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Rockies Express (REX) said Thursday it has experienced delays with its two remaining horizontal directional drills and now projects it will begin interim service on REX-East in mid-May. Late last month the pipeline said service on the segment would begin in late April or early May (see NGI, March 30). Most notably, the Wabash River has significantly exceeded flood stage and is projected to remain above flood stage through the coming week, the pipeline said. REX affirmed its previously projected in-service dates for Lebanon, OH (June 15), and Clarington, OH (Nov. 1). Initial REX-East service is projected to commence mid-May with a capacity of 1,800 MDth/d into Zone 2 and 1,600 MDth/d into Zone 3. Zone 3 delivery points for interim service will include deliveries to NGPL (Moultrie County, IL), Trunkline (Douglas County, IL), Midwestern (Edgar County, IL), and Panhandle Eastern (Putnam County, IN). In addition, REX expects to have the Ameren (Moultrie County, IL) delivery point available for service contemporaneous with the interim service delivery points, it said. Service to Lebanon is projected to commence June 15 with a capacity of 1,600 MDth/d to the Lebanon delivery points and a pipeline capacity of 1,800 MDth/d to the interim service delivery points upstream of Bainbridge Compressor Station. In-service of the fully powered REX-East pipeline to Clarington is projected to commence Nov. 1.

New York State Electric & Gas Corp. (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. (RG&E) were denied rate hikes by the New York State Public Service Commission on the recommendation of commission staff. The companies had said they faced "a significant shortfall in cash needed to make required infrastructure investments." NYSEG and RG&E had been prohibited from filing for rate relief under the terms of their recent acquisition by Iberdrola SA unless they could demonstrated that their ability to provide safe and reliable service would be jeopardized. "The commission has determined the evidence in this proceeding does not indicate that NYSEG's and RG&E's ability to provide safe and reliable service to their customers is jeopardized," said commission Chairman Garry Brown. "This determination is made in consideration of the fact that the companies agreed, as part of the Iberdrola merger agreement, to not file for a rate increase within a certain time period unless they could show financial performance would fall to levels that would jeopardize the ability to provide safe and reliable service."

The U.S. Coast Guard has established the Liquefied Gas Carrier National Center of Expertise in Port Arthur, TX, to serve as its base for the supervision of liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers. The Coast Guard is charged with ensuring that tankers meet international and domestic standards for construction and operation that promote the safe transport of LNG. The center is a training facility that will focus on establishing and maintaining expertise in cryogenic and compressed gas carrier technology and operations. In addition to LNG, other gases that are shipped on specialized carriers, such as liquefied petroleum gas and anhydrous ammonia, also will be part of the center's focus. Maintaining and administering a ship-rider program to familiarize students with ship design, systems and operations is one of the services the center will provide. Other functions include training personnel at Coast Guard sectors who perform LNG ship and facility examinations, providing assistance to units working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the LNG facility approval process, and providing on-the-job training opportunities for marine inspectors from other Coast Guard units who examine foreign LNG carriers.

Rapid City, SD-based Black Hills Corp.'s Colorado natural gas utility operations, Black Hills Energy, was granted a $1.379 million, or 1.7%, rate increase by state regulators. It includes a slightly larger increase for residential customers of 2.04%, or about $1.76/month. Black Hills said this was the first change in its Colorado natural gas rates since 1993, during which time it has invested $66 million in its gas infrastructure, and the number has more than doubled from 28,000 in 1991 to about 68,000 currently. The utility holding company said it needed the increase to respond to what it called "growing costs of operation and system investments required to maintain safety, reliable service and support growth." The increase was part of a settlement among the utility, Colorado Public Utilities Commission staff and other stakeholders.

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