Interstate pipeline National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. last Monday filed an “agreement in principle” at FERC that it says resolves all the issues raised in a complaint lodged by several Pennsylvania and New York agencies.

The Section 5 Natural Gas Act complaint was brought earlier this year by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate. It alleged that National Fuel’s rates have become “unjust and unreasonable” over the past 11 years since FERC reviewed a 1995 settlement that established the rates. As a result of its rates, the agencies claimed that National Fuel has earned excess revenues of $30 million for each year in the 2003-2005 period.

The agencies further alleged that National Fuel was retaining more than twice as much fuel from its shippers than was necessary to operate its system and was selling the excess on the spot markets and keeping all the revenue. They estimated that National Fuel recovered up to $23 million a year during the 2000-2004 period from selling excess retained gas.

In a June 7 order, FERC set the complaint for hearing and ordered an investigation into National Fuel’s rates. But it suspended the hearing so that the parties could first try to resolve the dispute on their own before a settlement judge. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in that same order, denied the agencies’ request for a summary disposition finding that the amount of gas that National Fuel retains from its shippers for transportation and storage compressor fuel and other uses is excessive.

The parties to the complaint proceeding are in the process of preparing a stipulation and agreement that would form the basis for a formal offer of settlement, according to National Fuel. The offer of settlement will be filed with Administrative Law Judge Joseph R. Nacy for certification by the full Commission. It asked FERC to suspend the procedural schedule in the case so that the parties can focus on their settlement talks.

“National Fuel is authorized to represent that all active parties are committed to filing a settlement as soon as possible. However, in the event such a filing is not made by Oct. 27, 2006, National Fuel will file a status report with…Nacy on that date and in 30-day periods thereafter,” National Fuel said in an unopposed motion to suspend the procedural schedule [RP06-298-003].

According to National Fuel, its motion was supported by the following parties: the New York PSC, the Pennsylvania PUC, Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate, PSEG Energy Resource & Trade LLC, National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp., the KeySpan Delivery Companies, Dominion Peoples and Constellation NewEnergy-Gas Division. It further said that FERC trial staff does not oppose the motion.

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