The U.S. Department of Transportation says it will fast-track federal permitting for a six-state, 1,000-mile pipeline modernization project by NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage Inc.
The project will “produce thousands of jobs, enhance safety and increase energy capacity,” DOT said in a statement Friday (April 20).
‘Speed Up Construction’
“A year ago, I asked pipeline operators to take a hard look at their infrastructure and identify those sections of pipeline that need to be repaired, rehabilitated or replaced to ensure safer and more reliable delivery of energy resources,” said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.
NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage
|The project will include replacing gas transmission lines in the Marcellus Shale region, where NiSource is also building the PennStar Pipeline with UGI Corp.|
“And we are happy to help NiSource speed up construction and replace some of the oldest pipelines in the nation, ensuring good jobs and increased safety for people in Pittsburgh, as well as throughout Pennsylvania and the other states that will benefit from this project.”
LaHood and PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman met Friday with Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and representatives from NiSource to pledge their support for expediting the construction.
NiSource, based in Merrillville, IN, has announced it will modernize its Columbia Gas Transmission LLC gas transmission and storage system by replacing aging infrastructure that serves communities in six states.
The system includes the Marcellus Shale gas production region, where most of the pipeline infrastructure is more than 40 years old and running on inefficient platforms.
The modernization project will take place in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. DOT says the project “will promote the safe and reliable delivery of energy resources across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States.”
Over the past several years, NiSource companies have been modernizing local utility infrastructure, including replacing more than 1,000 miles of bare steel and cast iron pipelines with more modern, corrosion-resistant materials.
‘America’s Core Energy Infrastructure’
NiSource’s Columbia Gas Transmission subsidiary is also launching a program to upgrade its 12,000-mile interstate pipeline system.
“At NiSource, we are pleased to play our part in this long-term, nation-wide commitment to enhancing America’s core energy infrastructure,” said Jimmy Staton, executive vice president and group CEO of NiSource’s gas transmission and storage business.
|“This is exactly the kind of project that government should help facilitate,” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman.|
“We welcome the Department of Transportation’s support in facilitating our investments through an efficient permitting and regulatory review process.”
Staton thanked LaHood, Ravenstahl, President Obama ”and our many other federal, state and local stakeholders who play a role in helping modernize our nation’s energy infrastructure. We look forward to working together to get the job done.”
By the Numbers
NiSource projects that the project will:
• Invest $4 billion over 10 to 15 years, beginning this year;
• Directly produce 7,000 to 8,000 jobs; and
• Replace about 1,000 miles of large-diameter pipeline using domestic-made steel.
“A modern pipeline infrastructure is crucial for the efficient and safe delivery of our nation’s resources, and this is exactly the kind of project that government should help facilitate,” said Quarterman. “We will help them work through the process and make sure the project is constructed safely.”
DOT said it would coordinate with other government entities “to identify opportunities to remove overlaps and expedite the regulatory and approval processes without sacrificing safety or lowering industry standards.”
‘This is Personal’
A year ago, LaHood called on owners and operators across the nation’s 2.5 million-mile pipeline network to conduct comprehensive reviews of their systems to identify high-risk areas and accelerate critical repair and replacement work.
The initiative followed a series of pipeline accidents, including a natural-gas explosion in Allentown, PA, that killed five people.
On Friday, LaHood commended Pennsylvania legislators for enacting the state’s new Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Act, which expands the state Public Utilities Commission’s authority to enforce federal pipeline safety laws as they relate to gas and hazardous liquids pipeline equipment and facilities in Pennsylvania.
“This is personal for all of us,” La Hood said. “None of us ever want to see another tragedy like the one that happened in Allentown.”