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NI Unit's Pipeline Project OK'd

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NiSource Inc.’s (NI) Columbia Gas Transmission operating unit received the go-ahead from federal regulators for the construction of its Line MB Extension natural gas system modernization project in Baltimore and Hartford Counties, Md.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave its consent to Columbia Gas for building the 21.3 mile line in 2014. The project will be built close to Columbia Gas’ existing Line MA between Owings Mills and Fallston in Maryland.

The Line MB program is crucial to the company’s modernization efforts and will serve as a cornerstone for the state’s natural gas supply system. The program will enhance interstate natural gas service reliability for indigenous utilities offering services to customers in areas covering Central Maryland and its adjacent provinces.

The upgrades will also minimize the risk of line outages and facilitate smooth natural gas services during safety checks. The construction is slated to be completed by 2015.

The company has set aside a capital outlay of $2 billion in 2013 of which 75% will be devoted to the development of revenue-generating assets. This explains NiSource’s heavy investments geared mostly towards expansion and modernization of its midstream infrastructure this year.

At the moment, NiSource is undertaking five major pipeline projects in the U.S., the benefits of which will be realized in the coming years. The company plans to capitalize on the current shale boom in the U.S.

In Oct 2013, the company announced the building of a 12-inch, 38-mile natural gas liquids pipeline which will act as an outlet for the Utica production. The uptrend in economic activity in NiSource’s service territories will also support the company’s growth-oriented initiatives.

Furthermore, a 37% rise in natural gas demand in North America by 2035 backed by an anticipated 66% rise in dry gas production will lead to earnings accretion.

NiSource at present carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other utility stocks looking good include Alliant Energy Corp. (LNT), Exelon Corp. (EXC) and Black Hills Corp. (BKH).

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