Another NY Agency Assails Columbia's Millennium
The New York State Reliability Council filed comments with FERC
last week saying the proposed Millennium Pipeline's current route
poses severe problems to the state's electrical grid. Columbia Gas
Transmission, the main sponsor of the project, said it would work
with the council to resolve the situation.
The issues arise in Millennium's desire to use the same corridor
as the Con Edison Millwood-Sprain Brook 345 kV transmission lines.
The agency told FERC this corridor "happens to be the most
important and most critical electric power interconnection between
the major load center of New York City and the rest of the eastern
interconnection." It has six 345 kV high voltage transmission lines
and a total thermal capacity of 5,000 MW.
The council said that a sudden loss of these circuits, caused by
a gas explosion, would pose major problems for New York City
electrical customers, such as a blackout. It also would endanger
large generating plants in southeastern New York and Con Edison's
Indian Point nuclear facility.
"We recognize that a gas explosion is an event which has very
low probability," the council told FERC. "However, the potential
consequences of such an event could be catastrophic. In our view,
the health and safety of the citizens of New York would be
The filing of these comments, however, was not an outright
opposition to the project, the council added in the statement. It
just disapproves of the current path. It is the second time a New
York governmental body opposed the pipeline's route. In January,
the New York Public Service Commission asked FERC not to award the
proposed Millennium Pipeline final environmental clearance until an
alternate route to an electric transmission right-of-way (ROW) in
Westchester County is found for the project.
"The Reliability Council's objections mirror those of the NYPSC
very closely," said Brent Archer, a Columbia spokesman. "It is
important to note that the Millennium project has already undergone
20 to 25 route alterations as a result of objections from
interested parties. In the case of each objection, we have sat down
and listened to the issues, and then acted in the best interests of
everyone concerned. With these comments about the ConEdison
corridor, we will follow this same strategy." He added that the
next probable step would be to form a working group that included
representatives from all the parties involved in the ConEdison
The $650 million Millennium Pipeline project was already in
severe danger before this filing. Its main sponsor, Columbia Energy
Group, was recently purchased by NiSource. Gary Neale, NiSource
CEO, has indicated that he favors a land-based route from Chicago
to the Northeast utilizing NiSource's Crossroads pipeline rather
than the Lake Erie crossing proposed by Millennium (see NGI, March
Archer, however, said "we haven't changed our approach at all
even with all the merger issues. The people working on the
Millennium project have maintained the same level of intensity as
they had before we joined NiSource. We will continue to work hard
on the project and don't expect to hear otherwise."
The 442-mile Millennium Pipeline originally was scheduled for
construction starting in 1999, with the balance of the project to
be completed in 2000. However, the project never received a
preliminary determination on non-environmental grounds from FERC
and still has not received final environmental clearance. The line
was expected to begin transporting 714 MMcf/d of gas from Chicago
to the Northeast starting Nov. 1.
Columbia Gas Transmission is the project's developer, largest
interest holder, and prospective operator. Other sponsors are
TransCanada, Westcoast and MCN Energy.