While Pennsylvania and New Jersey would like nothing more thanto give Williams’ proposed MarketLink expansion the boot, Floridais opening its arms to the company’s Buccaneer Natural Gas Pipelineproject.

In a letter to FERC, the Central Florida Development Council(CFDC) — a public/private partnership between the Polk CountyBoard of County Commissioners and 14 Chambers of Commerce —called on FERC to give the Buccaneer project a green light, sayingit was needed to meet the state’s energy needs, reduce its relianceon a single gas pipeline, and would provide untold economic andenvironmental benefits [CP00-14]. A copy of the letter was sent toFlorida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“We urge your support of the construction of additional naturalgas transmission pipelines to Florida and our area to fostereconomic competition and eliminate the current reliance on a singleprovider,” the council said. “We also urge that the federal, stateand local agencies work cooperatively with The Williams Cos. toassure that their proposed pipeline project is approved andconstructed in a manner that meets” environmental and communityobjectives.

Williams has proposed a route for Buccaneer “that, for the mostpart, circles the state’s metropolitan areas on tracts of land thatare currently undeveloped to minimize conflicts with existingdevelopment,” the CFDC told the Commission. As a result, “newdevelopment will be able to plan for the pipeline as part of thenatural expansion of the urban area,” it said.

“The route proposed by The Williams Cos. and their approach tocitizen and landowner involvement in the planning process is anexcellent beginning to the provision of much-needed infrastructureto meet our state’s energy needs well into the next century.”

From an economic standpoint, affected landowners “will becompensated for the use of their property,” and the Buccaneerproject will pay an estimated $3.8 million in tangible propertytaxes each year to Polk County, which is located between Tampa andOrlando. “These economic benefits will be augmented by the $1.3billion construction cost, much of which will be spent in Florida,”the council said.

In addition, the CFDC touted the benefits that “the use ofnatural gas in the generation of electricity can provide to airquality and costs of electricity” in the Sunshine State.

The pipeline will supply gas for the “thousands of new megawattsof electricity coming on line via expansions at Tampa ElectricCo.’s Polk Power Station, Florida Power’s Andrew Hines EnergyComplex, the City of Lakeland’s MacIntosh Power Plant and some ofour new cogeneration facilities,” the CFDC noted.

“Also, we are working with six proposed merchant plantopportunities, most in the 750 to 800 MW range. We feel confidentat least two of these proposed plants will be added to our growinginventory of electric power generators. It is anticipated all ofthese expansions/new plants will use natural gas to fuel theirturbines.”

Meanwhile, Williams’ Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line and NewJersey officials are eagerly awaiting today’s release of FERC’sagenda for its Dec. 15th meeting to see whether the MarketLink andIndependence Pipeline projects are on it [CP98-540, CP97-315]. IfMarketLink’s on the agenda, it would set the stage for a showdownbetween the Commission and New Jersey that could move into thecourts. New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman has threatened tosue to block the project if FERC should approve it.

Rep. William Pascrell of New Jersey, an ardent foe ofMarketLink, is bracing for the worst, said a press aide. “We’rereviewing all of our options. The governor certainly has moreoptions at her disposal in the courts that we wouldn’t necessarilyhave. But we’re leaving no stone unturned in our effort to fightthis thing.”

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