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Pipeline conversion OK’d by energy commission

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Questar Corp.'s Southern Trails Pipeline conversion has received final approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The commission, which had given preliminary approval to the project based on non-environmental issues in October, issued the final order last week after the agency became satisfied that the pipeline would not hurt the environment.

The pipeline reaches from the Four Corners area of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona to Long Beach, Calif. The 693-mile, 16-inch-diameter steel line was built by a group of oil companies in 1957 to move crude oil to Southern California refineries. Questar bought the pipeline in 1998 and is planning a $155 million project to switch the pipeline to natural gas transmission.

D.N. Rose, president and chief executive officer of Questar's pipeline subsidiary, said the commission's approval "validates our project and will help in our marketing efforts."

"The order gives us two years to put the line into service. So, for now, we'll continue to working on right-of-way issues and continue evaluating opportunities to develop the market," he said.

"I'm confident we can get that done despite some outstanding issues before the California Public Utilities Commission."

The project still needs final environmental approval. The final draft of the environmental impact statement is in its comment period until late August. The project must also secure state, county and city work permits and sign agreements with interconnecting pipeline companies.