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Columbia Gas, FERC Reach Settlement Over Auction Notice Dispute

FERC has issued an order approving a Stipulation and Consent Agreement between its Office of Enforcement (OE) and Columbia Gas Transmission requiring the Columbia Pipeline Group affiliate to pay $350,000 in civil penalties for failing to post notices of auctions of available firm capacity on the public side of its electronic bulletin board.

Columbia Gas, which admitted that the conduct violated its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Gas Tariff, also agreed to implement written procedures and internal controls to ensure that it "reports accurate and consistent data in its posted capacity reports," according to the FERC order [IN15-7].

OE opened a preliminary, non-public investigation last year into whether Columbia Gas had violated its tariff by failing to post notices of available firm capacity auctions between Jan. 1, 2010 and April 30, 2013. The notices were removed from the public side of the website and placed on its password-protected site in 2009, and were restored to the public side on May 1, 2013. "During the investigative period, no bidders affiliated with Columbia Gas participated in auctions that included capacity awarded at a discount," FERC said. Only 11 of 1,121 auctions during the investigative period included capacity that was at a discount, and capacity was awarded in only two of those auctions.

Columbia Gas now has in place a specific compliance function at the company level, and it "has taken significant remedial measures to improve compliance with the Commission's open-access transportation requirements," FERC said. Prior to the matter being referred to OE, the company revised its capacity award procedures and eliminated weekly capacity auctions. It now sells available capacity through open seasons or via unsubscribed postings on its public website. 

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