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Great Lakes Article:

Pipeline project might be delayed

By John Bartlett
john.bartlett@timesnews.com


Construction of the Millennium Pipeline that will cross Lake Erie faces a potential delay following New York State's denial of a key part of the project.

The 417-mile pipeline would carry natural gas from Patrick Point in Canada across Lake Erie to Ripley, N.Y., and then on to the New York City area. However, only about half the gas from Canada would travel that far. Communities along the route would use the remainder.

New York State recently ruled the project's plans were not consistent with the state and federal government's Coastal Zone Management plan and regulations, denying the project the necessary Coastal Zone Management approval.

Construction of the Lake Erie section of the pipeline was scheduled to begin in spring 2003.

Whether that schedule can now be met is unclear, said Richard Hall, facility project manager of the Millennium Pipeline.

The problem New York had with the project was not the pipeline's Lake Erie landing near Ripley, but the plans for its Hudson River crossing.

Construction cannot begin until Coastal Zone Management approval is obtained, he said.

"We filed an appeal on Aug. 12," Hall said. "We expect the appeal process to run at least through the end of the year."

Much longer and it would almost certainly set back the start of construction.

Even now, however, the company is hesitant to begin ordering materials and awarding the contracts necessary for work to begin in the spring without some idea of when the issue will be resolved, he said.

Construction of the $700 million pipeline is expected to be a boon to the Port of Erie, which remains the preferred staging area for the Lake Erie portion of the project, Hall said.

At the staging port, the pipeline sections will be assembled, coated with specialized concrete and loaded onto ships transporting the materials to the barges laying the pipeline.

Local officials previously estimated 200 to 250 jobs would be created at the port during construction of the pipeline.

The project, which was opposed by several environmental groups including Great Lakes United, cleared its biggest hurdle in December when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave its approval.
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