Complaints Put on the Fast Track at FERC
FERC has unveiled its long-awaited final rule on expedited
complaint procedures, the focus of which is its fast-track process
for resolving industry disputes within 20 to 60 days after an
initial complaint is filed. The Commission voted out the order
notationally late Wednesday.
The fast-track procedures aren't meant to replace the standard
procedures for resolving complaints at the Commission, but rather
are intended to complement them, according to FERC. To get a case
on the fast track, a complainant must make "a highly credible claim
and a persuasive showing that the standard complaint process will
not provide meaningful relief," Commissioner William Massey said.
If such a showing is made, the Commission will issue a
procedural order (on how it intends to process the complaint) "if
necessary within 2 to 3 days after [an] answer" to the complaint is
filed by the other party, he noted. And it will try to rule on the
merits of a dispute within 20 days after a response has been
submitted. The final rule requires that parties respond to
complaints within 20 days of their filing. "I would have preferred
that we make the fast track even faster by delegating to staff
certain process decisions, but the majority did not agree."
In addition to the fast-track process, the final rule codifies
FERC's current Enforcement Hotline procedures, brings FERC's
current alternative dispute resolution (ADR) into conformance with
the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996, offers ADR as
one of the available paths for handling complaints, specifies in
detail the information that must be included in complaints, and
establishes a simplified procedure for resolving complaints that
involve less than $100,000.
"We're much clearer than we ever have been about what the
criteria are for accepting [a] complaint, [and] how quickly
responses need to be filed. We make available various modes of
resolution, including an innovative fast track process...There are
a lot of new approaches in here-the use of ADR, real-time
Commission decisions, expeditious hearing orders, [and] interim
relief," which is "something I like especially because [it's] a
small claims process" for settling disputes, said Chairman James
He further noted the Commission has set up an E-mail address for
the Enforcement Hotline - firstname.lastname@example.org - to aid industry.
This is in addition to the phone number: (877) 303-4340. "We're
plugged in and ready to roll," Hoecker said, adding that the
Hotline has been effective as an alternative to filing formal
Both producers and pipelines reacted positively to the final
complaint rule. Producers especially favored the fast-track
procedures, codifying the Hotline, and the Commission's concept of
providing interim relief to complainants, said Philip Budzik of the
Natural Gas Supply Association.
"It's really encouraging" the Commission has issued a final rule
because "a lot of other things depend on an expedited complaint
process," such as negotiated terms and conditions, said Lorraine
Cross, senior vice president of the Interstate Natural Gas
Association of America (INGAA). She was encouraged the Commission
codified its Hotline procedures-a position that the pipelines
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