(03/14/2016)
The Mountaineer Xpress Pipeline and a proposed nearly $100 million compressor station proposed for Calhoun County could be affected by a sale of Columbia Pipeline to TransCanada.

Reports: Columbia Pipeline Group could be acquired soon By Andrew Brown, Staff Writer, Gazette Mail

TransCanada, the company that proposed building the Keystone XL Pipeline, is reportedly in acquisition talks with Columbia Pipeline Group, according to numerous national media outlets. Initial reports by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday suggested that TransCanada, which owns 42,500 miles of pipeline in North America, was seeking to take over Columbia Pipeline Group, a gas transportation company with more than 15,000 miles of pipeline that spans from the Gulf of Mexico to New York state.

Columbia Pipeline Group, which was spun off Indiana-based utility company Nisource last year, has extensive holdings in West Virginia, where it employs more than 700 people and operates around 2,500 miles of pipeline. The company is valued at roughly $9 billion.

Neither company would independently confirm that the talks were occurring or what a potential deal between the two pipeline giants might include.

"While we are in discussions regarding a potential transaction with a third party, no agreement has been reached and there is no assurance that these discussions will continue or that any transaction will be agreed upon," said Mark Cooper, a spokesperson for TransCanada.

"It is our long-standing corporate policy not to comment on market rumors or speculation," said James Yardley, the director of communications for the Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group.

When reports of the talks surfaced Thursday, Columbia Pipeline's stock jumped dramatically from $19.54 to $22.76 per share in less than an hour.

If the speculative talks do result in a takeover, it could have an impact on West Virginia and the Charleston area, where Columbia Pipeline has an office on Maccorkle Avenue.

That office, Yardley said, is responsible for monitoring more than 15,000 miles of pipeline in West Virginia and surrounding states, and Yardley said the company's footprint in the Mountain State is expected to grow, largely because of the natural gas boom in the northern half of the state.

"Columbia Pipeline Group has been in a hyper-growth phase over the past two years," Yardley said.

The company currently has at least three new interstate pipelines that would be built in West Virginia currently pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In total, those projects the Mountaineer Xpress, the Leach Xpress and the WB Xpress projects are expected to cost millions of dollars and would help the company transport more gas to ports on the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

The company's aggressive expansion, Yardley said, could require it to add roughly 200 more employees in West Virginia alone. He said it was already hiring some of those employees in West Virginia.


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