By the time you read this, El Paso Energy will be putting thefinishing touches on its merger with Sonat Inc., creating thelargest natural gas pipeline in North America in terms of miles andthroughput.

Late Friday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cleared themerger of the two companies, which was the last stumbling block tothe transaction, when it signed a consent agreement that orders themerged company to divest Sea Robin Pipeline Co., East TennesseeNatural Gas Co. and its ownership interest in Destin Pipeline Co.L.L.C.

“We’re hoping to close the deal Monday [today], and thenintegrate the two companies immediately thereafter,” said NormaDunn, El Paso senior vice president over public relations. “We’repretty excited…..we’ve been waiting for this for sometime,” shetold NGI. El Paso Energy first announced its intent to acquireSonat last March.

El Paso spokeswoman Paula Delaney said there were no surprisesfor the company in the FTC consent agreement. “It was exactly whatwe had agreed on previously.” A summary of the consent agreementwill be published in the Federal Register, and will be subject to a30-day comment period.

As for the companies to be sold, Dunn said “we are indiscussions with a number of companies, the identities of whichcan’t be disclosed. We certainly are seeing a lot of interest.” Theconsent order requires the merged company to divest itself of theseassets within six months or a trustee will be appointed to carryout the sales. The order also requires the El Paso-controlledViosca Knoll Gathering Co. to provide open access, and to allowother pipelines to interconnect with it. Viosca operates off thecoast of eastern Louisiana.

Susan Parker

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