A group of producers has accused Trunkline Gas pipeline of undercutting FERC rules and the Natural Gas Act (NGA) by using long-term “critical notices” to impose stricter quality limits for natural gas accepted into its system, rather than going through the proper channel of filing for a change in its tariff at the Commission.

In a complaint filed at FERC, BP America Production Co., BP Energy Co. and ChevronTexaco Natural gas called on the Commission to order the Southern Union-owned pipeline to “cease and desist” from its alleged practice of posting a multi-year “critical notice” to lower the heating value of the gas that it will accept into its system.

At issue is a critical notice that was first posted by Trunkline on Jan. 26, 2001 and still remains in effect today, the producers said. That critical notice reduced the heating value of the gas Trunkline would accept to 1,050 Btu, while the pipeline’s tariff on file at the agency put the upper Btu limit at 1,200 Btu, they noted. The producers claimed the pipeline has abused the use of “critical notices,” which they said were intended to address “shorter term, emergency situations.”

“Trunkline’s use of a ‘critical notice’ to implement a new quality restriction to supplant the 1,200 Btu limitation in its tariff is unjustified and must come to an end,” they urged FERC [RP04-64]. “With this conduct, Trunkline is attempting to implement tariff changes on its system without abiding by the requirements…in Section 4 of the Natural Gas Act for filing and implementing tariff changes.”

The producers asked the agency to only review the “limited question of whether it is appropriate for Trunkline to post long-term quality specifications as ‘critical notices,’ rather than filing new quality limitations as revisions to its tariff.” They noted they “[were] not seeking…to examine the appropriateness of the quality levels being imposed by Trunkline.”

Trunkline is not alone in its action, according to the producers. “It is apparent from the number of postings and the length of the postings that some pipelines are finding this method of imposing quality limitations acceptable and are in no rush to stop posting these limits as OFOs or critical notices.”

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