Pipeline Construction Impacted By OSHA Proposal on Crystalline Silica

October 2013, Vol. 68 No. 10

Pipelines want a couple of fairly minor changes around the edges of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposal to allow the exchange of "non-public operational" information between pipelines and electric generators. The expanded flow of information would help prevent power outages during cold and hot weather events and give electric utilities advance notice of potential supply interruptions on the pipeline's end.

This is FERC's latest action stemming from its consideration of numerous aspects of gas-electric interdependence and coordination begun formally in February 2012. There have been meetings and technical conferences since then, and at least one FERC regulatory change directed at the Northeast.

This proposed rule would provide explicit authority to interstate natural gas pipelines and energy utilities in interstate commerce to share non-public, operational information with each other for the purpose of promoting reliable service or operational planning on either the public utility's or pipeline's system. However, recipients of that non-public, operational information would be subject to a "no-conduit rule" which would prohibit subsequent disclosure of that information to an affiliate or third party.

The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) is generally fine with the proposed rule, but has suggested a couple of tweaks. Joan Dreskin, INGAA general counsel, has asked the agency to waive the proposed no-conduit rule during critical and imminent or ongoing emergency situations in order to ensure reliability, subject to a record of the exchange as soon as practicable after the fact. "For example, during a critical and imminent or ongoing emergency, transmission operators should be able to speak to a local distribution company (LDC), a marketer who can provide supply and a specific generator in order to remedy an emergency situation that threatens reliability," she explains.

Speaking for the LDCs, Andrew K. Soto, Senior Managing Counsel at American Gas Association, worries the proposed no-conduit rule may be interpreted too broadly as to prohibit the very kinds of communications that are currently permitted under the FERC Standards of Conduct. "This rule should not be interpreted to prevent a public utility or interstate pipeline from disclosing non-public, operational information to a third-party LDC, especially where such information would promote reliable service or operational planning with regard to gas-fired generators located on the LDC’s system," he says.

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