DEFINING A RIGHT OF ACCESS TO INTERSTATE NATURAL GAS PIPELINES
RODNEY T. SMITH
ARTHUR S. DE VANY
ROBERT J. MICHAELS
Decontrol of the wellhead price of natural gas under the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978 ended the general shortage of natural gas, which had begun in the 1960s. It also led to dislocations in gas markets because of regulatory uncertainties that created difficulties in renegotiating contracts made during the shortage period. Together, the decontrol and dislocations led to a decline in the traditional role of interstate gas pipelines as full-requirements suppliers to local distributors, who now use pipelines primarily as transporters of gas purchased independently of the pipelines. The growth in transport transactions has increased greatly the potential scope of efficient exchanges in gas markets. Achieving efficiency gains, however, requires an underlying right of access to pipelines that is non-discriminatory, exchangeable, and consistent with both existing regulation and pre-existing contractual relationships. The authors define such a right, which they call exchangeable transport entitlement (ETE). They show that ETE satisfies the criteria for efficiency gains, and they examine the practical problems of the transition that a regulatory regime incorporating ETE faces. The analysis has important implications for other industries and for the economic theory of regulation. Specifically, the analysis shows that economists must realize the importance of diverse contractual relationships in both their theoretical literature and their proposals for regulatory reform. Copyright 1990 Western Economic Association International.
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