State’s oil and gas pipeline capacity rising along with scrutiny

A lack of natural gas pipeline capacity has long been cited as one of the reasons Colorado is less competitive with other states in pricing its gas for markets, but the completion of the Rocky Mountain Express last year and the promise of the new Ruby Pipeline in Wyoming is quickly changing all of that.

Gov. Bill Ritter Monday praised the proposed Wyoming pipeline, which will connect to the California-Oregon border and get Colorado gas to West Coast markets. “I want to thank the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for recognizing the importance of this $3 billion project and allowing it to move forward,” he said in a release.

Ritter, a Democrat, has had a love-hate relationship with natural gas – spearheading controversial new rules last year to increase environmental accountability and this year creating new local markets by championing a bill to convert coal-fired electrical plants to natural gas.

However, the nation’s 2.3 million miles of oil and gas pipelines are under increased scrutiny after last week’s spill by an Enbridge Energy pipeline of nearly 1 million gallons of oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. As with the Minerals Management Service in the Deepwater Horizon spill, Department of Transportation regulators who oversee pipelines have been criticized for their cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry.

Still, oil spill and energy reform legislation meant to prevent future Deepwater Horizon and Michigan accidents is stuck in the Senate after the House passed its version Friday. U.S. Rep. John Salazar, the lone dissenting Colorado Democratic delegation vote, explained Friday why he couldn’t support a bill he felt had no chance in the Senate:

“There are a lot of good things in the bill that passed today [Friday] that Congress can and should pursue,” Salazar said in a release. “But to pursue those things at the cost of delaying action on regulating the oil and gas industry is a mistake.”

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