The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued on July 18, 2013, is proposing to facilitate increased coordination between electric transmission operators and natural gas pipelines. FERC is proposing to amend its regulations to provide explicit authority for interstate natural gas pipelines and electric transmission system operators to share non-public operational information with each other for the purpose of promoting reliable service or operational planning.  To the extent an electric transmission operator or pipeline has a tariff provision which precludes a communication that would otherwise be authorized under the proposed regulations, it would have to make a tariff filing at the FERC to permit such exchanges of information.  However, in order to protect against undue discrimination, the recipients of this information would be subject to a no-conduit rule that prohibits subsequent disclosure of that information to an affiliate or third party. 

The proposed rules, if adopted, would permit the sharing of non-public, operational information between electric transmission operators and natural gas pipelines, but would not require such information to be shared.  However, the FERC stated that “[t]o the extent this voluntary approach proves inadequate to promote reliable service or operational planning on natural gas pipelines and electric transmission systems, the Commission may revisit the need to require certain communications or information sharing between transmission operators in the future.”

The NOPR explains that “non-public, operational information” generally is information dealing with actual, anticipated, or potential effects on the ability of the electric transmission operator or natural gas pipeline to provide electric and gas service, and may include generator, pipeline, or transmission-specific information.  The FERC expects that such information may help transmission operators to operate and maintain either a reliable pipeline system or a reliable electric transmission system on a day-to-day basis, as well as during emergency conditions or for operational planning.  Although the NOPR provides examples of the types of information that might be shared under the proposed rules, it does not specifically delineate the scope of information that is subject to the proposed rules.  Instead, the FERC has asked for comments on the scope of information that transmission operators should be permitted to share.

Although the proposed rules would permit discussion of generator-specific information, the authorization to share non-public, operational information does not apply to generators.  Therefore, the FERC has also asked for comments on whether generators should be required to share specified information with their electric transmission operator about the possibility that the generator’s natural gas service may be disrupted and/or whether the exchange of operational information between transmission operators involving customer-specific information should involve a three-way communication among the electric transmission operator, the natural gas pipeline, and the electric generator.

Comments on the proposed rules are due within 30 days after it has been published in the Federal Register, which is less time than that frequently permitted for filing of comments on proposed rules.