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Gas Industry Gets Second FERC Extension for Christmas

Gas Industry Gets Second FERC Extension for Christmas

FERC last week played Santa Claus to the natural gas industry by granting its wish for a second extension of the deadline for comments on the mega-notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) addressing short-term capacity issues and notice of inquiry (NOI) focusing on long-term transportation issues (RM98-10, RM98-12]. But it did not close the door on those few who might want to file comments under the current schedule.

The Commission's action would push back the deadline for industry comments by three months, moving it from Jan. 22 to April 22. However, FERC said it still "would be interested in any comments that can be filed on a voluntary basis within the current schedule, addressing the relationship between the short-term issues in the NOPR and the long-term issues in the NOI." Comments submitted in January would not represent the "last opportunity" for companies to provide input on the two initiatives, it assured the industry. "The Commission merely wishes to be more fully apprised of the current state of the parties' ideas."

It also called on the industry to focus more on issues other than the proposed auction for short-term capacity, which is the centerpiece of the NOPR. The Commission noted issues such as negotiated terms and conditions and certificate policy have received "little attention." In addition, there has been "little dialogue concerning rate designs for long-term contracts that would remove or lessen the current bias toward short-term contracts."

The extension will give the gas industry more time "to focus on these important issues and to better formulate comments," and at the same time will give Commission staff "the opportunity to continue holding conferences and using other means to continue the interaction with all segments of the industry..."

The extension was sought earlier this month by the four major gas groups that make up the Natural Gas Council, in conjunction with the Process Gas Consumers Group, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the Georgia Industrial Group and the Edison Electric Institute. FERC's delayed response to their request had caused some anxious moments for the groups. "It's giving me heartburn," one source acknowledged.

Susan Parker

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