FERC on Monday issued a final rule that would allow interstate natural gas pipelines and electric transmission operators to voluntarily share nonpublic operational information to enhance the reliability and integrity of their systems.

The final rule adopts the regulations that were proposed in a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) that was issued in mid-July (see Daily GPI, Aug. 28). It removes the barriers to the sharing of nonpublic information, not just during emergencies but also for day-to-day operations, planned outages and scheduled maintenance. The rule includes a non-conduit provision that bars the recipient of nonpublic information from subsequently disclosing that information to a marketing function employee or to a third party.

“Several events over the last few years, such as the [curtailments and outages in the Southwest in February 2011], demonstrate the crucial interaction between natural gas pipelines and electric transmission systems and the need for robust communications between these industry sectors to ensure that both systems operate safely and effectively for the benefit of their customers,” the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rule [RM13-17] said.

The no-conduit provision applies only to information that an interstate gas pipeline or electric transmission operator exchange pursuant to the final rule. It does not affect current communications among interstate and intrastate natural gas pipelines, local distribution companies (LDCs) and gatherers regarding conditions affecting gas flows between those physically interconnected parties, nor does it affect communications between transmission system operators and load-serving entities.

Electric transmission operators would have to seek Commission authorization if they wish to share information received from an interstate pipeline with an LDC.

While supporting the overall NOPR, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) called on FERC to waive the no-conduit rule during critical and imminent or ongoing emergency situations in order to ensure reliability. There should be no limit on the sharing of nonpublic, operational information between transmission operators during an emergency, including communications between third parties, the pipeline group told the Commission. FERC did not make the requested change in the final rule.

In the NOPR, FERC focused on the types of nonpublic, operational information that can be exchanged by pipes and transmission operators in the near-term, such as planned maintenance and known outages. INGAA urged the Commission to provide further guidance on what nonpublic information transmission operators may share regarding longer term operational planning.

The final rule takes effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.