Shippers have withdrawn their complaint accusing Columbia Gas Transmission of unilaterally trying to implement a new and revised master list of interconnection (MLI) points, a move that shippers said would have seriously impaired their ability to schedule primary firm transportation on Columbia’s system.

Shippers filed the withdrawal notice after Columbia asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to withdraw its proposed tariff changes, which were at the center of the dispute between the pipeline and its shippers. FERC in July directed its staff to convene a technical conference to resolve the issues in the complaint proceeding (see Daily GPI, July 7).

“During the technical conference [in early August], Columbia agreed that it would withdraw its tariff filing…without prejudice. In addition, Columbia agreed that it would not implement any changes to the composition of MLIs without a formal filing with the Commission. Columbia will allow shippers to review in advance a draft of any filing to change the composition of MLIs and provide feedback prior to filing. Columbia shippers have agreed to withdraw, without prejudice, their complaint, based on [several] conditions,” the NiSource pipeline said in its request for withdrawal [RP08-401, RP08-403].

“Neither Columbia’s withdrawal of its tariff filing nor the Columbia shippers’ withdrawal of their complaint is intended to waive any rights of Columbia to make one or more new tariff filings to propose changes to its MLIs, or any rights of any of the Columbia shippers to protest any filing by Columbia to modify its current MLIs or challenge any action by Columbia to implement new MLIs without Commission authorization,” the shippers said in their notice of withdrawal.

In June Columbia Gas filed tariff sheets seeking to clarify the nature of the MLI points and their use as identifiers of virtual scheduling points in its tariff. The shippers responded with a Section 5 complaint, charging that Columbia intended to unilaterally implement new primary delivery points without seeking permission from FERC. They argued that the pipeline’s action would be a violation of both the Natural Gas Act and the agency’s Section 284 regulations (see Daily GPI, June 10).

The complainants included Atmos Energy Marketing LLC, BP Energy, Delta Energy LLC, Hess Corp., Honda of America Manufacturing Inc., Integrys Energy Services, Interstate Gas Supply Inc., National Energy Marketers Association, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Sequent Energy Management LP. The shippers hold more than 130 forward-haul contracts with Columbia representing an aggregate maximum contract quantity of more than 400,000 Dth/d.

The Columbia shippers argued that the pipeline’s tariff proposal would have changed unilaterally hundreds of contractual obligations between Columbia and its shippers without the consent of FERC or the shippers. They said the proposal would give Columbia “sole discretion” both to change the points posted on the MLI and to change contracts in violation of Commission policy.

The shippers said Columbia’s proposal would have abrogated currently effective service agreements and restricted service flexibility. “Columbia would increase the number of primary delivery points on its system from 255 to 371, an increase of 116 delivery points. In practical terms, this increase means that firm shippers that schedule gas to a single primary point under a current contract will henceforth be required to schedule to as many as 10 different delivery points,” the shipper group told FERC.

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