Canadian Sponsors of Millennium Pull Applications from NEB

In another blow to the Canada-to-New York Millennium Pipeline project, TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. and St. Clair Pipelines Ltd. -- sponsors of the Canadian leg of the proposed line -- have withdrawn their applications from the National Energy Board (NEB).

However, they have retained the option to re-file "analogous applications if and when appropriate," wrote Patrick M. Keys, senior regulatory counsel for TransCanada, in a letter two weeks ago to the NEB.

He said the action of TransCanada and St. Clair was prompted in part by the continuing regulatory delays with the U.S. portion of the Millennium line. "TransCanada and St. Clair have for some time been concerned about unexpected delays in the issuance of regulatory approvals for the U.S. Millennium Project. Unfortunately, the FERC did not issue a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) and consequent order on Millennium Pipeline Company LP's certificate application before the end of July," as was hoped.

The timing for an FEIS and certificate order was thrown into further doubt this month, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreed to hold a "public comment meeting" on the proposed Millennium project on Sept. 4 in Westchester County, NY, to further address concerns of the residents about the routing of the pipeline through their community. The routing of Millennium has been a hot-button issue in the county for several years (see NGI, Aug. 13).

The move by TransCanada and St. Clair "was not entirely unexpected given the delays with the FERC review" of the U.S. leg of Millennium, said a spokesman for Columbia Gas Transmission, a sponsor of the U.S. Millennium line. The Canadian regulatory review of Millennium has been on hold for about a year waiting for FERC to catch up, he noted. Whether the two Canadian sponsors re-file "certainly is dependent on what goes on" at the Commission.

In addition to the U.S. delays, TransCanada and St. Clair have determined that they need to make changes to "significant portions of [their] existing applications to reflect economic and technical changes" that have occurred to the Canadian Millennium pipeline project since their original applications were filed, Keys said. Rather than amending their existing applications to reflect the changes, they believe it would be preferable to pull the applications now and re-file a "new, consolidated application...once major issues affecting the Canadian project are satisfactorily resolved."

The 442-mile Millennium pipeline, if ever built, would bring 714 MMcf/d of natural gas from Canada under Lake Erie to the New York metropolitan area. Sponsors include Columbia Gas Transmission, Westcoast (St. Clair affiliate), MCN Energy Group and TransCanada.

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