Crews make way for pipeline through county|[09/01/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 1, 2007

With the go-ahead from federal regulators assured, pathways are being cleared for the East Texas to Mississippi Expansion Project’s route through Warren County.

Last week, crews with Gulf South Pipeline LP were seen clearing several miles of acreage off Fisher Ferry Road in preparation for installing segments of the 240-mile pipeline.

An environmental review and a final order to proceed with construction was secured in June, said J. Kyle Stephens, vice president of regulatory affairs for Boardwalk Pipelines, of which Houston-based Gulf South Pipeline LP is a subsidiary.

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At information sessions held in 2006 as part of the project’s regulatory process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, planned routes showed the line starting at a hub just south of Shreveport, La., and linking with one in Harrisville in Simpson County. Its route through Warren County showed it following utility-owned rights-of-way through southeast Vicksburg and exiting the county near Bovina.

Its route is farther north than the Southeast Supply Header, a 36-inch pipeline proposed by Spectra Energy Corp. and CenterPoint Energy, both also based in Houston. That pipeline will cross Warren County on the southern end, near Yokena.

At least seven eminent domain suits were filed in Warren County Court as the firm attempted to purchase property or easements. Since the seminars, the pipeline’s route has shifted slightly south. Settlements reached with affected landowners have furthered the pipeline’s progress, Stephens said.

The 42-inch line was fused with a similar project in Texas to improve the flow of natural gas across the southeast. It is expected to deliver about 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

As for the Southeast Supply Header, FERC announced the results from its final environmental impact statement Aug. 10. Findings showed the project would harm about five acres of forested wetlands along its 270-mile route from Delhi, La., to Mobile, Ala., but FERC concluded the impact “would be substantive but not significant.”

“We’re just waiting for FERC to give us the certificate. It allows us to move forward with construction,” Spectra spokesman Gretchen Krueger said. Both pipelines should be fully operational in a year, according to estimates.

Natural gas pipelines in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas will be connected with lines linking the Gulf of Mexico to Florida as a result of the project.

Fees-in-lieu of property taxes were sought by both firms from Warren County supervisors, with the board passing a resolution to that effect in April 2006 for the Spectra project. Benchmarks for job creation and economic impact had not been met to date, Board President Richard George said this week.

A third pipeline to traverse Warren County, the Midcontinent Express Pipeline System, is being planned by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP and Energy Transfer Partners LP.

Officials with the joint venture expect a formal application to be completed soon.

“We will make it in the next month or so,” project spokesman Megan Mafta said.

A first draft of the environmental study is the next step for the project, with March 1, 2009, as the target date for beginning service, Mafta said.