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MOUNT VERNON, NY-The only roadblock to the final approval of a $700 million 425-mile Millennium natural gas pipeline is a two-mile area of Westchester County where some local residents plan to continue to battle against the project. This despite a favorable ruling on Wednesday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that all but clears the way for the project to move forward.

On Dec. 19, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an interim order authorizing the construction and operation of the Millennium natural gas pipeline. The pipeline will transport 700 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to markets in New York and the northeast United States.

“This is a momentous day for the Millennium pipeline and the customers we will serve,” says Millennium Pipeline Chairman David Pentzien. “We are very appreciative that Millennium’s in-depth public review has culminated in FERC certification of the project. I commend the commission and its staff, along with numerous federal, state and local authorities and the people of New York for considering this application diligently over the past four years. This a significant step forward in Millennium’s efforts to help meet New York’s growing need for cleaner-burning natural gas.”

The FERC’s interim order authorized construction of more than 99% of the proposed pipeline route. However, a two mile area in and around the city of Mount Vernon in Westchester County, is still to be decided. The FERC asked Millennium to work with local officials to come up with an agreed upon route. However, the commission stated that if no such agreement can be reached, it would select a route and issue a final order approving the construction of the pipeline.

One local official who has expressed his displeasure with the route of the pipeline is Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano. In response to the FERC’s decision, Spano says, “Their decision defies logic. They have ignored all the evidence in front of them. And now they are telling Mount Vernon to pick their own route, when no route is acceptable.”

Spano had asked the FERC to postpone its decision on the Millennium gas pipeline until a determination was made by New York State’s Department of State on whether the pipeline would violate the New York State Coastal Management Program.

He adds that despite the FERC ruling he will continue to oppose the pipeline. “The war is not over yet,” he says.

The Millennium project, which was first presented to the FERC in December 1997, will be constructed and operated by a partnership formed by four energy companies — Columbia Gas Transmission, a subsidiary of NiSource Inc., MCN Energy, Inc.; TransCanada PipeLines Limited; and Westcoast Energy (U.S.) Inc.

More than 90% of the pipeline’s 425-mile overland route will use existing utility corridors, with approximately 224 miles of the project replacing and upgrading a 50-year-old pipeline system owned and operated by Columbia Gas Transmission Corp.

Columbia Gas Transmission officials say that the earliest construction would begin on the venture would be the spring of 2003. However, work on the pipeline would be initiated in multiple areas of the state and therefore could be completed in about six months.

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