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Columbia Gas hails approval of pipeline improvement plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- NiSource Inc., the corporate parent of Columbia Gas Transmission, announced it has received federal approval for a plan to invest $300 million a year over each of the next five years on improvements to its pipeline system.

The improvements approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, will take place on Columbia's system in West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Kentucky and will create more than 7,000 direct jobs, NiSource said today.

Chevalier Mayes, NiSource's communications manager, said the projects will create or support about 1,700 jobs in West Virginia.

NiSource spokesman Karl Brack pointed out that regardless of where the projects take place, much of the engineering, planning, purchasing and project management work will occur at the company's offices in Charleston.

NiSource has about 590 employees in West Virginia. Many work out of the Columbia Gas office tower at 1700 MacCorkle Ave. S.E., next to Frontier Communications' regional headquarters.

Jimmy Staton, Columbia's chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement that federal approval of the company's plan "is a milestone in our efforts to modernize Columbia's interstate pipeline system in a balanced, thoughtful and transparent manner.

"We acknowledge FERC for their timely review and approval, and appreciate the collaboration from our customers," Staton said. "We look forward to getting the job done. The work we do will help ensure safer, more reliable pipeline infrastructure for our customers and the communities across our footprint."

Columbia's plan was formulated long before last month's rupture of a 20-inch gas transmission line near Sissonville. The rupture triggered a massive fire that destroyed four homes and charred a section of Interstate 77. No one was seriously injured.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has scheduled a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee on Monday in Charleston to look into pipeline safety.

NiSource said FERC's approval covers the first five years of its investment plan and contains provisions for potential extension thereafter. The company said Columbia's entire infrastructure investment plan could involve an investment of about $4 billion over a 10- to 15-year period.

Contact writer George Hohmann at or 304-348-4836.



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