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2004-01-24 23:45:28

Natural-Gas Pipeline Clears Another Hurdle

A pipeline that would carry natural gas from the Bahamas to South Florida is one step closer to reality after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the project final approval.

The commission voted 4-0 Thursday to approve the Ocean Express pipeline, which would carry natural gas from Ocean Cay in the southern Biminis to Broward County, where it would serve as fuel for power plants.

The pipeline still needs approval from the government of the Bahamas, where environmentalists say they will continue to fight it.

The commission, a board appointed by President Bush, approved the pipeline without discussion, spokeswoman Tamara Young-Allen said. The commission included a long list of environmental-protection conditions in its draft order approving the project.

The Ocean Express pipeline would be built by AES Corp., which is competing with two other companies to build pipelines to serve the region's growing demand for natural gas to produce electricity.

The company expects to start work this summer and put the pipeline into operation by August 2006.

El Paso Corp. has proposed a pipeline from Grand Bahamas to the Port of Palm Beach, and Tractebel North America has proposed one from Freeport to Dania Beach. AES's victory Thursday makes it the first of the three to win final approval.

Under each proposal, countries that produce natural gas, such as Nigeria and Trinidad, would send it in liquid form by tanker to the Bahamas. Processing plants would convert it back to gas and send it through the pipelines to South Florida, where smaller pipes would carry it to power plants.

Environmentalists generally support the use of natural gas because it emits far less pollution when burned than oil or coal. But some environmentalists in Florida see the pipeline as a threat to natural resources.

The Associated Press 

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