On July 16, 2015, FERC’s Office of Enforcement (“Enforcement”) released a “Staff Notice of Alleged Violations” (“Notice”) stating that it had preliminarily determined that Columbia Gas Transmission LLC (“Columbia Gas”) violated Part 4 of the General Terms and Conditions of the pipeline’s FERC Gas Tariff by posting notices of auctions of available firm capacity on the password-protected side of its Electronic Bulletin Board (“EBB”), rather than the public side of the EBB, between January 1, 2010 to May 1, 2013.

According to the Notice, beginning in 1993, Columbia Gas offered available firm capacity through notices of auctions posted on the public side of its EBB.  In 2008, Columbia Gas adopted a new software program for its EBB that required a login ID to access the EBB’s password-protected side.  In 2009, notices of available firm capacity auctions began to be posted on the password-protected, rather than the non-password-protected, side of the EBB.  This practice continued until May 1, 2013, when Columbia Gas restored the notices to the non-password-protected side.

The Notice states that Section 4.2 of its tariff requires Columbia Gas to post notices of auctions of available firm capacity on the public side of its EBB.  During the period of the alleged violation, Section 4.2 was entitled “Auctions of Capacity that Becomes Available” and provided: “Capacity that becomes or will become available will be posted by Transporter on its EBB for at least the following periods . . . .”

The Notice states that Enforcement staff’s preliminary investigation was opened in response to a referral from FERC’s Division of Audits and Accounting.  Although acknowledging that the auction notices have been posted on the public side of the pipeline’s EBB since May 1, 2013, the Notice states that the failure to post such notices on the public side for a period of four years “posed a serious threat to transparency in the market” and “may have compromised the Commission’s open-access transportation requirements.”

Under FERC rules, where it appears from a preliminary investigation that a formal investigation is appropriate, FERC staff will make such a recommendation to the Commission.  The Commission may then, in its discretion, initiate a formal investigation.

A copy of the Notice is available here.