18 CFR 2.104 - Mechanisms for passthrough of pipeline take-or-pay buyout and buydown costs.
(a)General Policy. The Commission as a matter of policy will provide two distinct mechanisms for passthrough of take-or-pay buyout and buydown costs of interstate natural gas pipelines. The first is pursuant to existing Commission policy and practice. Under this method, pipelines may pass through prudently incurred take-or-pay buyout and buydown costs in their sales commodity rates. The second method is available to pipelines which agree to an equitable sharing of take-or-pay costs and which transport under part 284 of this chapter. Qualifying pipelines may utilize the alternative passthrough mechanisms described in this section. Where a pipeline agrees to absorb from 25 to 50 percent of take-or-pay buyout and buydown costs, the Commission will permit the pipeline to recover through a fixed charge an amount equal to (but not greater than) the amount absorbed. Any remaining costs up to 50 percent of total buyout and buydown costs may be recovered either through a commodity rate surcharge or a volumetric surcharge on total throughput.
(b)Cost allocation procedures. A pipeline's volume-based surcharges must be based on the volumes which underlie its most recent Commission-approved rates. Fixed charges must be based on each customer's cumulative deficiency in purchases in recent years (during which the current take-or-pay liabilities of the pipelines were incurred) measured in relation to that customer's purchases during a representative period during which take-or-pay liabilities were not incurred. The allocation formula employed must incorporate the following guidelines:
(1) A representative base period must be selected. The base period must reflect a representative level of purchases by the pipeline's firm customers during a period preceding the onset of changed conditions which resulted in reduced purchases and growth of the take-or-pay problem.
(2) Firm purchases by each customer during the base year under firm rate schedules or contracts for firm service must be determined.
(3) Firm sales purchase deficiency volumes for each subsequent year must be determined.
(4) A fixed charge based on each customer's cumulative deficiencies as compared to total cumulative deficiencies must be derived. The filing pipeline will be free to select for rate calculation and filing purposes a reasonable amortization period for buyout and buydown costs being recovered through fixed charges or volumetric surcharges. The pipeline will be entitled to interest at the rate set forth in part 154 of this chapter on unamortized amounts.
(1) Pipelines acting pursuant to this section may submit on or before December 31, 1990, a non-PGA rate filing under section 4(e) of the Natural Gas Act. Pipelines may include in their filings a fixed charge and a volumetric surcharge to recover buyout and buydown costs actually paid as of the date of filing plus similar costs which are known and measurable within the following nine months. Detailed support for the amounts claimed and for the calculation of customer surcharges must be provided. In addition, the pipeline must disclose and describe all consideration, both cash and noncash, given to producers in exchange for take-or-pay relief.
(2) In any filings made under this section, pipelines must include proposals for periodic (preferably annual) adjustments to customer surcharges, together with any necessary accounting procedures, designed to assure that revenues recovered by the pipeline remain in balance with buyout and buydown costs covered by the filing and actually incurred by the pipeline.
(1) The Commission will examine the issue of prudence if it is raised by a party in an individual proceeding. If it is raised, the pipeline will be required to demonstrate the prudence of take-or-pay buyout and buydown costs which it seeks to recover from its customers through both fixed and volume-based charges.
(2) The Commission intends to exercise its authority to the full extent permitted by the Natural Gas Act to approve take-or-pay settlements. The Commission intends to approve uncontested take-or-pay settlements which are consistent with this section and found to be in the public interest. The Commission will also, if it appears reasonable and permissible to do so, approve contested settlements as to all consenting parties and initiate separate hearings to establish the rates for opposing parties. Alternatively, the Commission will approve contested settlements on the merits if supported by substantial evidence in the record. In any case where hearings are held as to the prudence of take-or-pay buyout and buydown costs, the Commission will permit the pipeline the opportunity to recover all take-or-pay costs found to be prudent from the contesting parties on a proportional basis, even if the amount allowed is greater than the amounts initially sought to be recovered by the pipeline.
(e)Flowthrough by downstream pipelines. Downstream pipelines must flow through approved take-or-pay fixed charges based on the cumulative purchase deficiencies of their customers. Volumetrically-based surcharges must be flowed through on a volumetric basis. Customers of downstream pipelines have the right in connection with either PGA or general rate filings to challenge the purchasing practices of such pipelines. Remedies for purchasing practices found by the Commission to be imprudent will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
(f)Ongoing proceedings. Pipeline rate proceedings pending September 15, 1987 may be utilized as a forum for implementing the approved cost recovery mechanisms set forth in this section. Permission will be granted in cases where implementation of this policy in pending proceedings appears feasible, will not result in inordinate delay, or can be expected to result in unnecessary or cumulative rate filings with the Commission. In the event permission is granted, the presiding judge(s) will allow pipelines to supplement their filings to the extent necessary to assure compliance with the filing and data requirements set forth herein. The presiding judges shall also establish any procedures necessary to protect the rights of all parties. Any rates established pursuant to this section will be permitted to become effective only prospectively upon Commission approval.
(g)Scope. This section does not go beyond the Commission's determination in the April 10, 1985, policy statement (Docket No. PL85-1-000) that take-or-pay buyout and buydown costs do not violate the pricing provision of the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978 (NGPA). It is not intended to affect take-or-pay prepayments made by pipelines and included in account 165 and in their rate bases. Nor does it address the issue of whether take-or-pay prepayments to a producer for gas not taken and which cannot be made up violate the Title I pricing provisions of the NGPA. This policy statement applies only to buyout and buydown costs paid by pipelines that are transporting under part 284 of this chapter, under existing contracts, and is not intended to disturb in any way take-or-pay settlements previously entered into between pipelines and their producer suppliers.