A federal regulatory commission plans to reconsider its approval of a controversial natural gas pipeline route that could negatively impact some planned developments in Pinal County.
In November, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a proposed route for a natural gas pipeline despite opposition from government officials at state and local levels along with representatives of nearly 40 different developments that are either under construction, approved or proposed. Five of those developments are in Pinal County, including a Casa Grande project to install sewer infrastructure and trails along an area wash.
The Pinal County Board of Supervisors has been adamant that the Transwestern Pipeline Co. follow existing utility easements, sharing trenches with El Paso Natural Gas Co. and the Salt River Project. But plans submitted by Transwestern to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission show the route strays from those existing easements.
"The county has not changed its position," county spokeswoman Heather Murphy said. "It makes more sense for utility infrastructure to stay within existing utility corridors whenever possible."
Transwestern is planning a 44-mile stretch of its Phoenix Expansion Project in Pinal County as part of a 260-mile pipeline running from Coconino County to Pinal County. The pipeline would supply natural gas throughout the state and the East Valley.
Court Rich, an attorney representing some Pinal County developers who are in the path of Transwestern's planned route, said he is pleased FERC decided to reconsider the matter.
"FERC is taking a hard look at the decision they made," Rich said. "They have options, and they're definitely taking a good, hard look at what they did and determine if the route is correct."
Rich said FERC typically rejects motions for reconsideration, which in this case were filed by property owners in Pinal County and in the West Valley.
County Supervisor David Snider said he is "cautiously optimistic," with FERC's decision to rehear the pipeline case.
"It's good they've agreed there's merit to rehear it and for that we are appreciative," Snider said. "Our position is in concert with the landowners' opinion. The opinion of local government ought to count for something."
Transwestern spokesman John Ambler said FERC's decision is a procedural matter.
"This is a procedural matter to gather additional information and not arbitrarily deny the appeal," he said. "There's not much more that should be implied. We'll all wait to see how it develops."