GISB Meeting Brings Promise, Compromise, Light Reprimand

Fortnightly Magazine - December 1995

The Gas Industry Standards Board (GISB) has extended its lifespan and broadened its scope to tighten business practices and improve electronic transactions.

At its first-ever annual meeting, held in Baltimore, MD, GISB also was gently chided and commended by James J. Hoecker of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC): "I submit to you that GISB must not, in an attempt to please everyone, set standards at the lowest common denominator. Nor can GISB sidestep the ways it comes to grips with tough issues simply because a perfect consensus proved elusive."Hoecker's comments seemed to temper those of FERC chair Elizabeth A. Moler. At the Interstate Natural Gas Association (INGAA) meeting in mid-October, Moler used stronger language. She said the FERC wants real movement on electronic communication standards, and "we frankly don't care who gets this done."

The GISB Board of Directors meeting, October 23, proved to some members that GISB could reach consensus on tough issues. The board extended the date of its charter and broadened its scope (em a compromise with its gas producer segment after heavy debate.

GISB has 200 members in the pipeline, local distribution, producer, service, and end-user segments. Five representatives from each segment serve on the board of directors. GISB is independent, and plans to develop and maintain voluntary standards governing electronic transactions and communications. The FERC has mandated pipeline electronic bulletin boards (EBBs) and transport capacity-release transactions.

Board member Jerry Jordan of Clinton Gas Systems, Inc., a producer, told the board he liked the charter's "sunset provision." "Because if we don't make progress, I'm not sure this is the vehicle to do it," he said. He added that GISB was the right organization to accomplish the mission, but that he wasn't happy with its headway.

Stephen Chesebro', GISB board chairman, of Tenneco Gas, countered that it took a year and half simply for GISB to shape itself and to build trust among members. Dennis Holbrook, executive committee chairman, of National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp., noted that the board's aggressive 1996 plan places a high priority on electronic commerce. Some 47 of 48 action items in 1995 plan were completed.

An early vote failed, but when the resolution was split, dividing the sunset provision and the widened scope, both measures passed. One hundred "yes" votes from members were expected to ratify the board tally.

Once the vote is formalized, GISB's charter will end not on October 1, 1996, but December 31, 1998.

By expanding its scope, GISB will be able to deal with business practices related to electronic commerce. The change allows the board to get into the nuts and bolts of communication. Regarding nominations, for example, the board will be able to address such questions as: How much time is required? When are nominations due? What do pipelines require? A new GISB subcommittee will look into these and other business practice issues.

The board's actions may be timely, considering that the FERC issued a proposal October 25, the last day of the annual meeting, to inquire about the industry's progress in developing electronic communication standards.

On October