Judge Wants Southern California Gas Pipeline Rejected

March 2016, Vol. 243, No. 3

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A judge has recommended that state regulators reject a $621-million pipeline to carry natural gas to Southern California.

Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric want to build a 63-mile pipeline and pass on the cost to customers.

Karl J. Bemesderfer, an administrative law judge with the California Public Utilities Commission, issued a proposed decision Tuesday rejecting the concept, saying there are cheaper, safer and less environmentally damaging ways to ensure that the region’s increasing natural gas demands are met — including through proposed alternative pipelines.

The judge’s decision has no legal force until the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) votes on the issue, which could happen next month.

The pipeline would run from an existing storage facility in Adelanto, northeast of Los Angeles, through San Bernardino and Riverside counties and the San Bernardino National Forest to another station in Moreno Valley.

It would be capable of carrying gas from storage fields farther north to SoCalGas and SDG&E customers in San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Imperial counties.

The decision made no mention of a monthslong gas leak that partially shut down a Los Angeles-area gas storage field. But a PUC statement Wednesday said it lessens the value of the so-called North-South Project.

“Because of the leak at Aliso Canyon, there is little stored gas available on the northern system to support deliveries on the southern system,” the release said.

Aliso Canyon is the largest natural gas storage area in the West. During the leak, the company withdrew most of the gas in the field to relieve pressure on the leaking well. It’s under order from state regulators not to store additional gas deep underground until all 114 remaining wells pass a battery of strict tests.

State agencies that studied the effect of the partial shutdown released a report Tuesday suggesting a risk of electrical blackouts in Southern California over as many as 14 days this summer if hotter-than-usual weather increases demands on gas-burning generating plants.

In a statement, SoCalGas said it was disappointed by the judge’s decision and said the project would secure “safe and reliable natural gas supplies” for the region.

“Because this southern portion of the SoCalGas system relies primarily on a single natural gas supplier to the east, this new pipeline would allow us to access receipt points and storage to the north in the event that the supply from the east is insufficient or unavailable,” the statement said. “This is especially important for the natural gas-fueled electric power plants that supply electricity to our homes, businesses and industries.”

A call seeking comment from SDG&E wasn’t immediately returned.

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