERC issued a certificate for the project in September 2002, but New York stalled Millennium because it claimed that adverse effects along portions of the planned route were inconsistent with the state's coastal management program.

In December 2003 then-Commerce Secretary Donald Evans upheld New York state's objection to Millennium's proposal (see NGI, Dec. 22, 2003). The project floundered for several years until it was revised and scaled down. Changes included the removal from blueprints of a new pipe under the Hudson River in favor of a less controversial plan to use the existing Algonquin Gas Transmission LLC system; the sidestepping of Mount Vernon, NY, which had opposed the projects; and the abandonment of plans to cross Lake Erie in favor of utilizing the Empire system near the Canadian border.

While FERC certified the project at a cost of $654 million, Millennium has said the final cost won't be known until after the pipeline is completed and in service.

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