While the schedule and requested certificate date for the REX-West leg of the Rockies Express Pipeline originally was driven by the demands of the proposed pipeline's shippers, there is an additional reason that makes expedited approval of the project even more imperative -- the Indiana bat, the company told FERC Wednesday.

REX-West is the second leg of Rockies Express Pipeline LLC's $4 billion, 1,663-mile mega-pipeline that would transport Rocky Mountain natural gas to Midwest and Northeast markets. REX-West will cross 176 miles of the state of Missouri, which has been assumed by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to provide habitat for the Indiana bat, a listed endangered species.

The FWS has informed Rockies Express that it would sign off on the construction of REX-West in Missouri if all potential roost trees (PRT) within the pipeline right-of-way are removed before April 1, before the bats begin nesting, the company said. Rockies Express noted that it has identified 205 individual trees in 42 woodlots located along the project in Missouri that are likely to provide potentially suitable habitat for bat roosting.

In order to remove the trees by April 1, Rockies Express called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve its project by mid-March. While acknowledging that "receipt of a certificate by mid-March may appear out of reach," Rockies Express outlined a "best-case scenario" in which it may be possible. It urged the Commission to issue a certificate concurrently with the final environmental impact statement on the project. The company cited several cases in which FERC has taken this approach in the past [CP06-354].

Rockies Express said it has discussed with the FWS alternative conservation measures to avoid impacts to the Indiana bat. "However, those measures, which include rerouting the pipeline to avoid the identified PRTs, delaying construction until the end of the summer roosting period, or using mist netting to identify the presence or absence of bats, may be impractical and raise additional conservation concerns on the part of FWS." In addition, the measures create the "potential for significant delays of completion of [the] project and increases in cost which may be avoidable."

The REX-West leg, which is targeted for in-service on Jan. 1, 2008, involves the construction of 713 miles of pipeline from the Cheyenne Hub in Weld County, CO, to an interconnection with Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line in Audrain County, MO. It would have a capacity of 1.5 Bcf/d [CP06-354]. The project also would include a long-term lease of 625,000 Dth/d of capacity from Questar Overthrust Pipeline to permit REX-West shippers to source gas from the Opal Hub in Wyoming. The Rockies Express pipeline is jointly owned by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, Sempra Pipelines & Storage and ConocoPhillips.

The first leg of the Rockies Express project went into service in mid-February (see Daily GPI, Feb. 15). The 327-mile pipeline segment stretches from the Meeker Hub in Rio Blanco County, CO, northward to the Wamsutter Hub in Sweetwater County, WY, and then southeastward to the Cheyenne Hub.

As part of the project, Rockies Express also plans to build a REX-East leg that would extend from the terminus of the REX-West facilities in Audrain County to Clarington, OH. This third and final leg of the project would increase the capacity of the line to 1.8 Bcf/d from 1.5 Bcf/d, it said.

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