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Columbia Tells FERC Millennium Project is Alive and Well

Columbia Tells FERC Millennium Project is Alive and Well

The Columbia Energy-NiSource marriage won't kill the Millennium pipeline project nor will strong opposition to its pipeline route in New York, Millennium Pipeline Chairman David Pentzien said last week in a letter to FERC's Daniel M. Adamson, director of the Office of Energy Projects.

In March, Adamson requested a status report on the $650 million pipeline in light of criticism from New York regulators and comments made by NiSource Chairman Gary Neale about the project (see Daily GPI, March 24). The 442-mile project would bring about 714 MMcf/d of gas from Canada under Lake Erie to the New York metropolitan area.

"First and foremost, I want to assure you and the Commission that Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation and its three partners in the Millennium partnership remain firmly committed to the financing of the project," said Pentzien. "It is true that NiSource is reviewing the project, as it should, but I have been authorized by NiSource to advise the Commission that NiSource fully supports both Columbia's continued participation in the project and the Commission's prompt approval of Millennium's certificate application."

Last month during a conference call on the proposed Columbia-NiSource merger, Neale stated his concerns about the project's route and questioned the need for such a major pipeline when NiSource's own Crossroads Pipeline could serve growing demand in the Northeast with a much smaller expansion project and at a fraction of the cost of Millennium (see Daily GPI, March 6).

Adamson also expressed concern about the opposition from the New York Public Service Commission and the New York State Reliability Council to the proposed construction along Consolidated Edison's electric transmission right-of-way in Westchester County, NY. The reliability council noted in filed comments with FERC that the 345 kV transmission corridor "happens to be the most important and most critical electric power interconnection between the major load center of New York City and the rest of the eastern interconnection." It has six 345 kV high voltage transmission lines and a total thermal capacity of 5,000 MW.

In his letter, Pentzien said an alternative route in Westchester County had been identified that may meet the PSC's safety concerns if certain mitigating measures identified by the PSC are adopted by Millennium. The sponsors plan to file the revised route with the Commission in the next few weeks, he said, requesting that the revision not hold up the Commission's plan to issue a final environmental impact statement. He requests the Commission "reserve judgment on the Westchester County route," until the revision is filed and analyzed.

Regarding opposition from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to the proposed crossing of the Hudson River in Haverstraw Bay, Pentzien referred the Commission to an April 7 letter submitted by the New York Department of State. The letter confirms that the New York Coastal Management Program does not prohibit new construction in Haverstraw Bay, contrary to the NMFS's claims. He said Millennium still is discussing NMFS's claim that the Haverstraw Bay crossing proposed by Millennium would seriously damage an ecologically sensitive area.

Pentzien said $40 million has been spent on the pipeline project already and not a single piece of pipe has been laid. He noted that the project recently received multiple state and federal permits and urged the Commission issue its FEIS soon to assist other agencies in completing their final project reviews.

Rocco Canonica

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