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Decision on pipeline not final word

A FINAL decision on access arrangements for the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline may be ready by the end of next month, almost two years after a draft decision was handed down.

Pipeline owner Epic Energy challenged that decision in the Western Australian Supreme Court and a ruling last August directed the parties to continue consultation.

The judgment did not cancel the draft decision on the tariffs that Epic could charge, but said that the decision was based on a flawed interpretation of the National Third Party Access Code.

The full court called for further consideration of the fact that Epic had purchased the pipeline before the introduction of the code.

This, it said, had ramifications for determining the value of the pipeline.

Last week WA’s gas pipelines access regulator Ken Michael was granted another extension, to April 15, to determine a final access arrangement for the pipeline, however, Office of Gas Access Regulation executive director Peter Kolf said the March target still remained.

OFFGAR is assessing submissions from a September 2002 information paper.

The process includes holding a series of conferences where interested parties can speak on their submissions.

OFFGAR is also reviewing information that was not available to the regulator before the June 2001 draft decision.

This information, on aspects of the WA Government’s sale of the pipeline to Epic in 1998, had come from both Epic and the WA Government, Mr Kolf said.

“We are dealing with a very large amount of information,” he said.

“It is a massive undertaking for the regulator.”

Epic general manager David Williams said that, in the meantime, WA’s power procurement process was affected with the pipeline fully contracted and an acceptable tariff decision was needed before Epic could talk meaningfully about new access.

Mr Williams said a December 2002 supplementary decision by the WA Supreme Court to finalise declaratory orders from its August ruling emphasised fundamental elements to be taken into account regarding the initial capital base of the pipeline.

The December decision also addressed costs, ruling that the regulator was not responsible for any of Epic’s taxed costs but that AlintaGas should pay two thirds of Epic’s costs for the proceedings from September 2001 through to August 2002.

Mr Williams said that if the regulator’s final decision is not acceptable to Epic, the company could ultimately appeal to WA’s Gas Review Board.

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