FERC staff sent a letter Friday to Rockies Express Pipeline LLC (REX) saying timely completion of the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) review of the last leg of the 1,678-mile project, known as REX-East, could be in jeopardy.

Staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “was able to expedite the issuance of the draft [environmental impact statement (EIS)], completing the document five weeks [ahead of schedule]…However, because of missing or incomplete information, we cannot commit to an expedited schedule for the issuance of the final EIS” for REX-East, wrote J. Mark Robinson, director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects.

The missing or incomplete information, according to FERC, includes:

This information “is necessary in order for us to continue completion of the final EIS and continue effective consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act…Once all of this information has been filed and evaluated, we will determine whether we can establish a schedule for completion of the final EIS and will issue a revised [notice of schedule for environmental review] for the project,” Robinson said [CP07-208].

In a related development, FERC staff Tuesday said it has scheduled a technical conference for Jan. 28 at 130 p.m. (EST) at agency headquarters to discuss issues raised by the Fish and Wildlife Service about REX-East.

FERC initially scheduled the REX-East FEIS to be issued on May 2, with a FERC decision on the project expected by July 31. However, REX is pressing the Commission to complete the FEIS in March, clearing the way for a FERC certificate by April. The REX-East leg would extend 639 miles from Audrain County, MO, to Clarington, OH.

The pipeline sponsors met with FERC staff in late September to discuss REX-East’s concerns (see Daily GPI, Oct. 5, 2007). Following the meeting, “Rockies Express stated that it was committed to providing the Commission staff with timely and accurate information and [acknowledged] that it had the burden to provide the information so that the Commission could meet the expedited schedule,” Robinson said.

Absent an expedited environmental review, REX-East at the time said it seriously doubted that it could complete the project by the 2008-2009 winter heating season. The project in all likelihood would be interrupted due to construction limitations during the winter, it noted.

“Producers in the Rocky Mountains would be required to shut in their gas for another complete heating season. On the demand side, consumers in Midwest and eastern markets would be unable to gain the market benefit of additional, competing sources of gas that would make the market more competitive.”

The pipeline also said it was concerned that it would lose contractors that currently are working on the REX-West leg of the line if the construction of the REX-East segment is pushed back.

REX began interim service Jan. 12 with capacity of about 1.4 Bcf/d on approximately 500 miles of REX-West from the Cheyenne Hub in Weld County, CO, to the ANR delivery point in Brown County, KS (see Daily GPI, Jan. 15). The operational section of the pipeline also includes delivery points to Kinder Morgan Interstate Gas Transmission, Northern Natural Gas Co. and Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America. The remaining 213-mile section of REX-West will continue eastward to Audrain County, MO, and is expected to be in service in early February, at which time capacity will increase to about 1.5 Bcf/d. In total, the REX-West portion is a 713-mile, 42-inch diameter pipeline.

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