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Pipelines Favor 'Voluntary' Collaborative Procedures

December 7, 1998
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Pipelines Favor 'Voluntary' Collaborative Procedures

Mandating the use of a pre-filing collaborative process for natural gas pipelines would do more harm than good, and in the end could thwart industry's efforts to build enough transportation capacity to support a 30 Tcf market by 2010, a major pipeline group says.

In comments filed at FERC last week, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) suggested the pre-filing collaborative process should be offered to gas pipelines only as a "purely voluntary" option. "The proposed procedures may prove useful for resolving disputes and garnering comments on certain natural gas pipeline certificate projects," the group allowed. "However, they do not appear useful for many projects and, indeed, could slow the certificate process down."

The INGAA comments were in response to the Commission's notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR), which would require gas pipelines to use collaborative procedures to resolve significant issues prior to filing project applications at FERC [RM98-16]. The process already is being used, with some success, in hydroelectric relicensing cases.

But INGAA doesn't believe the collaborative process lends itself well to pipeline certificate cases. "Pre-filing time pressures are often intense [in pipeline projects]. End-users will elect to move from gas to alternative fuels if there are extended delays in the pipeline certification process," the pipeline group cautioned. Most importantly, opponents of pipeline projects aren't much interested in resolving issues through collaboration, it said. If anything, "opponents of the project have an incentive in a collaborative procedure to delay the process."

In the event voluntary collaborative procedures are endorsed by FERC, the Commission should not treat project sponsors that use the collaborative method any better than those that choose not to use it, INGAA said. Specifically, projects that choose the traditional route to certification "should not be viewed by the Commission as being less time-sensitive or of less value to the marketplace" than projects that select the collaborative process.

Given that most pipeline projects are often contested by competitors, INGAA suggested that the issues to be discussed in a collaborative setting be limited strictly to environmental. "It is difficult, and perhaps undesirable, for the Commission to encourage or require economic competitors to collaborate," it said. In addition, INGAA believes a pipeline sponsor should have the right to terminate the pre-filing collaborative process in the event it should decide to file its application under the traditional procedure.

Susan Parker

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