Coalition Attempts to Re-Open FERC Record on Guardian

The FERC-certificated Guardian Pipeline is engulfed in another war with detractors of its project. This time it is asking the Commission to block an attempt by a coalition of landowners to hold up construction of its proposed pipeline that would cater to Upper Midwest natural gas markets.

Guardian's request comes after Neighbors Standing United (NSU) earlier this month asked the Commission to stay the Illinois-to-Wisconsin pipeline project and seek "voluntary remand" of the records in the case from the courts so that it can re-open the proceeding. FERC turned the records in Guardian's certificate proceeding over to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in late June shortly after NSU petitioned for judicial review of the agency's preliminary determination and certificate orders on Guardian.

NSU's attempt to stop the project and have the case re-opened at FERC comes "nearly four months after the Commission issued the certificate order [approving the Guardian project], nearly three months after the expiration of the time for seeking rehearing, and three months after Guardian accepted the certificates issued by the Commission," said Guardian in response to the landowner coalition's actions [CP00-36].

More to the point, Guardian argued that FERC, having certified the record to the court, "no longer has jurisdiction to stay its certificate orders." Even if the Commission had jurisdiction, the pipeline said NSU has failed to meet the legal requirements to justify the issuance of a stay.

The landowner coalition contends that the Guardian certificate proceeding "raises significant environmental and certificate issues" that are at odds with the Commission's mandates under the Natural Gas Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Consequently, it contends construction and land-acquisition activities shouldn't be permitted to begin until FERC determines that the entire project is in the public interest. But FERC did just that last March, when it awarded a certificate to the Guardian pipeline project.

Moreover, NSU claims that the "two criteria" on which the Commission based its decision to award Guardian a certificate --- greater pipeline competition in the Wisconsin market, and the "need for gas [to flow] into the Wisconsin Gas Lateral --- may no longer hold true. "Information which NSU has received indicates that there is no intention to build the Wisconsin Lateral...and one of the partners in Guardian may sell its interest to the parent company of ANR Pipeline, El Paso Corp.," the coalition said. "These factors mandate that the Commission re-evaluate issuance of the certificate to Guardian." It didn't give the source of the information, or disclose which one of the Guardian partners may be interested in selling its interest in the pipe project.

A key reason FERC supported the Guardian line was because it would introduce pipeline-on-pipeline competition into Wisconsin, offering customers in the state an alternative to ANR which has dominated the market. As for the critical lateral, Wisconsin Gas has told the Commission that it plans to build the line to connect its distribution system to Guardian at Ixonia, WI.

The $224.3-million Guardian pipeline would provide take-away capacity for Canadian gas being delivered over Alliance Pipeline, Northern Border and Natural Gas Pipeline of America. The 149-mile pipeline would deliver the gas from the Chicago hub nearly Joliet, IL, through northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin to Ixonia. It is targeted to be in service in November 2002.

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