Mandating the use of a pre-filing collaborative process fornatural gas pipelines would do more harm than good, and in the endcould thwart industry’s efforts to build enough transportationcapacity to support a 30 Tcf market by 2010, a major pipeline groupsays.

In comments filed at FERC last week, the Interstate Natural GasAssociation of America (INGAA) suggested the pre-filingcollaborative process should be offered to gas pipelines only as a”purely voluntary” option. “The proposed procedures may proveuseful for resolving disputes and garnering comments on certainnatural gas pipeline certificate projects,” the group allowed.”However, they do not appear useful for many projects and, indeed,could slow the certificate process down.”

The INGAA comments were in response to the Commission’s noticeof proposed rulemaking (NOPR), which would require gas pipelines touse collaborative procedures to resolve significant issues prior tofiling project applications at FERC [RM98-16]. The process alreadyis being used, with some success, in hydroelectric relicensingcases.

But INGAA doesn’t believe the collaborative process lends itselfwell to pipeline certificate cases. “Pre-filing time pressures areoften intense [in pipeline projects]. End-users will elect to movefrom gas to alternative fuels if there are extended delays in thepipeline certification process,” the pipeline group cautioned. Mostimportantly, opponents of pipeline projects aren’t much interestedin resolving issues through collaboration, it said. If anything,”opponents of the project have an incentive in a collaborativeprocedure to delay the process.”

In the event voluntary collaborative procedures are endorsed byFERC, the Commission should not treat project sponsors that use thecollaborative method any better than those that choose not to useit, INGAA said. Specifically, projects that choose the traditionalroute to certification “should not be viewed by the Commission asbeing less time-sensitive or of less value to the marketplace” thanprojects that select the collaborative process.

Given that most pipeline projects are often contested bycompetitors, INGAA suggested that the issues to be discussed in acollaborative setting be limited strictly to environmental. “It isdifficult, and perhaps undesirable, for the Commission to encourageor require economic competitors to collaborate,” it said. Inaddition, INGAA believes a pipeline sponsor should have the rightto terminate the pre-filing collaborative process in the event itshould decide to file its application under the traditionalprocedure.

Susan Parker

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