Idaho regulators last Wednesday issued a declaratory order clarifying that they do not have jurisdiction to regulate natural gas vehicle (NGV) fuel sales to third parties.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) took its action in response to a request from MDU Resources' Boise, ID-based Intermountain Gas Corp. (Separately, California regulators last Thursday for the third time in the past two months delayed making a decision on the same issue that is before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The CPUC is scheduled to take up the issue when it next meets July 29).
As has happened to a number of utilities around the nation, Intermountain Gas has been asked to sell various third-party entities natural gas so they can resell it as compressed natural gas (CNG) for vehicle fleets.
Intermountain asked the PUC for assurances that the state regulatory commission had no jurisdiction over sales to nonutility gas retailers and it would not consider the gas utility in violation of state law if it sold supplies to various third parties, a PUC spokesperson said. The federal 1992 Natural Gas Policy Act restricts the regulatory commission's jurisdiction over the resale of natural gas for transportation purposes, Intermountain asserted in its filing in April.
The Idaho PUC said it agreed the 1992 federal energy law preempts its authority in this area. Consequently, the PUC said it "will not exert rate-setting jurisdiction over the resale of natural gas for use as a fuel in most vehicles," the PUC spokesperson said.
In the area of safety of CNG fueling stations, the PUC said it will have a role up to a point. The declaratory order addressed the safety of natural gas facilities issue, noting the state PUC's jurisdiction runs to the point that Intermountain's facilities connect to a customer's metering device.
"Beyond that point, the International Fire Code establishes the safety requirements for facilities dispensing CNG as a motor fuel," the PUC spokesperson said. He noted that state and local fire authorities are primarily responsible for enforcing the International Fire Code.
In addition to Intermountain raising the liability issue for gas resellers related to the fire issues, the Treasure Valley Clean Cities Coalition in Idaho submitted comments supporting the gas utility's request. The local coalition said it supported more use of CNG as a motor fuel.
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