Tariffs determination a time-consuming process

A LIST of declarations to form the basis of considerations on tariffs for the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline is yet to be finalised following last month’s WA Supreme Court decision in favour of further industry consultation.

Once the main parties – Epic Energy, the Independent Gas Pipelines Access Regulator, AlintaGas, and CMS Gas Transmission – have agreed on the list, the court will stamp these as formal orders.

For a period of 28 days after this, any party can then apply to the High Court for special leave to appeal.

The regulator is certainly not intending to appeal – he has consistently warned it would take six months from when all court processes are settled in their entirety before a final decision could be issued.

Peter Kolf, executive director of the regulator’s office, OFFGAR, said the declarations process was taking longer than anticipated.

Epic, whose prerogative it was to send out the initial draft declaratory orders for discussion, fine-tuning and agreement, confirmed it was still in discussion with the other parties.

AlintaGas would only acknowledge it had received the draft and was considering it.

CMS, which is also not looking at an appeal, said the regulator and Epic needed to first agree on the draft declaratory orders and then recirculate them before it could formally agree to them.

Epic general manager David Williams said the company could go to court to have the declaratory orders formalised if no agreement can be reached.

Mr Kolf said there was plenty to consider before determining final tariffs – just one example was the circumstances of the pipeline’s purchase by Epic from the WA Government – and despite any delay, OFFGAR would continue with the opportunity to reconsider the issues.

OFFGAR was likely to extend the public submissions period for its new information paper, depending on the time taken to finalise the declarations.

The court had ordered a reasonable time be given for submissions, Mr Kolf said.

Epic said it had formally requested an extension to this period, not least because the final decision held national significance.

Australian Pipeline Industry Association executive director Allen Beasley has also called for an extension past the deadline, which has been set for September 27.

Energy Minister, Treasurer and Deputy Premier Eric Ripper said there were important economic interests to be considered on all sides of the tariffs argument.

However, he rejected the sovereign risk argument, and was unconvinced the matter had needed to go to court.

The Government nonetheless had welcomed a decision and was pleased the regulator could now proceed.

The awarding of costs associated with the litigation must still be determined by the court.

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