GISB Nearing Single Internet Solution to Give FERC
The gas industry's long and winding road from pipeline
electronic bulletin boards (EBBs) to the Internet is heading back
to the Gas Industry Standards Board Executive Committee for further
debate. However, progress has been made as GISB has so far narrowed
the number of proposals for Internet transition from seven down to
The GISB Executive Committee is strongly in favor of one of the
models, known as Model 2 or CAMEL, the Consortium Advancing Mutual
Electronic Links. The Executive Committee (EC) previously voted out
Model 2 and Model 1 to be sent to the board. Model 2 received 19
votes from EC members, while Model 1 received only two votes. The
GISB board of directors decided rather than choose one or send both
proposals to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) it
would send them back to the EC in the hope one or a combination of
the two could be decided upon.
"They're putting the responsibility for developing the standards
for interactive Web sites back to the executive committee," said
GISB Executive Director Rae McQuade. "We don't have a set timeline
yet. We certainly have a timeline established by [FERC] Order 587-G
[of June 1, 1999]." [The EC] can do what they want. They could look
at the standards individually. They could follow a road map that
supported one or the other model." McQuade said she was pleased
with the board's decision to return the proposals to the EC. "It's
better than what I expected."
FERC Order No. 587-G, issued in May, elicited howls of protest
from every corner of the gas industry forest, mainly for its
mandate that pipelines abandon their electronic bulletin boards by
June 1, 1999. The order said pipelines may - but will not be
required to - provide interactive sites on the World Wide Web. FERC
said pipelines would be allowed cost-of-service recovery in
subsequent Section 4 rate cases for the costs of the interactive
sites only if they, along with GISB, create standards governing
access to, presentation and format of the sites. Total
implementation of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for pipeline
transactions, as specified by the FERC, is opposed because of EDI's
perceived implementation and usage cost, particularly to small and
In presenting Model 2 to the GISB board last week, Internet
transition planning task force member Mike Novak 2 explained the
principle difference between FERC-specified ANSI X12 EDI and
pipeline EBBs as the fact that EBBs are interactive and EDI is not.
"Interactivity is important because we as human beings are
interactive by nature." He said Model 2 features standard
navigation and consistent screen layout for Web sites and supports
X12 EDI "when and where it makes sense," namely for larger
companies handling numerous transactions.
Model 1, explained Internet task force member Jim Buccigross,
neither requires nor prohibits transactional Internet Web sites and
gives greater support to use of X12 EDI. He said "there are
multiple services available, including low-cost ones," for EDI
During the meeting it was noted by board members that not a
single advocate inside GISB, including independent
software/services providers, has said pipeline EBBs should be shut
down. GISB EC Chairman Mike Bray noted he's never seen such
unanimous opposition to a FERC order as 587-G has garnered. "In my
opinion, the day of decision has arrived. Which road does this
industry want to follow," he said.
Greg Lander, president of service provider TransCapacity, was
visibly pleased by the board's decision. Another option could have
had GISB retaining both models and asking FERC to decide the
contentious issues of pricing, requirements and whether EBBs should
be eliminated. Lander said he was thankful the board didn't get
involved in picking particular approaches from the two models but
stuck with its policy and sent the matter back to the EC.
"We feel that the issues of cost and requirement and the future
of presentation systems is a FERC issue and not a GISB issue, so
what typically happens at GISB is we resolve and work through those
things which we all agree on first, and then we have the
contentious ones parked waiting for further word from the FERC,"
Lander said. This is what has happened in the past with issues
related to matters such as title transfers, operational balancing
agreements, and intraday nominations.
"In essence, that's what's happened here. We will work on what
we agree on. Both sides agree that pipelines should not be
compelled to create Web sites. Both sides agreed that EDI was part
of whatever plan we went forward with. And both sides laid out a
lot of the similarities.
"At this point, given the timing of GISB's efforts, it's hopeful
that FERC will drop the other shoe in the next couple to several
months and that will fit nicely into both of our timelines."
Joe Fisher, Houston