Evidence into whether two interstate natural gas pipeline companies, which were placed under investigation in January, overcharged customers in recovering costs of service are getting a rehearing by FERC. Meanwhile, settlement talks over a probe into a third company continue.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued orders on Monday granting a rehearing into investigations of Bear Creek Storage Co. LLC [RP19-51] and Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co. LP [RP19-78]. Investigations into the companies, as well as Northern Natural Gas Co. [RP19-59], were ordered in January.

According to FERC records, a settlement conference in the Northern Natural case originally scheduled for March 5 has been moved to May 16. Settlement Judge David Coffman had recommended that the settlement talks continue, and Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Carmen Cintron concurred in an order issued last week.

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The investigations stem from a final rule unanimously approved last July. Order 849 required interstate gas pipelines to file a one-time report, Form 501-G, to provide a rough estimate of the return on equity (ROE) before and after passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Form 501-G also reflects changes to FERC's income tax allowance policies following the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's ruling in the United Airlines v. FERC case.

FERC said the investigations and hearings would determine whether the existing rates are just and reasonable according to Section 5 of the Natural Gas Act. Commission ALJs are to hold hearings to determine the just and reasonable ROE for each company. FERC also ordered the three companies in January to submit a cost and revenue study for the latest available 12-month period within 75 days after the order was issued.