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Coastal Plans to Test Waters Early for Gulfstream

Coastal Plans to Test Waters Early for Gulfstream

With the Independence Pipeline project continuing its struggle through the landowner gauntlet in the Midwest and through the longer-than-average regulatory review at FERC, Coastal Corp. is attempting a different approach for its proposed Gulfstream Natural Gas System in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida. The company plans to get the word out early and claims its wants as much public input as possible prior to filing an application with FERC this fall. It has drawn a preliminary pipeline route on a map and scheduled several open houses to discuss the project with landowners, local officials, regulators and anyone else who's interested.

"I don't think this has ever been done by anyone in the pipeline industry before," said spokesman Joe Martucci. No other pipeline sponsor has presented a pipeline route for public comment so early in the process, he said.

"This approach is in keeping with the spirit of FERC's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, issued last fall, which is intended to improve communication, expand public participation and identify any concerns very early in the process," said ANR Pipeline President Jeffrey A. Connelly. It's also a good idea given the difficulties encountered with its Independence project, on which FERC refused to make a preliminary ruling until all the environmental matters are picked through with a fine toothed comb.

And Florida is probably a good place in which to do it. The state has a history of defeating offshore and onshore production and pipeline projects in an effort to protect its pristine beaches and large tourist revenues. The state has only one other interstate pipeline, Florida Gas Transmission, and so far has not been eager to receive the benefits of pipeline competition. But that may be changing because of the tremendous need for additional power generation.

Gulfstream isn't the only project taking advantage of the situation. The competing Buccaneer Pipeline, sponsored by Williams-Transco, also would deliver production from the central Gulf to the Florida Peninsula. Coastal said there is a projected need of at least 9,600 MW of additional electric generating capacity by 2007. That amount of generation, if gas-fired, would require well over 1 Bcf/d of new gas supply.

Coastal projects a two-year regulatory review process for its 700-mile project, which is expected to be in service in June 2002. Since announcing the project in February, the company already has identified a three-mile-wide corridor from landfall near Piney Point in Manatee County across the Florida Peninsula through Hardee, Polk, Highlands and Okeechobee counties, to an ending near Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County. Coastal said the study corridor reflects efforts to avoid sensitive environmental features and public lands, and to minimize effects on developed areas.

Last month, Coastal said it had received expressions of interest from nine potential non-affiliated customers. A subsequent open season attracted interest from additional potential customers, Martucci said, without providing any names or the level of interest. He did say, however, that no one has signed an agreement for the proposed capacity.

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