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FERC Proposes Expediting Intrastate, Hinshaw Filings

FERC Thursday proposed new optional notice procedures for intrastate and Hinshaw natural gas pipelines that would allow them to obtain quick approval of filings on rates and operating conditions without an agency order.

Under a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR), filings on rates or operating conditions by intrastate pipelines pursuant to Section 311 of the Natural Gas Policy Act and Hinshaw pipelines would be "deemed approved" if no protests were filed [RM12-17]. The optional notice procedures for the intrastate and Hinshaw lines will be included in Section 284.123 (g) of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) regulations.

"The Commission is taking this action as part of its commitment to continually review its regulations and streamline or eliminate requirements that impose an unnecessary burden on regulated entities," the NOPR said.

The notice procedures "would provide an expedited and less burdensome method of processing filings by Section 311 and Hinshaw pipelines, which present few, if any, contested issues. Many of the intrastate pipeline companies filing rates and/or statements of operating conditions pursuant to Section 284.123 are small and have few interstate shippers," it said.

Most filings by intrastate and Hinshaw pipelines routinely are not protested by shippers, FERC said. And "if a rate filing is protested, the protests often raise issues which are relatively amendable to settlement. The proposed optional notice procedures would permit approval of uncontested filings without the need for any Commission order upon expiration of a 60-day notice period."

The optional notice procedures for intrastate and Hinshaw pipelines would operate as follows: Within 10 days after filing by a pipeline, the secretary of the Commission would issue a notice of the filing, which would be published in the Federal Register. The notice would provide a deadline for interventions and initial comments 14 days after the day of the filing and for final comments and protests 60 days after the date of the filing or such other date established by the secretary of the Commission.

If no protest is filed within the time allowed, the filing would be deemed approved without a Commission order. However, if a protest is filed, the pipeline, the party that filed the protest and FERC staff would have 30 days (from the deadline for protests to the pipeline's filing) to resolve the protest and to convene an informal settlement conference to assist in resolving the protest.

If all protests to the filing are withdrawn by the end of the reconciliation period, the filing would be deemed approved, according to the Commission. But if the filing still remains contested, FERC -- within 60 days from the deadline for filing protests -- would establish procedures to resolve the proceeding. And the 150-day period in Section 284(b), under which filings are deemed approved unless the Commission acts within that period, would not apply to filings pursuant to the new notice procedures, the agency said.

The Commission's existing regulations provide similar prior notice blanket certificate procedures for interstate pipelines under Section 157 of the agency's regulations. "The program has been in place for more than three decades and has "significantly reduced regulatory burden and provides pipelines certainty with regard to the disposition of their applications. The Commission believes that Section 284 [g] would similarly lessen regulatory burdens, provide increased regulatory certainty and create an improved framework in which to achieve settlement of contested cases," the NOPR said.

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