Murkowski questions Independence pipeline decision

US Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.) criticized the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for not approving the Independence natural gas pipeline project at a recent meeting.


WASHINGTON, DC�US Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.) criticized the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for not approving the Independence natural gas pipeline project at a recent meeting.

The proposed 36-in., 1.01 bcf/d line would extend 400 miles from Defiance, Ohio, to Leidy, Pa. The agency ruled in December that Williams Cos., Coastal Corp., and National Fuel Gas Co. had failed to show need for the $677 million pipeline to move gas from Canada and the Midwest to the Northeast US. This week, FERC told sponsors of the pipeline their application would be rejected unless they showed within 60 days that they have long-term supply contracts for 35% of the line's capacity.

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, lectured the four FERC commissioners at an electricity reform hearing. He asked why FERC had placed such requirements on the pipeline.

"I will want an explanation from each of you as to why you are not doing everything you can to get this pipeline built as fast and as cheaply as possible. The commission's actions in the Independence pipeline case seem to indicate that you really don't want this pipeline built."

He noted that the Northeast recently experienced a spike in home heating oil prices. "Perhaps the single most significant action to help consumers would be to bring new natural gas supplies to the Northeast. Not only would this pipeline reduce home heating costs, it would also help lower the cost of electricity, particularly this summer during times of peak demand," he said.

Murkowski said the pipeline would benefit the environment because many Northeastern states are heavily dependent on oil-fired electricity generation during peak periods, and gas could be a clean burning alternative. He said New Jersey is 21% dependent on oil-fired generation, New York 37%, and Connecticut 47%.

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