Ruby Pipeline OK may come by next month

Final approval for the Ruby Pipeline could come as soon as February now that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has completed a final environmental impact statement for the $3 billion project.

Gov. Bill Ritter and Colorado energy companies have urged completion of the pipeline to get natural gas to markets to the West.

“If the route for natural gas to the West Coast were a narrow, two-lane road, then the Ruby Pipeline represents a new and invisible superhighway to Western and Northwestern natural gas markets,” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Completion of the final environmental impact statement is “an exciting step forward for Colorado,” Ritter’s press secretary, George Merritt, said Friday. “We will continue to encourage approval of the pipeline, because it will protect thousands of Colorado jobs and give this important Colorado industry a significant new asset.”

Ritter wrote last February to President Obama asking that he expedite approval of the pipeline.

The 675-mile, 42-inch, natural gas transmission pipeline will begin at the Opal Hub in Wyoming and end at interconnects near Malin, Ore., carrying as many as 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.

It’s possible the full commission could approve the pipeline as early as February, and that would mean construction could begin as soon as May or June of this year, said Richard Wheatley of Ruby Pipeline Inc., a subsidiary of El Paso Corp.

Completion could come as soon as March 2011, Wheatley said.

One hurdle that remains is the finding that the pipeline will adversely affect several endangered species, including four fish species in the Colorado River basin, the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and the bonytail and humpback chubs. The Fish and Wildlife Service will be asked for a biological opinion as to whether the project would jeopardize their existence, the staff of the commission said in the statement.

The staff concluded, however, the pipeline company is prepared to mitigate most adverse environmental effects of the project.


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