New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he completely supports Spectra Energy's proposal to expand two natural gas pipelines into the city, just days before Monday's deadline for FERC to take public comments on the project.

According to media reports, Bloomberg endorsed Spectra's plans to expand the Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco) and Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline systems during a press conference Thursday.

"This is a gas line that we desperately need," Bloomberg said. "Only about 20% of the gas, incidentally, that comes through that line will go to New York City. It goes north, south, east, west, all around. It's a regional thing. And the controversy is that there will be some gas that's taken out of the grounds through [hydraulic fracturing]."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) began accepting public comments on the $850 million project in January [CP11-56]. According to the agency's website, 1,046 comments have been posted so far.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) was among the most recent to comment on the project, raising concerns on several issues including air quality and the effects on fish, wildlife and historic structures.

"Numerous interested parties have expressed concern to [us] regarding potential adverse impacts associated with [Spectra's] preferred route for the project," Scott Brubaker, director of NJDEP's Office of Permit Coordination and Environmental Review, said in a letter to FERC on Friday. "The permitting processes of the [NJDEP] will consider and evaluate the merits of these concerns and others as appropriate under our regulations."

Another group, New York City Audubon, said it was concerned that the pipeline would affect the Harbor Herons Bird Conservation Area (BCA). But NYC Audubon said it was encouraged that Spectra intended to mitigate the impact on wildlife there by using horizontal directional drilling technology and a dry crossing method to have the pipeline run under uninhabited Shooters Island -- which is divided between New York and New Jersey -- and over Bridge Creek.

"These two methods are said to be the most environmentally respectful methods of traversing these respective BCA habitats," NYC Audubon Executive Director Glenn Phillips said in a letter to FERC on Friday. "If this project is approved, [we wish] to stress the importance of strict adherence to the mitigation and best practices methods pledged by [Spectra]."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy have both spoken out against the project (see Daily GPI, Jan. 24; Dec. 29, 2010).

Under Spectra's plan, approximately 15.5 miles of pipeline would be constructed through parts of Bayonne, Jersey City and offshore Hoboken in New Jersey, as well as parts of Staten Island and Manhattan in New York, where it would connect to the Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc. (Con Ed) gas infrastructure system to serve Con Ed's residential and business customers (see Daily GPI, Dec. 22, 2010). The project would carry as much as 800 MMcf/d with a target in-service date of November 2013.

Bloomberg also lauded Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his position that fracking should be prohibited within the New York City watershed (see Shale Daily, Oct. 28). The mayor's support coincided with the announcement that a key state advisory panel needs more time to formulate its recommendations on the practice.