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FERC Issues Certificates for Two New Gas Pipelines

Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1997

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted two certificates for natural gas pipeline projects in the Southeastern U.S. One certificate went to Southern Natural Gas Co. for construction of a controversial pipeline to serve two municipal customers; a second was issued to Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. for the largest single expansion of its pipeline and storage system.

The FERC on May 28 voted 5-0 to grant a certificate to Southern Natural Gas Co. to construct approximately 118 miles of natural gas pipeline to serve two municipal customers. The hotly contested determinations surrounding the project were made in a series of three orders (Docket Nos. CP96-153-002 and

CP96-153-000).

The municipalities, Huntsville and Decatur, both in Alabama, were captive gas customers of Alabama-Tennessee Natural Gas Co. and desired gas transportation services from alternative suppliers. Alabama-Tennessee had objected to those efforts, because the two customers make up almost one-half of its system load. Also, the proposed route of the pipeline was subject to disagreement because of the environmental impacts.

The North Alabama Pipeline Project will transport about 74,850 cubic feet per day of natural gas to five customers in Alabama and Georgia. Construction will affect about 1,200 acres of land, comprising 680 acres of permanent right-of-way and 520 acres of temporary right-of-way. The pipeline will pass through the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. The project area could be home to 23 federally listed endangered or threatened species.

Commissioner Donald F. Santa Jr. said that because the project has been subject to fierce opposition, it underwent extreme environmental analysis. But Santa said this was the first pipeline alternative in northern Alabama in 47 years, and FERC, in allowing the pipeline to go forward "relies on the business judgement of the customers." The orders are intended to "continue FERC's pro-competitive stance."

Columbia Gas Transmission Corp. will spend about $275 million on storage and pipeline facilities to add 500 million cubic feet per day (Docket Nos. CP96-213-000 et al.). The extra capacity will serve expanding natural gas markets in the Southeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. t

Lori A. Burkhart is an associate legal editor with PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY.

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