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TITLE 16ECONOMIC REGULATION
PART 1RAILROAD COMMISSION OF TEXAS
CHAPTER 2INFORMAL COMPLAINT PROCEDURE
RULE §2.1Informal Complaint Procedure

(a) Scope and jurisdiction. This section applies to complaints within the Commission's jurisdiction about natural gas purchasing, selling, shipping, transportation, and gathering practices. This section does not apply to matters arising under Texas Utilities Code, Chapter 103, entitled "Jurisdiction and Powers of Municipality," or initiated under Texas Utilities Code, Chapter 104, Subchapter C, entitled "Rate Changes Proposed by Utility," or Subchapter G, entitled "Interim Cost Recovery and Rate Adjustment."

(b) Definitions. The following words and terms, when used in this section, shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

  (1) Common purchaser--Has the same meaning as is given that term in Texas Natural Resources Code, §111.081.

  (2) Complainant--A person who submits a complaint to the Commission pursuant to this section.

  (3) Director--The director of the Gas Services Division of the Railroad Commission of Texas or the director's delegate.

  (4) Gatherer--A person providing gathering service for a fee for a third party.

  (5) Gathering service--Use of a pipeline to collect gas and bring it to a common point.

  (6) Informal complaint proceeding--The process set out in this section for addressing complaints against entities within the Commission's jurisdiction, including but not limited to natural gas purchasers, sellers, shippers, transporters, and gatherers.

  (7) Mediator--The individual who conducts an informal complaint resolution mediation.

  (8) Monitor--The Commission employee appointed by the director to manage an informal complaint proceeding and/or assist a mediator who is not a Commission employee in the management of an informal complaint proceeding. A monitor may also be a mediator.

  (9) Natural gas purchaser--A person that purchases natural gas.

  (10) Natural gas seller or seller--A person that sells natural gas, including but not limited to a producer.

  (11) Natural gas utility--Has the same meaning as is given that term in Texas Utilities Code, §101.003 and §121.001.

  (12) Participant--A complainant, respondent, monitor, or mediator in an informal complaint proceeding.

  (13) Person--An individual, corporation, partnership, joint venture, or other legal entity of any kind.

  (14) Respondent--A person who is the subject of a complaint submitted to the Commission pursuant to this section.

  (15) Shipper--A person for which a transporter is currently providing, has provided, or has pending a written request to provide transportation services.

  (16) Similarly-situated shipper--A shipper that seeks or receives transportation service under the same or substantially the same, physical, regulatory, and economic conditions of service as any other shipper of a transporter. In determining whether conditions of service are the same or substantially the same, the Commission shall evaluate the significance of relevant conditions, including, but not limited to, the following:

    (A) service requirements;

    (B) location of facilities;

    (C) receipt and delivery points;

    (D) length of haul;

    (E) quality of service (firm, interruptible, etc.);

    (F) quantity;

    (G) swing requirements;

    (H) credit worthiness;

    (I) gas quality;

    (J) pressure (including inlet or line pressure);

    (K) duration of service;

    (L) connect requirements; and

    (M) conditions and circumstances existing at the time of agreement or negotiation.

  (17) Transportation service--The receipt of a shipper's natural gas at a point or points on the facilities of a transporter, and re-delivery of a shipper's natural gas by the transporter at another point or points on the facilities of the transporter, or on another person's facilities, including exchange, backhaul, displacement, and other methods of transportation, provided, however, that the term "transportation service" shall not include processing services or the movement of gas to which the transporter has title.

  (18) Transporter--Any common purchaser of gas, any gas utility, or any gas pipeline, that provides gas gathering and/or transmission transportation service for a fee.

(c) Policy.

  (1) The Commission encourages affordable, expeditious, and fair settlement and resolution of disputes regarding natural gas purchasers, sellers, transporters, and gatherers. The Commission will not tolerate discrimination among similarly situated shippers and sellers as is prohibited by Texas Natural Resources Code, Chapter 111, entitled "Common Carriers, Public Utilities, and Common Purchasers," and Texas Utilities Code, Title 3, Subtitle A, entitled "Gas Utility Regulatory Act," and Subtitle B, entitled "Regulation of Transportation and Use," and other matters of dispute subject to the Commission's jurisdiction. This section is adopted in furtherance of that policy.

  (2) To accomplish the policy set out in this section, Commission employees, acting pursuant to this section, will attempt to facilitate, encourage, and promote resolution and settlement of complaints against natural gas purchasers, sellers, shippers, transporters, gatherers, and other persons subject to the Commission's jurisdiction consistent with the public interest and without lengthy and potentially expensive formal proceedings. The informal complaint procedure is intended to establish a forum for communication, with the goal of achieving mutually acceptable compromise and resolution that is in the public interest.

  (3) Filing a complaint pursuant to this section is not a prerequisite to the filing of a formal complaint. If a complaint pertains to the loss of or inability to account for gas, the complaint must be filed pursuant to §2.5 of this title (relating to Informal Complaint Process Regarding Loss of or Inability to Account for Gas. The informal complaint resolution process is an optional method for resolving complaints. However, if an informal complaint is filed and the Commission determines that there is sufficient reason to go forward, the respondent shall participate in the process. At any time prior to the mediator's issuance of the confidential memorandum pursuant to subsection (e)(13) of this section, a complainant may unilaterally withdraw an informal complaint or a complainant and respondent may jointly agree to the dismissal of an informal complaint.

(d) General requirements and limitations.

  (1) The Commission will not process anonymous complaints under this section.

  (2) The communications, records, conduct, and demeanor of the participants in each informal complaint proceeding are confidential and handled in accordance with Texas Government Code, §2009.054, entitled "Confidentiality of Certain Records and Communications."

  (3) A mediator shall have completed 40 hours of Texas mediation training that meets the standards of the Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures Act, as set out in Texas Government Code, §154.052, and must follow the ethical guidelines for mediators adopted by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar of Texas.

  (4) A mediator may be either a Commission employee or a non-Commission employee. If the complainant and respondent submit a written request to the director agreeing to share all costs of mediation, they may retain a non-Commission employee to conduct the mediation. If the complainant and respondent are unable to agree on whether to engage a non-Commission employee as the mediator, or in the absence of a request for a non-Commission employee mediator, the director shall appoint a Commission employee to conduct the mediation. If the mediator is not a Commission employee, then the director shall appoint a Commission employee as a monitor. The monitor will act as a technical advisor to the non-Commission employee mediator and may, at the direction of the non-Commission employee mediator, participate in the informal complaint proceeding. A non-Commission employee mediator shall have the same duties and obligations of a Commission employee mediator and may, in his or her sole discretion, compel the complainant and respondent to provide information pursuant to subsection (e)(10) of this section.

  (5) Mediators and monitors shall not communicate with a Commission hearings examiner or a Commissioner about any material or substantive aspect of a complaint or reply filed pursuant to this section.

  (6) Each complainant and respondent in an informal complaint proceeding shall cooperate fully in gathering and disclosing information requested by the mediator or monitor and shall participate in good faith in all aspects of the informal complaint proceeding.

  (7) A natural gas purchaser, transporter, or gatherer shall not discontinue or deny service to a shipper or seller during the pendency of an informal complaint proceeding in which both are participants unless one of the following reasons applies for discontinuing service:

    (A) There is insufficient capacity on the respective facility or facilities, provided, however, that the purchaser, transporter, or gatherer provide any partial capacity that may be available from time to time.

    (B) The natural gas does not meet the quality specifications of the purchaser, transporter, gatherer, or downstream processors, pipelines, or customers. However, if the natural gas is flowing under an agreement and, at the impending termination of that agreement, there is sufficient capacity, and non-specification gas is being blended for other shippers or sellers in the area, and the acceptance of such volumes from the shipper or seller will not jeopardize downstream market deliverability of the gas, then the purchaser, transporter, or gatherer shall continue to take the gas until the conclusion of the informal complaint process, charging blending fees applicable to similarly situated shippers.

    (C) Continuing to take the natural gas would:

      (i) create a safety or environmental risk;

      (ii) cause a violation of a safety or environmental regulation or permit; or

      (iii) interfere with necessary maintenance and repairs of facilities.

    (D) There is no existing contractual agreement in effect on the date the complaint is filed at the Commission as to the price to be paid or fees charged for the production during the pendency of the informal complaint process, provided, however, that the production will be taken if the complainant and respondent agree that the price or fees will be determined at a later date.

    (E) There is such good cause as the mediator may determine in the particular case.

  (8) Notwithstanding anything in paragraph (7) of this subsection that may be construed to the contrary, that paragraph does not change the rights of the parties that are participating in the informal complaint proceeding that those parties have under state law or any other regulation of the Commission.

  (9) A transporter, gatherer, or purchaser shall not discriminate against a shipper or seller because the shipper or seller has, in good faith:

    (A) filed an informal complaint at the Commission;

    (B) filed a formal complaint at the Commission;

    (C) instituted or caused to be instituted at the Commission any enforcement proceeding against a purchaser, transporter, or gatherer based on alleged violations of any rule or statute; or

    (D) made inquiry to the Commission as to the facts or circumstances surrounding operation of a purchaser's, transporter's, or gatherer's system.

  (10) The Commission may commence an enforcement action, initiated by the director, for failure by the complainant or the respondent to comply with all provisions of the informal complaint proceeding.

(e) Informal complaint process.

  (1) An informal complaint proceeding is initiated by filing a complaint with the Commission by:

    (A) calling the Commission Helpline at (512) 463-7288 Commission staff will answer calls to the Helpline from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on regular Commission business days. A voice mail system will be in place to receive calls during non-business hours; or

    (B) submitting a complaint in writing by:

      (i) regular United States mail to the following address: Director, Gas Services Division, P.O. Box 12967, Austin, Texas 78711-2967;

      (ii) facsimile transmission (fax) to the following number: (512) 463-7962; or

      (iii) internet submission by accessing the online form on the Gas Services page of the Commission's website.

  (2) Each complaint shall include the following information:

    (A) the name of the individual submitting the complaint;

    (B) the complainant's name, mailing address, telephone number, and, if applicable, e-mail address and fax number;

    (C) the respondent's name, mailing address, telephone number, and if applicable, e-mail address and fax number;

    (D) a factual description of the events that are the basis of the complaint, including the onset or duration of such events;

Cont'd...

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