As expected, Colorado Interstate Gas (CIG), a subsidiary of El Paso Corp., last week filed a formal application with FERC to construct the proposed Raton Basin expansion project (see NGI, Jan. 10). The project’s targeted date for initial service is Oct. 1, 2005, with full completion in December 2005. The $61 million expansion will add 104,600 Dth/d of natural gas transmission capacity from the Raton Basin to Midcontinent delivery systems in south-central Colorado and the Oklahoma Panhandle. El Paso said the project includes 102 miles of 16-, 20-, and 24-inch pipeline looping, 1,770 horsepower of additional compression and new metering facilities. “With this expansion, CIG will have more than 380,000 Dth/d of daily firm delivery capacity available to the production community in the Raton Basin. Both producers and shippers will benefit from our enhanced ability to deliver gas to premium growth markets,” said James Cleary, president of El Paso’s Western Pipeline Group. Five producing shippers have executed firm agreements with minimum 10-year terms for transportation services on the project. They are Pioneer Natural Resources Co., El Paso Energy Raton LLC, Red River Ranch Holding LLC, Apple Tree Holdings LLC and XTO Energy.

Columbia Gas of Ohio customers may soon be able to lock in natural gas prices for three years under a plan unveiled by Centrica subsidiary Direct Energy. Under the “Price Dropper” plan, residential customers will be able to lock in natural gas supply rates of $0.979/100 cf in the first year, beginning with the March 2005 billing cycle; $0.959 the second year; and $0.939 the third year. The offer is available only until the supplies that Direct Energy has secured at these prices last, the company said. Other terms, conditions and restrictions may apply. The plan is available to eligible residential customers in all counties serviced by Columbia Gas of Ohio, including those in Franklin, Delaware, Fairfield, Knox, Madison, Pickaway and Union counties. Residents who enroll with Direct Energy will see no changes in their natural gas delivery service. They will continue to receive bills from and send payments to Columbia Gas of Ohio, which also will continue to respond to service and emergency calls. To learn more about the plan, call Direct Energy toll free at (866) 750-3213.

To reflect the lower estimated cost of natural gas for the remaining winter heating season, gas rates were immediately lowered about 11% for Laclede Gas Co.‘s 631,000 customers, according to a filing reviewed and accepted by the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) last week. Residential customers currently pay $0.83/therm, and the new rate will decrease to $0.71/therm. Under tariffs on file with the PSC, Laclede makes four filings a year to reflect the wholesale cost of natural gas. Approximately 65% to 80% of a customer’s natural gas bill reflects the cost of natural gas from wholesale suppliers. An annual regulatory review by the PSC is conducted to ensure that regulated gas companies make prudent decisions in securing natural gas supplies for their customers, the commission said. In other news, the PSC approved an application authorizing Laclede to provide gas service in St. Paul, MO, which is in St. Charles County. Laclede will be providing service to two proposed residential subdivisions adjacent to Laclede’s current service area in St. Charles County. Laclede serves gas customers in St. Louis as well as the Missouri counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, Butler, Iron, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve.

Ten former outside board members of Enron Corp. have agreed to use $13 million of their own money to pay part of a $168 million settlement with shareholders who had sued following the company’s bankruptcy. The settlement was first announced in October. The settlement requires the approval of U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston. Eighteen of the former directors were party to the settlement, but only those who benefited from insider stock sales agreed to personally pay fines. The remaining $155 million will be paid from insurance policies that Enron held. Of the $200 million in Enron insurance available for settlements, about $13 million has been put aside for the continuing defense for former executives, including Kenneth Lay, the former chairman, and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling. Another $32 million will be part of the Enron bankruptcy estate that will be distributed to creditors.

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