Report Opens Door To Liquefaction Approvals

January 2013, Vol. 68, No. 1

The letter writers wrote they are greatly concerned the "scientific objectivity of the HHS is being subverted." Their concern is based on an understanding that the ATSDR will be undertaking broad studies of the potential health impacts of shale gas development. The letter says Portier's public record calls into question whether "a study under his leadership can be objectively and validly conducted." The Republicans point to statements Portier has made, including one in September 2011 saying shale development "has been a disaster in some communities."

The chairmen of the full committee and its subcommittees were obviously frustrated because they had requested a briefing with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in September. The CDC is the ATSDR's parent agency within the HHS. The Energy Committee members never received a response. That silence "raises significant concern that the agency does not intend to include Congress, the states and the public in a process that is of critical importance."

Tait Sye, deputy assistant secretary for Public Affairs for Public Health at the HHS, says his department is "reviewing the letter and plans to respond directly to the committee." He was unable to shed any light on what studies the ATSDR may be working on for the Interagency Working Group.

CFTC exempts some gas transmission contracts from Dodd-Frank

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) finally cleared up some confusion and said it wouldn't regulate some natural gas contracts as swaps. The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) had been pressing for that clarification.

The Dodd-Frank law includes numerous new requirements for companies trading derivatives, also referred to as swaps, which can include options. The CFTC had previously ruled, with some murky language, certain physical commercial agreements would be considered commodity options, and thus not eligible for exclusion from the swap definition. That would have meant that contracts between pipelines and gas owners, for example a utility, for storage or transportation capacity were "options." If that held up, gas transmission companies would have had to be concerned with new compliance obligations, buy additional computer software, hire additional people and train them accordingly. Joan Dreskin, general counsel at INGAA, says, "Those costs would be potentially passed on to ratepayers and consumers, and those costs are really unnecessary."