Energy company proposes new gas pipelines

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HARTFORD -- In another sign that natural gas is outpacing costlier heating oil, a Texas energy company is proposing to install new pipelines, replace others and build transmission stations in the heavily populated, 200-mile New York-to-Boston corridor.

The preliminary plan proposed by Algonquin Gas Transmissions, a unit of Spectra Energy in Houston, would build and replace about 44 miles of pipeline in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, install a new pipeline to span the Hudson River in New York and build compressor stations to boost gas flow.

But reluctance by power-generating companies to commit to the project has emerged as an early problem, and environmentalists who say natural gas is only slightly less dirty than other fossil fuels are protesting expanded gas pipelines.

The project, which would expand the current Algonquin system, would add 450,000 cubic feet of gas per day to the 2 billion cubic feet piped in daily.

Intended to begin service Nov. 1, 2016, the larger system is "designed to deliver critically needed natural gas supplies that will meet immediate and future supply" in the Northeast, Algonquin said in its proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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"Converting home heating units and other appliances to natural gas represents a substantial source of growth in the region," Algonquin said.

It cites a new Connecticut law spurring natural gas hookups to nearly 300,000 residential and business customers over 10 years. Connecticut regulators are considering a proposal by the state's three gas companies seeking new rates spreading the cost of natural gas hookups over 25 years and other rate changes to encourage a large-scale switch to natural gas.

Until recently, much of the natural gas in the United States has come from Gulf Coast states, such as Texas and Louisiana. New sources of natural gas, such as the Marcellus Shale in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, now present additional opportunities to tap natural gas, said Cathy Landry, spokeswoman for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.

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