Millennium Gets Nod On ConEd Corridor Route
A hotly contested route alternative that calls for the Canada-to-New York Millennium Pipeline to be built within an electric transmission system's right-of-way (ROW) in Westchester County, NY, is a "viable option" provided state regulators and the pipeline can work out the construction details, according to a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) issued by FERC staff last week.
FERC staff's suggested route option would move Millennium from a public highway corridor (U.S. Route 9 and State Route 9A) parallel to an existing power line corridor of Consolidated Edison Co. of New York (ConEd) for approximately seven miles in Westchester County, staff said.
Both ConEd and the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) objected to the siting of Millennium in the power line corridor, saying that electric service to millions of New York residents could be disrupted during construction and after the natural gas pipeline was in place. This prompted Millennium to propose a change in its route last June to incorporate the Route 9-9A route rather than the ConEd ROW.
But FERC staff said last week they thought routing Millennium within the ConEd ROW was doable. "We believe that pipeline placement on only one side and at a greater distance from the power line may help alleviate many concerns about construction near electric lines and towers," it noted in the supplemental DEIS.
If New York regulators can come to an understanding with Millennium on the construction activities adjacent to portions of the power line corridor, "then this alternative would help minimize impacts on several communities that had opposed the 9/9-A route," staff concluded.
Millennium Chairman David Pentzien said he agreed that FERC staff's suggested alternative was a "viable routing option" for the pipeline project, and would "reach out" to New York regulators immediately to discuss the routing option and other findings of the supplemental DEIS.
As for Millennium's proposed Route 9-9A proposal, the Commission staff said that while it would result in "short-term, locally significant unavoidable adverse environmental impact, it is an appropriate route for the proposed deliveries to [the pipeline's terminus in] Mount Vernon, NY."
The Millennium pipeline, which was proposed in December 1997, would bring about 714 MMcf/d of natural gas from Canada under Lake Erie to the New York metropolitan area. Millennium still must get a final environmental nod and certificate from FERC before it can begin construction of the proposed 442-mile pipeline. Sponsors of the project are Columbia Gas Transmission, TransCanada PipeLines, Westcoast Energy and MCN Energy Group.
Long Island Pipe Projects Duke It Out
The battle for a new pipeline to serve Long Island, NY, heated up this week as companies announced significant market support for two competing projects. Tennessee Gas Pipeline announced that its Connecticut-Long Island (CT-LI) Lateral Project attracted requests for 1.6 Bcf/d of firm transportation capacity, while Duke Energy Gas Transmission and partner KeySpan said their Islander East pipeline drew 1.2 Bcf/d in shipper requests.
"The open season results reinforce market support for additional capacity to these regions," said Tennessee President Stephen C. Beasley. Tennessee's project, which is expected to add at least 450,000 Dth/d of new firm capacity, would provide access to all interstate natural gas pipelines in the New England region and would serve multiple LDCs and new power plants in Connecticut and New York. The proposed terminus of the lateral is in Suffolk County on eastern Long Island.
Beasley said the CT-LI Lateral received requests from utility companies, marketers and power generation developers. "While the majority of the receipts were from the Dracut, we were also pleased to see a significant interest in Niagara and Gulf Coast points as well," Beasley added.
Pat Whitty, managing director of Islander East, downplayed the open season results. "[N]oms are cheap," he said. "Noms can be got from just about anybody. They are non-binding. I think in the old days pipes used to put out press releases on their nominations, but they really are meaningless until you get people to sign up."
Whitty said Islander East would be built specifically for two or three customers in contrast to the 14 companies that put in requests during its open season. "Some of these other people are just people that you get every time you have an open season," he said. "They don't want to miss out on an opportunity so they put it in because it is nonbinding. The second I send them a firm service agreement or a precedent agreement that will quickly weed them out."
Nevertheless, Whitty said he was pleased that the project drew the interest of so many, including LDCs, power generators and marketers. "But I think the real market as we see it is the LDC load growth, specifically KeySpan there on Long Island, along with probably one or two power generators. I think there's only enough room for that type of project."
The proposed 40-mile Islander East line is expected to carry 250,000 Dth/d from an interconnection with DEGT's Algonquin Gas Transmission system in Connecticut to markets on Long Island.
"We're sized at 250 MMcf/d and that's probably appropriate," said Whitty. "If we see that more than 250 MMcf/d needs to be done out of the 1.2 Bcf/d that we got, we can easily size it at 400 MMcf/d. That's one of the advantages that Islander East has over Tennessee. [Ours] is a much smaller project. It is a 40-mile pipeline to connect Algonquin into the KeySpan facilities on Long Island. If we need to do more than 250 MMcf/d we just add compression. It's easily expandable."
Tennessee's project comes off of its 300 leg, which is farther north than Islander East's tie-in at Algonquin, he noted. "They need more like 400 MMcf/d to 450 MMcf/d to make theirs happen at a market rate equal to Islander East," said Whitty. "That's one big advantage that we have." With a capital cost of $160 million, Islander East plans to charge a max rate of 27 cents/Dth.
Islander East also has KeySpan, the LDC on Long Island, as a part owner. "Right now [we have the advantage]," said Whitty. "The KeySpan load is the primary driver." Nevertheless, Whitty admitted KeySpan still has not signed a contract for any firm space on Islander East. "But I think the fact that they are a partner in the project speaks volumes." He expects KeySpan to take a significant portion of the Islander East capacity. The remainder probably will be taken by power plants.
There are multiple power plants being considered for Long Island. But two may be further along than the others. American National Power is considering building a 500 MW facility at Brookhaven, and AES is planning a plant at Calverton. PPL is planning several peaking plants near Smithtown. Florida Power and Light also is looking into power plant construction, as is Calpine.
"Anybody who is a power player is looking to build a plant on Long Island," said Whitty. Most of the plants are expected to be online in 2004. "The big question is how much new power can the Island support," Whitty noted. "A lot of people think that one 500 MW combined cycle plant would be all it could support. Others think maybe 1,000 MW are doable. An amount that is somewhere in between probably will be built on the Island. I feel very confident we are going to be building this pipe."
Both Islander East and Tennessee's Connecticut-Long Island pipe plan to be in service by November 2003.
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