Looking to streamline document handling, FERC Thursday finalized a rule requiring all tariff filings by public utilities, natural gas pipelines and oil pipelines be made electronically.

The standards and protocols governing the electronic tariff filings are the product of a collaborative effort of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff, the electric and gas industry members of the North American Energy Standards Board and the Association of Oil Pipelines. The Commission said the standards and protocols will result in a “highly efficient” system of electronic filing that will make tariff information accessible to the public from FERC’s website. Implementation of the requirements will begin in 18 months to allow time for software development.

“This final rule on electronic tariff filings is a milestone. We have worked on this for some time knowing that the final outcome would create efficiency and functionality for the industry,” said FERC Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher.

The new standards “will provide each company with enhanced flexibility to develop software to better integrate tariff filings with their individual tariff maintenance and business need,” the rule states. The newly created database also will allow users to conduct historical research into tariffs and track activity, and also create automatic e-mail notification to an applicant of receipt of a filing and whether the filing has been accepted. The rule also will reduce physical storage space needs and processing time at FERC, the Commission stated.

The rule also provides that FERC staff will convene technical conferences with the industries to review development progress and to establish a staggered six-month schedule for initial implementation.

The Federal Power Act, the Natural Gas Act and the Interstate Commerce Act require regulated entities to file with FERC their transmission tariffs outlining the rates, terms and conditions for service on electric transmission systems and interstate natural gas and oil pipelines.

A notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) was issued in July 2004, followed by a supplemental NOPR in April of this year.

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