On July 18, 2013, FERC issued an order addressing optional notice procedures for processing rate filings by intrastate and Hinshaw pipelines in Docket No. RM12-17-000. Revisions to Procedural Regulations Governing Transportation by Intrastate Pipelines, 144 FERC ¶ 61,034 (2013) http://ferc.gov/whats-new/comm-meet/2013/071813/G-1.pdf (Order No. 781 or the Order).

Order No. 781 modifies the Commission’s regulations to provide an optional notice procedure for rate filings by intrastate pipelines providing interstate service pursuant to section 311 of the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978 and Hinshaw pipelines under section 1(c) of the Natural Gas Act. Under this procedure, the intrastate or Hinshaw pipeline’s filing would be approved without any order of the Commission, if the filing is not protested within a specified period after notice of the filing or if any protests are resolved during a reconciliation period. Specifically, the Commission’s notice of filing would provide a deadline for interventions and initial comments 21 days after the date of the filing, and would also provide a separate deadline for final comments and protests 60 days after the date of the filing. If no protest is filed within the time allowed, the filing would be deemed approved without a Commission order. If a protest is filed, the new procedure provides that the pipeline, protesting parties, intervenors, and Commission staff will have 30 days from the protest deadline to resolve the protest. If all protests are resolved under these reconciliation procedures, the filing would be deemed approved. If a filing is still contested after the above procedures are completed, the filing would not be deemed approved, and within 60 days from the deadline for filing protests, the Commission would establish procedures to resolve the proceeding.

The Order explained that these optional notice procedures will provide an expedited and less burdensome method of processing the significant percentage of filings by intrastate and Hinshaw pipelines which present few, if any, contested issues and will allow the Commission to devote more resources to cases where significant issues are raised. In response to concerns that these procedures would reduce or eliminate staff review of the subject filings or violate the Commission’s obligation to ensure fair and equitable rates of the pipelines, the Commission explained that nothing in the Order reduces the Commission’s review of filings or lessens the requirements for approval of filings, but only eliminates the need for a Commission order in uncontested filings.

The Order also modified the Commission’s periodic rate review policy with respect to rates based on those approved by a state regulatory agency to permit intrastate pipelines using state-based rates to certify that those rates continue to meet the Commission’s regulatory requirements, rather than filing a new rate petition or cost and revenue study. The new policy will allow pipelines with state-approved rates which have not changed since its previous five-year filing to make a filing under the optional notice procedures certifying that those rates continue to meet the Commission’s requirements under 18 C.F.R. § 284.123(b)(1). However, the Order clarified that, if state-approved rates are changed at any time, the intrastate pipeline must file a new rate election pursuant to section 284.123(b).

Order No. 781 will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register. The deadline for filing requests for rehearing is August 19, 2013.