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AZ Regulators Urge El Paso, Navajos to Resolve Right-of-Way Talks

At the request of El Paso Natural Gas Co. and in response to its own concerns about increasing the state's access to natural gas supply, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) Tuesday decided to write to El Paso and the Navajo Nation urging the two sides to reach an agreement allowing the interstate pipeline operator to expand the width of an existing east-west corridor that crosses a large chunk of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. The two sides have been in negotiations for months without any resolution.

Although the commission has not finalized the letter or approved its distribution, that will be done shortly, ACC Chairman Jeff Hatch-Miller told NGI. "Both sides have certain expectations, and they haven't reached a middle ground yet, so we're going to write to both of them, asking them to work in the interest of Arizona and ratepayers of Arizona to resolve this issue.

"It is important to us in terms of increasing our supply of natural gas. For us, this is a major potential increase in access to the gas in the Four Corners region."

The ACC has no authority over the interstate pipeline, and as its right-of-way crosses the sovereign Native American tribe's lands, it is not clear how much jurisdiction the federal government has in this case, but the state regulators want to put in their two-cents worth on the issue, said Hatch-Miller, who acknowledged the regulators only can "encourage" the parties in this case to come to a resolution.

"We don't have any jurisdiction over it, and it is questionable how much the federal government has, or wants to assert. This is an issue El Paso brought to us in the last 10 days, so we have reached a consensus to send a joint letter."

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