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
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