The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) is taking comments until Aug. 25 on proposed changes to Form T-4 that operators of natural gas, crude oil, carbon dioxide and other pipelines must submit to the commission indicating whether a pipeline is to be operated as a gas utility, common carrier, or as a private pipeline. Texas law generally grants condemnation power to operators of gas utility and common carrier pipelines but not to operators of private pipelines. Recent condemnation cases in Texas, including Texas Rice Land Partners Ltd. v. Denbury Green Pipeline-Texas LLC, determined that RRC approval of a Form T-4 does not conclusively determine a pipeline's classification, according to an analysis by law firm Vinson & Elkins LLP (V&E). Amendments recommended by RRC staff to Section 3.70 of Title 16 of the Texas Administrative Code would create a procedure to more thoroughly analyze Form T-4 applications for new pipelines and for changes in classifying existing pipelines. "Pipeline operators as well as producers should take notice of the proposed rule amendments and closely monitor the potential effects a final rule may have on pipeline infrastructure development, including the pace in which such development may take place in the future and the effects the commission's more structured analysis may have on the condemnation process in Texas," V&E said.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) is recommending a $7.8 million (4.8%) increase in retail natural gas rates for Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities, less than the combination utility had requested. The company's original request was for an increase of $12.1 million, or 8.1%. UTC staff is recommending a retail utility electric rate decrease of $8.2 million, or 1.7%, compared with Avista's request for $18.2 million, or 3.8%. Public hearings are scheduled for Aug. 26 and 27, with a UTC decision late this year with the new rates effective Jan. 1.