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NARUC Resolves to Push for More LIHEAP Funding, Safety Initiative for Distribution Pipes

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), a group of state utility regulators, approved two resolutions Wednesday that support efforts to beef up the funding for low-income energy customers and improve the safety of natural gas distribution pipeline systems.

One resolution calls on the NARUC board of directors to urge Congress to raise funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to $3.4 billion in fiscal year 2006 from the $2 billion proposed by the Bush administration.

"The average heating bill has just about doubled in the last three years, but [LIHEAP) funding has not kept pace with the need. State regulators and utilities confront this harsh reality almost every day," said Steve Crout of the American Gas Association (AGA), which represents gas utilities and endorsed the NARUC resolution.

A second NARUC resolution urged federal and state regulators and public safety advocates to develop a new gas distribution pipeline safety initiative using risk-based, cost-beneficial performance standards.

Specifically, NARUC resolved to encourage states, the federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) and gas distribution pipeline operators to develop an approach to distribution integrity management that uses measures, which reflect that operators are knowledgeable of their infrastructure, can identify threats against their systems and take action to reduce risks of system failures, while at the same time balancing the needs to ensure continued safe operation and reliable service.

"We look forward to working with the state regulators in developing an effective approach to distribution pipeline management," said Lori Traweek, senior vice president of AGA operations and engineering.

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