All eyes will be on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissionthis week as it looks to unveil its final rulemaking on thelong-awaited complaint procedures. With this scheduled action, itwill clear away the first of numerous major initiatives on itsplate.

The question is how closely will the final rule track the noticeof proposed rulemaking (NOPR), which recommended that parties usearbitration or other informal measures to resolve their commercialdispute before filing a complaint at the Commission. It proposedalternative dispute resolution (ADR), the FERC Enforcement Hotlineand other informal measures to help settle disputes up-front[RM98-13].

The treatment of ADR, as well as the relationship of FERC’sDispute Resolution Service, a new independent office, to thecomplaint procedures will be a key issue in the final rule, saidLorraine Cross, senior vice president for the Interstate NaturalGas Association of America (INGAA). “I think that’s the issue tolook for,” she told Daily GPI.

Producers previously cited their concern with the use of ADR andother arbitration techniques, noting that disputes betweenpipelines and their customers are usually over interpretation ofeither tariff language or regulations that require Commissionexpertise to settle. They don’t believe outside arbitrators knowthe law sufficiently to do this. They also believe it will furtherdelay the process.

But the Commission believes that the use of ADR and otherinformal/preliminary resolution measures will go a long way towardsexpediting the complaint process, allowing it to weed out the lessserious complaints and focus its attention on the more difficultcases. FERC hopes to be able to resolve most complaints within 60to 90 days.

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