Following the deadly explosion at a natural gas-fired power plant under construction in Connecticut Sunday, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) has raised concerns about a Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco) proposed pipeline expansion that he says would be built through New Jersey to primarily benefit New York.

Five people were killed and at least 12 others were injured Sunday in the explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems LLC power plant project in Middletown, CT (see Daily GPI, Feb. 9). The blast is believed to have occurred while natural gas lines were being purged in a procedure commonly referred to as “blow down.”

“The explosion raises a red flag about the construction of a natural gas line that would run through New Jersey primarily for the benefit of New York. This risky project should not be permitted so close to New Jersey’s chemical plants, Newark Liberty Airport and the area that terrorism experts call the most dangerous two miles in America,” Lautenberg said.

“New Jersey should not bear the safety risk of a project that primarily benefits New York,” he said. New Jersey has not exactly rolled out the welcome mat for gas pipeline projects since 1994, when a massive explosion on a Tetco mainline in the state leveled a large apartment complex.

While Lautenberg contends that New York will be the main beneficiary, Spectra Energy and the project’s anchor shippers — including Chesapeake Energy Corp. — have pointed out that New Jersey will experience enhanced service as well. “This project aligns with our strategy to develop and construct right-sized, well timed expansion projects for our customers in the Northeast and further extends our ability to serve these key customers in New Jersey and New York, including Manhattan,” said Spectra CEO Greg Ebel at the time the pipeline expansion was announced in late 2009.

Lautenberg said he plans to meet with Spectra Energy, parent of Tetco, and federal officials to “raise my concerns about protecting Hudson County families and keeping New Jersey safe.”

Spectra Energy spokeswoman Toni Beck said the company was already in the process of contacting the senator. “Obviously we’ll continue reaching out to him to understand his issues. We’ll certainly going to have those conversations with him,” she said.

The project calls for Tetco to build a 16-mile, 30-inch diameter extension from Tetco’s pipeline in Staten Island, NY, through Bayonne and Jersey City in New Jersey to a Consolidated Edison plant in Manhattan, as well as expand Spectra’s Algonquin Gas Transmission system (see Daily GPI, Dec. 29, 2009). The proposed facilities would be capable of transporting up to 800 MMcf/d to the region and are targeted for in service in the fourth quarter of 2013.

This is the first major pipeline expansion in the Northeast that is designed to transport Chesapeake Energy’s rapidly expanding Marcellus Shale production and will likely be followed by other expansion projects from the Marcellus to other high-value eastern U.S. markets, according to Chesapeake, the largest of the project’s anchor shippers.

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