Senators “puzzled” at DOE, ERC not being ready to tackle natural gas bill

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Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Risa Hontiveros were “puzzled” with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) seeming lack of preparedness to discuss a Senate measure seeking to lay out policies to develop and  regulate the country’s midstream natural gas industry.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee, and Hontiveros, a vice chairperson of the Senate finance committee, presided a joint hearing attended by DOE and ERC representatives Tuesday to tackle Senate Bill No. 1819 or the proposed Midstream Natural Gas Industry Development Act.

During the hearing, DOE Asec. Leonido Pulido apologized since his agency submitted a wrong document to the committees regarding its comments on the bill. He then asked Gatchalian, the bill’s author, if the department can be given until Monday of next week to post their comments.

Gatchalian accepted Pulido’s apology, but requested the comments be send by this coming Friday (January 8) in preparation for the next hearing on Tuesday (January 12).

Meanwhile, the ERC also sought to defer presenting its comments on the measure. Leila Cirio, Chief Energy Regulation Officer of the commission’s Investigation and Enforcement Division for Generation Companies reasoned that the quasi-judicial body needs more time to clarify several provisions in the bill, specifically those involving the regulator’s powers and responsibilities.

Hontiveros, who attended the hearing via video conference, was particularly puzzled, noting that the hearing on the bill had already been postponed twice. Gatchalian then suggested that Hontiveros to reserve her queries for the next hearing.

Gatchalian said he was as puzzled as Hontiveros, adding that his bill is actually not a new one and that he had to talk to experts in the industry before crafting the measure.

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