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REX-East Gets Final FERC Environmental Nod

FERC staff Friday issued a favorable final environmental nod for the third and possibly final leg of the proposed $4.4 billion, 1,678-mile Rockies Express Pipeline (REX), which will transport Rocky Mountain natural gas to Midwest and eastern markets.

The REX-East segment would extend 640 miles from Audrain County, MO, to Clarington, OH. The pipeline would have the capability to deliver 1.8 Bcf/d of natural gas, while providing access to an additional 19 interstate and intrastate pipelines through 13 interconnection points. REX-East is expected to be fully operational by June 2009, according to REX.

Officially the line from Missouri to Ohio is the last leg of the cross-country pipeline, although REX already has held an open season for a Northeast Express extension, going from the REX line at Clarington into New Jersey. Still under negotiation is whether its eastern terminus will be Princeton or Linden, NJ (see NGI, Feb. 4).

"We concluded that if the REX-East project were constructed and operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, Rockies Express' proposed mitigation, coupled with the additional mitigation recommendations..., the project would have mostly limited adverse environmental impact and would be an environmentally acceptable action," the staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, along with four cooperating agencies, said in their final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on REX-East [CP07-208].

The cooperating agencies were the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The FEIS is the final step before the Commission considers a certificate for a project. REX has been pressing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to award a certificate for the REX-East leg by May. The agency issued a favorable draft environmental impact statement on the REX-East project in November (see NGI, Dec. 3, 2007).

"Construction and operation of the project would result in numerous impacts to the environment," the FEIS said. But "we believe that the recommended mitigation measures would reduce potential environmental impacts from Rockies Express' proposed action to less than significant levels."

Construction of the third leg of the REX pipeline would disturb approximately 14,334 acres of land, the majority of which would be agricultural, it noted. The project would cross 1,485 surface water bodies, including the Mississippi River. Ten federally listed threatened or endangered species and three candidate species may occur in the project, according to the FEIS.

The federal agencies further said that they were not aware of any existing pipelines with expansion plans that "could meet the purpose and need of the REX-East project." However, the FEIS did recommend that 19 route variations be incorporated into the project, including four that REX already has agreed to adopt.

The first 328-mile leg of the REX project, which runs from the Meeker Hub in Rio Blanco County, CO, to the Wamsutter Hub in Sweetwater County, WY, and then to the Cheyenne Hub, is in service and has a current capacity of 500,000 Dth/d. Part of the second leg, known as REX-West, has gone into operation and the remainder is nearing completion (see NGI, Jan. 14). REX-West will transport gas more than 700 miles from the Cheyenne Hub in Weld County, CO, to its terminus at the Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line interconnect in Missouri.

The REX Pipeline is a joint venture of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, Sempra Pipelines and Storage and ConocoPhillips and is one of the largest natural gas pipelines to be constructed in North America, according to Kinder Morgan. Binding firm commitments from creditworthy shippers have been secured for virtually all of the capacity on the pipeline, Kinder Morgan said.

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