A multi-year “critical notice” that was the target of a complaint brought by producer-shippers against Trunkline Gas pipeline was removed last Wednesday, the pipeline informed FERC.

The Southern Union-owned pipeline called on the Commission to dismiss as “moot” the complaint, which accused Trunkline of using multi-year “critical notices” to unilaterally enforce tougher quality specifications on the natural gas it would accept into its system. Producers complained that Trunkline, as well as other interstate gas pipelines, were bypassing FERC regulations and the Natural Gas Act (NGA), which require pipes to get Commission approval before making changes to the gas quality specifications in their tariffs [RP04-64]. Trunkline denied the allegations. Similar complaints were made against El Paso’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline, NiSource’s Columbia Gulf Transmission and ANR Pipeline (see NGI, Dec. 8).

The “critical notice,” which first appeared on Jan. 26, 2001, “notified customers on Trunkline’s system that gas with a heating value above 1,050 Btu would not be accepted or confirmed by certain downstream pipelines. By posting this notice, Trunkline merely informed its customers of quality specifications imposed by other pipelines, and not imposed by Trunkline,” the pipeline said.

“No shipper raised any concern regarding the critical notice for the last three years. In fact, Trunkline first became aware that the critical notice presented a problem upon receiving the complaint,” which was filed by BP America Production, BP Energy and ChevronTexaco Natural Gas in late November (see NGI, Dec. 1). The producers asked FERC to order Trunkline to “cease and desist” from its alleged practice of posting multi-year “critical notices” to invoke stricter quality specs for gas.

Rather than filing a complaint, Trunkline asked why the producers didn’t pursue the “most expeditious way to resolve its concern — simply picking up the phone and calling Trunkline” or by engaging in dispute resolution.

“If the situation were so dire, one would expect the [producer group] to attempt to resolve the issue quickly and informally with Trunkline before ever burdening the Commission’s resources.”

In the related proceeding involving ANR Pipeline, municipal gas customers last week said they shared producers’ concerns that the pipeline should not be permitted to use “critical notices” to enforce “permanent or long-term” gas quality standards. However, they also cautioned FERC to “not hamstring the pipeline in its efforts to protect its operations” against sub-standard gas.

The American Public Gas Association (APGA), which represents municipal utilities, said it opposed the producers’ request that ANR “cease and desist from its current practice of enforcing gas quality standards without any mechanism in place to protect customers when producers decide not to process gas.”

FERC “cannot leave ANR’s customers exposed by allowing the producers to dump ‘wet’ gas into ANR’s pipeline system for prolonged periods of time whenever it is in the economic interest of the producers to do so,” the group said [RP04-65].

Instead of the Commission acting on the complaint against ANR on a fast-track basis, the APGA recommended that the agency allow for a “full ventilation of the relevant considerations, an exchange of all relevant information, and input from the interested parties, not simply the producers and the pipeline.”

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