FERC Wednesday rejected pleas attempting to overturn its order approving the Ruby Pipeline LLC project on environmental grounds.

The Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, Defenders of Wildlife and the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club challenged the the Commission's April order, which approved the 675-mile, 42-inch diameter Ruby Pipeline project that would move 1.5 Bcf/d of Rockies natural gas from the Opal Hub in southwestern Wyoming to the Malin Hub near the Oregon-California border (see Daily GPI, April 6).

The Indian tribe and two environmental groups challenged the adequacy of the April order's environmental analysis and the compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The Ruby line was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) subject to compliance with 46 environmental conditions. The parties argued that the Commission's practice of authorizing natural gas infrastructure subject to conditions does not meet the requirements of NEPA, the Natural Gas Act, Administrative Procedures Act, National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Federal Lands Policy and Management Act and Clean Water Act (CWA).

"We view the nature of such Commission orders granting NGA authorization subject to conditions as 'incipient authorizations without current force and effect,' since absent action by the applicant and other state and federal agencies, and following that further action on the part of the Commission, construction cannot begin," the FERC order said [CP09-54].

"We see no impropriety in our routine practice of issuing a final order granting authorization for a project contingent on findings of future studies and favorable decisions on requests pending before other agencies," it added.

The agency dismissed claims by the Sierra Club and Summit Lake that the FERC order authorized activities that will result in a discharge under the CWA. As for alleged NHPA violations, the order said, "The record in this proceeding evidences a long and thorough consultation process for cultural resources along the pipeline route...This record does not support the parties' assertion that land management agencies did not submit comments on survey reports before the April 2010 order was issued."

The certificate authorization is conditioned on Ruby constructing and placing the facilities into service within two years, and executing precedent agreements prior to beginning construction.

Ruby so far has signed precedent agreements for approximately 1.01 Bcf/d of firm capacity for terms ranging from five to 15 years. PG&E executed a precedent agreement for 375,000 Dth/d.

The project, which has an estimated cost of $3 billion, would extend westward from Opal through Wyoming, Utah and Nevada and terminate at the Malin Hub in Klamath County, OR. It plans to interconnect with the facilities of PG&E, Gas Transmission Northwest Corp. and Tuscarora Gas Transmission in the vicinity of Malin. The project also calls for the installation of four compressor stations along the Ruby mainline, four receipt meter stations and four bidirectional delivery points. Ruby anticipates placing the pipeline in service by March 2011, according to El Paso.

In July El Paso took on private equity fund Global Infrastructure Partners as a joint venture partner for its Ruby project, adding more assurance that the Wyoming-to-Oregon pipeline will be completed (see Daily GPI, July 28, 2009).

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