In another much-anticipated decision, FERC yesterday proposed anexpedited complaint process that would apply uniformly to all ofthe energy sectors that it regulates – natural gas pipelines,electric utilities, oil pipelines and hydroelectric concerns. Thecomplaint proposal, which was outlined in a notice of proposedrulemaking (NOPR), represented an “amalgam” of the best proposalsof the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the PipelineCustomer Coalition and the Electric Industry Dispute ResolutionWorking Group, said Chairman James Hoecker.
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Unlike much of last month, when Western markets persistentlydisplayed weakness while their Eastern counterparts were rising, itis the West flexing a bit of price muscle this week. Rockies pipeswere back up into the $1.30s Tuesday after several had made a briefsojourn into sub-$1.30 territory Friday and Monday. The reason forthe rebound mystified one trader. “It’s not that cold in theregion, so go figure,” he said, adding maybe it was just a resultof the normal “tug of war” between gas buyers and sellers.
Pricing was “pretty much the same as it was yesterday,” said aSouth Texas producer Friday reporting flat numbers in the low$2.10s. Most points traded flat to 2-3 cents up or down, with a tadmore downside than upside. Several sources agreed it was a quietand essentially featureless market. A big aggregator called it”mostly a dead day; there seemed to be a lot of people out of theoffice.”
Weekend prices were down by as much as a dime or so almostacross the board Friday. Although the screen’s almost imperceptibledrop provided no further impetus for cash softening, the decreaseswere widely expected as cold areas started warming and warm areasstarted cooling.
California regulators are expected to begin taking a much closerlook next week at proposals to curb market power in the state’s gasindustry, and their decisions could rapidly accelerate convergenceof the gas and electric industries. Included among the proposals isa plan to force the state’s major utilities to divest gastransmission and storage assets and form an independent gastransmission system operator, replicating part of what was done inthe state’s power industry. California natural gas industryrestructuring proceedings are scheduled to move into overdriveduring four day-long hearings starting April 6 in San Francisco.
One-call pipeline safety legislation moved much closer tobecoming law this week as the Senate voted to add it to omnibustransportation legislation and representatives Richard Hugh Baker(R-LA) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced a nearly identicalone-call bill in the House of Representatives. The Senate alreadyhas passed one-call as a stand alone bill (S. 1115) but includingit in the larger transportation package increases its chances ofbecoming law.