Planning starts for new natural gas pipeline across state

Efforts to upgrade one of Connecticut's three major natural gas transmission lines will start next week as the owners of the Algonquin pipeline begin meeting with homeowners who live along its route.

Officials with Spectra Energy, the Houston-based company that owns the Algonquin pipeline, will hold meetings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with landowners. The main part of the line extends from Danbury across the state to Thompson in Connecticut's northeast corner and includes major spurs into North Haven and New London.

Marylee Hanley, director of stakeholder outreach for Spectra Energy, said the meetings are just open to the landowners who might be affected by the improvements.

"These are informational meetings where we'll have maps that show the property of land owners and will allow them to express any concerns they might have about the proposed route," Hanley said. Because the project is in its preliminary stages, she declined to offer details about the route.

"We're to replace about 33 miles of older transmission lines with newer pipes in various segments along the route," she said. The plans also include adding 19 miles of new pipeline to the spurs that go into North Haven and New London, Hanley said.

After getting input from landowners who live along the pipeline, Spectra Energy is expected to make its final recommendation by early summer to federal utility regulators as to where improvements should be made. The goal is to start construction on the pipeline in March 2015 and have the transmission line in service by Nov. 2016.

Spectra Energy delivers natural gas from four points: The Gulf of Mexico, the Rocky Mountain region, Nova Scotia and the Marcellus Shale deposit, which stretches across central New York and Pennsylvania.

Hanley said part of the reason for the expansion is a facet of Connecticut's energy policy that calls for helping the state's natural gas utilities expand their customer base. State officials have said that 50 percent of the state's homes are heated with oil, and that, with natural gas prices at historic lows, consumers would benefit by having the gas option.

Another large pipeline operator, Shelton-based Iroquois Transmission System, announced in January it was entering into a venture with the Constitution pipeline project that is being proposed west of Albany, N.Y.

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