The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Task Force Looks to Increase Access to Natural Gas

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted May 9, 2017

Access and infrastructure expansion – both key to extending the benefits of America’s energy renaissance to more Americans – are getting helpful attention from state utilities regulators.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) last month set up a task force to develop best practices and recommendations on natural gas service for underserved and unserved parts of the country – which includes the need for pipelines and other supporting infrastructure. NARUC is an association whose members are state regulatory commissions across the country that regulate utilities and carriers in energy and telecommunications.

While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates rates set for transportation and storage, as well as the operating terms and conditions of interstate pipelines, NARUC members regulate natural gas distribution through pipeline systems within state boundaries. The task force’s eight-month task is to prepare a report that:

  • Studies current access, expansion and service extension policies.
  • Examines the need for natural gas access and expansion, reviewing barriers to access.
  • Recommends ways to highlight the benefits of access and expansion of natural gas service.
  • Identifies alternative approaches to reaching underserved and unserved areas.
  • Compiles a national best practices collection on natural gas access and expansion.

Task force co-chair Brandon Presley of Mississippi:

“Too many Americans live in communities that lack the basic access to natural gas service—a situation that we hope to remedy through the work of this task force.”

The task force is expected to find ways to resolve infrastructure needs that cause added expense and inconvenience to consumers currently lacking natural gas service. NARUC President Robert F. Powelson:

“The work of this task force will be extremely beneficial to NARUC members and their communities, as we undertake this comprehensive study of residential, commercial and industrial access and expansion of natural gas distribution infrastructure. We will better understand the demand for natural gas service in unserved and underserved areas, the barriers and obstacles to such access and expansion … and provide relevant economic information on the costs and benefits to expand natural gas distribution infrastructure.”

This is an important undertaking because, even though the United States leads the world in producing natural gas and oil and in refining, parts of the country aren’t fully realizing the benefits – largely due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure. 

For example, New England residents, businesses and industries pay more for electricity – much of it generated by natural gas – than other regions of the country. The solution in the Northeast is more natural gas pipeline capacity, either by building new lines or by expanding existing ones. Additionally, there are many underserved and unserved areas of New England that cannot access low-cost natural gas for heating due to the lack of pipeline capacity. Policymakers can help – fostering infrastructure by considering fair and appropriate financing mechanisms to help pay for new projects and by working to build community support for safe and responsible project construction.

NARUC’s task force is welcome in the larger effort to increase natural gas access to areas of the country that need and want it. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.