FERC was careful Thursday not to wade too deeply into the running dispute between Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline LLC and Portland Natural Gas Transmission Co. (PNGTS). However, the agency did grant Maritimes’ request for a declaratory order, which found that an engineering design submitted by Maritimes of a planned expansion of the pipelines’ joint facilities was appropriate.

“The Commission is finding that the engineering design put forth by Maritimes for the Commission’s review is appropriate and adequate for the purposes stated in the request. However, the Commission is not making a finding that the expansion project is required by the public convenience or necessity, nor [is it deciding] the issues relating to [a] contract dispute between Maritimes and PNGTS,” an agency order said [CP06-32].

“The Commission agrees with PNGTS that Maritimes’ request here is somewhat novel. It is true that the Commission generally does not make findings on specific parts of a project for which a certificate application may be filed at a later date…However, in this instance, given the history between Maritimes and PNGTS and the fact that Maritimes appears to have a bona fide project that has been significantly developed, we will make the requested finding so that Maritimes’ project is not unduly delayed by issues that can be resolved concurrently with the continued development activities related to the project,” it noted.

In seeking the declaratory order, Maritimes said approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of this “one key aspect of the project” would assist it in maintaining its development schedule and meeting its projected November 2008 in-service date for the Phase IV project, which calls for an expansion of New England pipe facilities solely owned by Maritimes and the joint pipe facilities that are owned with PNGTS.

The engineering design for the joint facilities, which extend from Westbrook, ME, to Dracut, MA, proposes that two compressor stations be located in Westbrook and Eliot, ME; a 13.5 mile, 36-inch diameter pipeline loop be built downstream of the Westbrook compressor station; and modifications to the existing Dracut compressor station.

The expansion outlined by Maritimes would increase the capacity on the joint facilities by 1,050,000 Dth/d, while meeting the flow and pressure requirements of both PNGTS and Maritimes, the order said.

PNGTS urged FERC to deny Maritimes’ request for the declaratory order. The pipeline has refused to sign off on the engineering design until contract disputes with Maritimes related to the joint pipe facilities are resolved, according to the FERC order.

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