The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has modestly hiked the annual dollar limit for projects that natural gas pipelines with blanket construction certificates can proceed with on their own without having to win agency clearance first.

In a final rule issued Thursday, FERC raised the automatic project cost limit to $7.8 million for 2004 from $7.6 million a year ago [RM81-19]. This means that gas pipes holding blanket construction certificates can build, acquire, operate and/or replace facilities up to that dollar limit without having to request permission from the Commission.

The agency also boosted to $21.6 million the prior-notice cost limit in 2004 for gas pipelines with blanket construction certificates. The cost limit last year was $21.2 million. Projects at or below $21.6 million (but above $7.8 million) will be required to notify FERC in advance of any work, but they will not be subject to the certificate process. Only projects exceeding $21.6 million will require a FERC certificate.

The Commission set $5 million as the annual limit that holders of blanket construction certificates can spend on underground storage testing and development without having to notify the agency. This was up from $4.9 million in 2003.

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