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Independence, Millennium Win Draft Environmental Nod

Independence, Millennium Win Draft Environmental Nod

The controversial Northeast-bound Independence Pipeline and Millennium Pipeline have won draft environmental acceptance at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This was good news for both pipelines, which have been beset by unprecedented landowner opposition and questions about the "need" for the projects.

Separate draft environmental impact statements (DEIS) said construction of the Midwest-to-Northeast greenfield pipelines would have "limited adverse environmental impact" if "appropriate mitigating measures" were placed in effect.

This was the first encouraging sign for the Columbia Gas Transmission-sponsored Millennium project at the Commission. The 417-mile line would extend from Lake Erie to Westchester County in New York, bringing in gas from other regions of the U.S. and from western Canada. FERC last month in unprecedented action refused to give Millennium and Independence (and associated expansions) preliminary determinations (PDs) on the non-environmental aspects of the projects until the environmental reviews are completed.

With respect to Independence (and the associated Market Link project), FERC staff noted they issued a favorable draft decision because 76% of the proposed pipeline routes would be adjacent to or overlap existing pipeline and powerline rights-of-way; the applicants have agreed to use mitigation procedures to reduce soil and water-related impact and have entered into an agreement with the state of Ohio to further reduce impact on agricultural lands. These findings are key considering that the Independence project has generated more than 6,000 landowner complaints.

Independence would run about 400-miles from Defiance, OH, to the hub in Leidy, PA. Project sponsors are ANR Pipeline, National Fuel Gas Supply and Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line. From Leidy, Transco - the sole sponsor of Market Link - proposes to loop about 154 miles of its exiting system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

FERC staff said it evaluated existing and planned system alternatives to Independence and the associated Market Link expansion, including the proposed Vector, Tristate and Millennium projects, but none were found to be "both environmentally preferable to the proposed facilities and able to meet the proposed projects' objectives." Staff, however, did recommend that one major route alternative and six minor variations be incorporated into the pipeline routes.

Public comments on the Millennium and Independence projects are due at the Commission on June 7th and June 4th, respectively. Ten scoping sessions on the proposed two new pipelines will be held during May.

Separately, in a letter last week, FERC asked Millennium for an update on the seven to nine shippers who had reserved the right to opt out of their precedent agreements by either late March or mid-April in the event either a PD was not issued for Millennium or they failed to received corporate approval for their capacity agreements. "In view of the fact that all...deadlines have passed and no preliminary determination has been issued, please advise if the above-referenced agreements have been amended, or if any shipper has notified Millennium of its election to terminate its agreement," wrote Kevin P. Madden, director of FERC's Office of Pipeline Regulation, on April 13th.

He also asked Millennium if it had entered into an agreement to build a lateral connection with Southern Energy Bowline L.L.C to provide up to 300,000 Dth/d of gas to the Bowline Generating Station, and - if so - whether this would require a modification to the Millennium proposal. It further wanted to know whether a decision by New York City's Department of Environmental Protection to deny Millennium's request to cross the Catskill Aqueduct would result in any changes to the project.

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