Westcoast Energy said its St. Clair Pipelines subsidiary filedthe last major component required for the Millennium Pipelineproject yesterday with the National Energy Board in Canada. Thecompany filed an application for a $165 million pipeline that wouldlink Union Gas’ Dawn Hub in Ontario to lake crossing facilities tobe built by TransCanada. TransCanada filed an application for thelake crossing facilities earlier this week. St. Clair’s 50-mileMillennium West Pipeline would deliver about 700 MMcf/d of gas toPatrick Point on the shores of Lake Erie.

Meanwhile, Millennium sponsors expressed optimism that their442-mile, $650 million pipeline project from Lake Erie to New YorkCity would receive its first regulatory green light from FERC inJanuary and be well on its way to meeting its winter 2000in-service date.

Sponsors weren’t too happy in September when FERC staffindicated the project could suffer a delay because sponsors werenot meeting data requests on a timely basis. “We were just startingto open the flood gates in the September-October time frame,” saidDavid Pentzien, Millennium project manager, “so in retrospect itlooks like they made their comments based on what they had. Whatthey received over the next two months basically [met] everyoutstanding environmental data request so I think they’re probablyin a different position at this point. I think they would probablysay we are back on schedule.”

Pentzien said he still expects to receive the finalenvironmental impact statement and the final order from FERC inJune or July. But he said even if FERC is a couple months late withits final order on the project, it wouldn’t doom the in-servicedate. “It’s really a two-year construction window. I think whatwe’re saying is even if we were to hit a delay of a month or two onthe certification we still have some time to make that up given thetwo-year construction schedule.” He expects FERC will issue apreliminary determination on non-environmental grounds and a draftenvironmental impact statement in January “given what we’vesupplied to them.”

Pentzien said some of environmental aspects of the project thatwere expected to be huge hurdles turned out to be speed bumps.”Lake Erie has become a very manageable process.” He said thebiggest obstacles have been things thrown in the way bycompetitors. Competitors have drawn FERC’s attention to all sortsof environmental issues that really aren’t environmental issues atall, he said. Landowners haven’t been much of a problem becauseMillennium utilizes such a significant amount of existing right ofway: 86% of the line. “We’re seeing about one-seventh the landownerprotests than Independence [Pipeline] is,” said Pentzien. “We’retalking almost a whole order of magnitude less than Independence.”Independence, a Millennium competitor, is a green-field projectproposed to cross Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Pentzien also noted the markets along the Millennium projecthave done nothing but grow. He mentioned Southern Company buyingOrange and Rockland’s power generation. “You don’t buy existingassets and let them sit there and not run. They are very interestedin upgrading and consuming more natural gas. With the recentannouncements by American National Power and Sithe, we’ve got 2,000 MW that are within 3,000 feet of Millennium over on theextreme east side. The last year had a marked increase on the powerplant side.”

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