NEW YORK, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Federal energy regulators said on Wednesday they had no time frame for when they may finalize new rules requiring natural gas companies to report market-specific physical gas transactions in a bid to tighten regulations and clamp down on market manipulation.
In November, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sent out a notice of inquiry to wholesale natural gas market participants to gauge whether gathering detailed next-day and next-month transactions and reporting the data quarterly would be useful in promoting market transparency.
The comment period ended on Tuesday. The changes would be made under the Natural Gas Act.
The FERC is gathering information and reading through the comments it has received, a FERC spokeswoman said.
"The commission doesn't give time lines on these types of things," she said.
Dozens of energy companies, trading firms and trade associations expressed concerns about the proposed changes, and many outright disagreed with the premise that quarterly reporting of data would bring about more market transparency.
"The quarterly transaction reporting requirements under consideration are neither necessary nor appropriate, will be unduly burdensome, and will harm natural gas markets," said Shell Energy North America in comments filed on Tuesday.
The data that FERC is considering requiring market participants to report includes company name and address, how a trade was executed (on or off an exchange), name of any broker used, volume of gas traded, price, name of the counterparty and the names of any Index to which each transaction was reported.
Eight natural-gas related trade associations jointly filed a comment to FERC on Tuesday saying that new requirements would harm, not improve transparency.
In a letter to FERC on Feb. 1, the U.S. Department of Justice expressed concern that if such information made its way into the public domain, it may cause collusion among the companies who set the price of natural gas.
"In particular, public disclosure of firm- or transaction-specific information may reduce competition by facilitating coordination among suppliers that can increase prices, thereby harming consumers," the Justice Department said.