The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners have established a new Presidential Natural Gas Access and Expansion Task Force. Pennsylvania Commissioner John Coleman and Mississippi Commissioner Brandon Presley have been appointed as co-chairs, with North Dakota Commissioner Julie Fedorchak serving as vice-chair. The task force will be responsible for developing best practices and recommendations regarding natural gas service for underserved and unserved areas of the country, including, but not limited to rural communities.
Many rural communities, which comprise residential, industrial and commercial customers, lack access to low-cost natural gas because local distribution lines and gas utility services are unavailable. These communities are forced to rely on bottled propane, heating oil and other more expensive fuels. The Natural Gas Access and Expansion Task Force will analyze the potential demand for the service extension and expansion of natural gas infrastructure and determine alternative or unconventional approaches to reaching these unserved and underserved areas.
“The work of this task force will be extremely beneficial to NARUC members and their communities, as we undertake this comprehensive study of residential, commercial and industrial access and expansion of natural gas distribution infrastructure,” said President Powelson. “We will better understand the demand for natural gas service in unserved and underserved areas, the barriers and obstacles to such access and expansion (e.g., consumers’ inability to pay for access or conversion to natural gas service) and provide relevant economic information on the costs and benefits to expand natural gas distribution infrastructure.”
During the eight-month term of the task force, the group’s main focus will be to create an analytical report that will:
- study current access, expansion and service extension policies for underserved and unserved areas
- examine the need for access and expansion including case studies and review of the barriers and obstacles to such access
- recommend potential mechanisms to address the benefits and opportunities for access and expansion and identifies alternative or unconventional approaches to reaching unserved and underserved areas
- compile a national “best practices” collection on natural gas access and expansion to underserved and unserved areas
In addition, the task force will coordinate with NARUC’s Committee on Gas to help identify opportunities for engagement at NARUC meetings on this issue and collaborate with NARUC-affiliated organizations to collect best practices.
The following state commissioners have been invited to serve on the task force: Ken Anderson (Texas), Stephen Bloom (Oregon), Julie Brown (Florida), Robert Hayden (Massachusetts), Kim O’Guinn (Arkansas), Norman Saari (Michigan), Dianne Solomon (New Jersey), Nick Wagner (Iowa) and Dallas Winslow (Delaware). There are three vacant positions to be filled at the discretion of the NARUC President. The Committee on Gas Chair Stan Wise (Georgia) and co-Vice Chair Diane X. Burman (New York) will also serve as active liaisons to the task force.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates the rates set for transportation and storage, as well as the operating terms and conditions of interstate pipelines. However, within state boundaries, the gas distribution through pipeline systems owned by local gas distribution companies is regulated by NARUC’s members. Also, NARUC passed a resolution during its recent 2017 winter meeting on Natural Gas Pipeline Siting Review, member Information Sharing and Tool Kit Initiative, which specifically resolves to ensure continued member education and initiatives on issues relating to the appropriateness of expedited review of interstate natural gas pipeline siting. Other previous resolutions note the need to “explore, examine, and consider adopting alternative rate recovery mechanisms as necessary to accelerate the modernization, replacement and expansion of the nation’s natural gas pipeline systems.”