NYC suburb wins more time in pipeline route dispute
By Tom Doggett

Moves up expected date for pipeline to be in service

Reuters News Service
February 22, 2000

WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Federal energy regulators this week gave operators of the controversial Millennium pipeline more time to negotiate with town officials in a New York City suburb over the project's ending route.

Regulators say the pipeline is needed to provide natural gas to fuel power plants in the region, but local residents are worried the project would come too close to their parks, schools and homes.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved last December the pipeline, which would bring 700 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Canada to Mount Vernon, New York, a New York City suburb.

At the time, FERC said the project's operators still had to negotiate a final route for the end of the pipeline in Mount Vernon with town officials and submit a plan within 60 days. If the parties could not reach an agreement, FERC said it would decide the Mount Vernon stretch of the pipeline.

In a letter to FERC earlier this week, Millennium's operators said they and Mount Vernon officials had been working diligently to reach an agreement on the final pipeline route, but more time was needed.

FERC agreed to extend the negotiation period by two weeks to March 5.

The $700 million pipeline is co-owned by NiSource's Columbia Gas Transmission unit, MCN Energy Group Inc., TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. and Westcoast Energy Inc.

The project's sponsors, who applied with FERC in December 1997 for an operating certificate, want to have the pipeline in service by November 2003.

Mount Vernon, a city of 70,000 people on just over four square miles, is the ninth most densely populated municipality in the United States. City residents have opposed the pipeline route through their town.

New York's congressional delegation, including Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, expressed concern about the pipeline as it would run very close to Mount Vernon's schools and playgrounds.

The pipeline would run 425 miles (624 km) from the U.S.-Canadian border and provide natural gas to the New York City metropolitan area and southern New York state. Much of the natural gas would be used to fuel electric power plants.

FERC said the pipeline serves the public interest because it will provide natural gas needed to fuel electric generating plants in the region.

The agency's office of energy projects finished a three-year environmental impact study last October that concluded the pipeline would have`limited adverse environmental impact'' and is`the preferred alternative'' for providing new natural gas shipments to New York City.

Last August, TransCanada PipeLines and Westcoast Energy withdrew their project application with Canada's National Energy Board to construct a 60-mile (100-km) segment of pipe under Lake Erie from the gas storage hub of Dawn, Ontario, citing delays at FERC.

The firms left open the option to reapply for an operating certificate.

Copyright Reuters News Service

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