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Jersey City Tries to Delay Spectra Gas Pipe Expansion

Jersey City, NJ, has called on FERC to stay a June order approving the start of construction of Spectra Energy Corp.'s New Jersey-New York Expansion Project, a 20-mile expansion of the Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco) and Algonquin Gas Transmission interstate pipeline systems (see NGI, July 2).

"Given the potentially catastrophic environmental [and health] effects, the commencement order [for construction] must be stayed until Texas Eastern has performed and properly evaluated the requisite soil samples," the city said in its motion seeking a stay and rehearing [CP11-56]. On June 29 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the request by Tetco and Algonquin to begin construction on specific areas of the expansion project. Jersey City officials contend that FERC green lighted the construction before soil and goundwater samples were conducted on some of the land in the city.

"As the city has previously pointed out, high levels of contaminants in the soil can become carcinogenic when airborne or through contact. If construction begins without definitively determining whether such dangerous contamination exists, it puts everyone in the area at risk," the city noted. Jersey City lies across from Lower Manhattan between the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay, and the Hackensack River and Newark Bay.

"We do not agree with their claims in the request for stay and rehearing," said Spectra spokeswoman Mary Lee Hanley. She noted that this is the second motion that Jersey City has filed to stall the project (In NGI's collective memory, FERC has never issued a stay after approving a pipeline construction project).

Philadelphia-based Consolidated Rail Corp. is seeking a limited stay of the Commission's May 21 order approving the expansion, citing "serious concerns about the threat to safe rail operations posed by [the] NJ-NY Expansion Project." It has asked FERC to include explicit rail safety conditions in the certificate order (see NGI, May 28).

The Spectra expansion has come under attack from top New Jersey officials -- Republican Gov. Chris Christie, Democratic Rep. William Pascrell and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy (see NGI, Jan. 24, 2011) -- but it has received solid support in New York (see NGI, Nov. 7, 2011).

Jersey City officials contend that the $1.2 billion expansion project would only be delayed by one month while Tetco evaluates soil samples. When completed, the expansion would provide an additional 800 MMcf/d of transportation capacity into the New Jersey-New York region, according to Spectra. The project is expected to be in service in the fourth quarter of 2013.

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