The Petrash File Update

Washington, DC (December 30, 2017) — Jeff Petrash, vice president and general counsel of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), has many irons in the fire. He has a long list of priorities to focus on for the industry. A short update follows on some of the critical issues he is overseeing. 
Petrash

FERC and Pipeline Tariffs Over the past decade, many pipeline rates, which are indexed annually based upon cost of living, have increased at an alarming rate. Petrash was involved in NPGA’s effort to recommend a better methodology for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to utilize when raising or lowering pipeline rates. FERC responded to the NPGA proposal and changed the methodology it used to determine the indexed rates. “This actually resulted in most having to reduce rates July 1, 2016,” he said. The FERC order is presently awaiting a court decision in an appeal brought by liquids pipelines. “As long as the court continues to uphold this method-ology, this should represent substantial savings to propane consumers over five years.”

Subsidized Expansion of Natural Gas Petrash continues to travel to talk with each of a dozen or so commissioners on the Natural Gas Access and Expansion Task Force that was recently appointed by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). “This has been a very resources-heavy endeavor,” he commented. “Going for a one-on-one meeting with almost every one of them underscores the importance of our concerns.” He has now met with task force members from North Dakota, Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania for individual discussions.

In some cases, local propane representatives, including state association executives, have joined Petrash. “It helps to have some people who know the local landscape well and have connections to these task force members at these meetings.” He has also met with the NARUC executive director and attended a mid-November gathering of the panel in Baltimore. Overall, he remains upbeat that the meetings are helping task force members to recognize NPGA’s concerns about subsidized expansion and fair competition. 

Enbridge Line 5 Concerns in Michigan “There is much evaluation still going on,” Petrash said, of the Enbridge Line 5 situation. In early November, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan raised major concerns about the condition of Enbridge’s Line 5 Pipeline and called for a federal investigation. This followed reports that Enbridge did not disclose problems in the protective coating for more than three years. The senators have called for Enbridge CEO Al Monaco to address issues of inaccurate reporting and concerns over the condition of the line. The two are challenging the company’s statement that “internal reporting issues” are to blame for inaccurate reporting of conditions. 

An updated consultant report on the pipeline and alternatives was set to be presented to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board in late November 2017.

Winter 2017-2018 Preparedness Having spent a good portion of 2014 dealing with the fallout of the Polar Vortex of January and February, Petrash is taking advantage of that experience and it is being put to use to benefit the industry in preventing many of the serious problems encountered. “We have spent considerable time in communication with Midwestern governors, FERC, the Energy Information Agency, and others due to the lower U.S. inventory and high export levels. We have shared portions of the [NPGA board of directors meeting] presentation of Debnil Chowdhury of IHS in these sessions,” he said. 

A list and description of NPGA’s 90-day criticals may be found at http://www.npga.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/October-Handout.pdf.  —Pat Thornton