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Ruby Pipeline Receives Final EIS from FERC

El Paso Corp.'s Ruby Pipeline Project on Friday was issued a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) by FERC and cooperating agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

The "issuance of the FEIS is on schedule," and "we expect Commission action in February" for regulatory approval, said El Paso spokesman Richard Wheatley. "If we get regulatory approval, construction could begin in the spring of 2010, with in-service slated for March 2011."

El Paso filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build the estimated $3 billion gas pipeline a year ago (see NGI, Feb. 2, 2009). Private equity fund Global Infrastructure Partners came aboard in July as a joint venture partner for the project, adding more assurance that the Wyoming-to-Oregon pipeline would be completed (see NGI, Aug. 3, 2009). And last month Wyoming state officials approved a plan for the state treasurer to negotiate a $300 million investment in Ruby once it's built (see NGI, Dec. 14, 2009).

FERC in September signaled that a FEIS would be forthcoming after issuing a preliminary determination on nonenvironmental issues for the project (see NGI, Sept. 7, 2009). Under El Paso's plan, almost 680 miles of natural gas pipeline and ancillary facilities would be constructed beginning near Opal, WY, passing through northern Utah and Nevada and terminating near the California-Oregon state line in Klamath County, OR.

FERC staff concluded in the FEIS that the pipeline's construction "would result in some adverse environmental impacts." However, staff said most of the environmental impacts would be "reduced to less-than-significant levels" when proposed mitigation measures were implemented by Ruby. Staff said "additional measures and agreements" were being discussed by Ruby officials and other agencies related to permitting or conservation agreements, and said it had recommended additional measures in the FEIS.

FERC was the lead federal agency in preparing the FEIS. BLM plans to use the FEIS to consider Ruby's application for a right-of-way grant across an estimated 280 miles of BLM (259 miles), national forest (18 miles) and Bureau of Reclamation (three miles) federal lands crossed by this project. The USFS also is evaluating proposed land use plan amendments to the Fremont-Winema and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache national forests, which would be required if the pipeline project were approved.

The draft EIS, issued last June, evaluated the potential environmental impacts of Ruby's proposed pipeline route along with a No Action and Postponed Action alternative, and 15 major route alternatives (see NGI, June 22, 2009). Three of the route alternatives were recommended by FERC for incorporation into Ruby's final proposal.

Comments on the FEIS are to be accepted by FERC and other federal agencies until Feb. 8. Federal and state agencies with authority to review and authorize the Ruby project then would be required to issue their final decisions on approving the pipeline by April 8, FERC said.

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