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Another blowout for gas pipeline submissions

WA’S gas access regulator has extended the period for public submissions on proposed access arrangements for the Dampier to Bunbury gas pipeline for a second time.

Pipeline owner Epic Energy confirmed this week it had requested a further extension.

An Epic spokesperson said this was because court orders from the August 23 Supreme Court decision on Epic’s challenge to the regulator’s draft access decision remained unsettled.

Legal counsel for the main parties involved – Epic, the regulator and AlintaGas – have been unable to agree on these, and the Supreme Court has called for submissions on the orders by November 21.

The court has scheduled a November 28 consideration date, both to settle the orders and decide on costs issues from the original challenge.

AlintaGas was keen to keep the orders simple, a company spokesperson said.

The company was instead focusing its attention on preparing "a substantial submission" for the regulator, she said.

The orders, known as declarations, will form the agreed basis of further considerations on a final tariffs decision for the pipeline.

Peter Kolf, executive director of the regulator’s office, OFFGAR, said the regulator had been able to progress discussions in the meantime, given the August decision and the reasons for it would not change, and still expected to deliver a final decision by March next year.

The regulator initially called for submissions with respect to the reasons for the court decision, nominating September 27 as a cut-off date.

However, this first deadline was extended by four weeks following requests from interested parties including Epic and Australian Pipeline Industry Association executive director Allen Beasley.

Last Friday’s deadline was then extended by a further two weeks until November 8.

Regulation difficulties were a feature of APIA’s annual conference held in Hobart earlier this week.

Federal Industry, Tourism and Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane acknowledged Government handling of the Productivity Commission report on the National Access Regime had been protracted.

While a formal response was yet to be formulated, Senator Macfarlane said the Government’s interim response regarding pricing principles sent “a strong message to regulators that the interests of asset owners must be considered as well as those of consumers”.

The Federal Government was working on terms of reference for a review of the 1997 Gas Access Regime, he said, one he acknowledged “was framed in the context of an immature, non-transparent gas industry”.

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