Responding to a series of pleadings from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), FERC last week agreed to hold a “public comment meeting” to address the concerns of the residents of Westchester County, NY, about the routing of the beleaguered Millennium Pipeline project through their community.

The routing of the Canada-to-New York pipeline, which has been pending at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) since 1997, through Westchester has been a hot-button issue for the past couple of years. Last March, FERC staff said routing Millennium through an existing powerline corridor of Consolidated Edison Co. of New York in Westchester was a “viable option,” provided state regulators and the pipeline could work out the construction details. Both the New York Public Service Commission and ConEd objected to this routing alternative for Millennium, which staff proposed in its supplemental draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on the project (See NGI, March 12).

While “I generally support the project,” Clinton told FERC Chairman Curt Hebert in an Aug. 6 letter that she had “strong reservations about the process undertaken during this final stage of evaluation.” The embattled Millennium pipeline project is awaiting a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) and certificate order [CP98-150].

In April, following the supplemental DEIS, “Sen. [Charles] Schumer and I urged FERC to consider the views of all affected communities in New York and to minimize the local impact of the project. I have since forwarded to FERC three letters from Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano, as well as letters from a number of local elected officials. My staff was assured that letters from these elected officials would be considered and answered. Moreover, I have repeatedly asked FERC to conduct a public meeting in Mount Vernon, NY, to address community concerns regarding the pipeline’s routing,” but the requests and assurances either were rejected or not carried out, she wrote.

“This is particularly disturbing given that the original proposal routes the pipeline through densely populated neighborhoods in Mount Vernon,” Clinton said. “In addition, this spring, FERC proposed a new alternative route for the pipeline in upper Westchester County…Many important issues have been raised about this new proposal,” including the presence of dioxin along the pipeline’s route and the impact on environmentally sensitive areas.

“Again, I urge FERC to meet the high standard of review and community participation demanded by such a large, complex and sensitive project…I remain convinced that the region’s energy needs can be met while fully protecting the environment and addressing the concerns of local communities,” she told Hebert.

The 442-mile Millennium pipeline, if ever built, would bring 714 MMcf/d of natural gas from Canada under Lake Erie to the New York metropolitan area. Sponsors of the projects are Columbia Gas Transmission, TransCanada PipeLines, Westcoast Energy and MCN Energy Group.

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