El Paso Gas Pipeline Project: 4/24/12 Update


Pipeline Proposed From Sea of Cortez To Three Points: 4/24/12 Update


The Pima NRCD Board of Supervisors held a second public meeting with El Paso Gas present on Tuesday, April 24, 2012. The Board of Supervisors approved detailed minutes from the previous meeting, which are now available to the public.

Representatives from El Paso Gas updated the attendees on recent changes regarding the proposed pipeline plans. Based on environmental and border security concerns aired at the previous NRCD meeting, El Paso Gas (EPG) met with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and is presently changing the names of the alternatives. Previously, the route proposed two miles west of State Highway 286 from Three Points to Sasabe was called the “Preferred Alternative.” For now, it will be referred to as the “West Alternative.” The route alongside the State Highway 286 right-of-way through the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) will be referred to as the “East Alternative.”

The name change will temporarily place the two alternatives on a footing of equal preference so that equal effort will go into the studies required for the initial documentation to file with FERC. The company plans to file its application for permitting in December or early January. At that point, FERC will require that a Preferred Alternative be identified.

The company has pipeline infrastructure currently in place in Nogales, AZ but will not explore using it because the unidentified customer does not wish to build an extra 30 miles of pipeline to Nogales. Not mentioned in the meeting but very likely, it is far less expensive for El Paso Gas to run a new pipeline down the sandy Altar Valley than for either party to cross 20 miles of the Pajarito Mountains where the border terrain is too steep, rocky and rugged for 4-wheel-drive motorized access.

The project will go through a “pre-filing process” prior to the start of the scoping required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The NEPA process for a FERC application is different than for a federal lands management plan. A “pre-filing process” will begin when EPG submits a notice of intent to FERC. The pre-filing process is followed up with El Paso’s open house meetings to gather public information and commentary. Those meeting are then followed up with scoping meetings that will be documented by a court reporter and minutes submitted to FERC. The company must address all issues raised during the formal scoping process.

El Paso Gas expects to file letter of intent with FERC early next week.

Within five days of filing, FERC will assign a pre-filing docket number that will be available on FERC’s “difficult to navigate” website. El Paso Gas also will post information on their own website to make the information more accessible to the public. The only information that will not be made public is data that may otherwise compromise the security of an archaeological site, endangered species breeding location, etc. Dialogue will remain open between El Paso Gas and interested stakeholder groups during the NEPA process.