Utilities Commission Rejects San Diego Gas & Electric’s Pipeline

by on June 22, 2018 · 2 comments

in Energy, San Diego

By Colleen Cochran

The California Public Utilities Commission placed the welfare of San Diego County citizens and wildlife ahead of San Diego Gas & Electric’s profits yesterday, June 21.

The 5-member commission voted unanimously to reject SDG&E and its partner Southern California Gas’ bid to install 47 miles of new pipeline from the Rainbow Metering Station near Fallbrook down through Miramar, mostly along Interstate 15. Another potential route these utilities were considering would have taken the line through Mission Trails Regional Park.

The rejected Pipeline 3602 would have been 36 inches wide and have had five times the carrying capacity of existent 16-inch-wide Pipeline 1600. In an effort to avoid making potential repairs to Line 1600, SDG&E’s plan was to reduce the operating pressure on that line and to run new Pipeline 3602 at high pressure.

The CPUC decided increasing San Diego County’s natural gas carrying capacity is unnecessary. The region’s gas needs are being met with the present infrastructure. It ordered SDG&E to ensure the safety of Line 1600 by proceeding with implementing all state laws and rules that apply to natural gas transmission pipelines.

SDG&E expressed remorse over the decision. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Its spokesperson said,

“Today’s decision denies the public a complete analysis of a project to replace a nearly 70-year-old pipeline in favor of costly testing that will result in significant community impacts with negligible benefits,” 

Opponents of the pipeline gathered in Mission Trails Regional Park this past Sunday, June 17 to protest the proposed pipeline. The event, organized by environmental group SanDiego350, included residents of Santee and members of the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice (ICEJ), Sierra Club, Climate Action Campaign, Protect Our Communities Foundation, Save Mission Trails, and Food & Water Watch also participated.

Stephanie Corkran speaking at the CPUC hearing. Screen capture

Stephanie Corkran, an anthropologist and SanDiego350 volunteer, deserves much of the credit for safeguarding San Diegans. Not only did she plan the Mission Trails rally, upon learning that the CPUC hearing would take place, she immediately hopped on a plane bound for San Francisco in order to speak on behalf of San Diego County citizens, animals, and plants.

Standing before the commission, she said she opposed the pipeline because natural gas demand is declining in our region, no proven need exists for the pipeline, and because the more than $600-million price tag for the venture should not be inflicted on ratepayers.

She also discussed the potential health risks for San Diegans. Should the new pipeline leak, she said, residents will be exposed to toxins that will linger in their bodies. She also discussed the potential for wildfires.

She urged the CPUC to reject the pipeline because, she said:

“we also think it’s important to show the people, to show residents, that this agency, this institution, is on the side of clean energy, sustainable energy, a future that can sustain life as we know it on the planet.”

In conclusion, she said,

“We hope what motivates you is looking out for the common good and looking out for the best interests of our residents.”

The CPUC, by rendering a no vote on the SDG&E pipeline, showed that, indeed, it did have the best interests of San Diegans at heart.

See Stephanie Corkran’s speech here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=fn6Z5NyOZaw

Colleen Cochran is a legal editor and a San Diego-based coordinator for Food & Water Watch, an energy and environment advocacy group based in D.C.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Scott Borden June 22, 2018 at 3:59 pm

Hi Colleen,
Great article and thanks for covering it. SD350 (I’m a member) did a lot of great grassroots work to oppose the pipeline, but in fairness the heavy lifting was done via months of legal work by attorney Matt Vespa and Earthjustice (I serve on their Council) as part of their “Right to Zero” campaign in California. I can send a copy of their 70-page legal brief against the project, which was key in swaying both the administrative law judge and ultimately the commissioners.
Scott Borden
San Diego

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Avatar Colleen June 25, 2018 at 8:17 am

Thanks Scott. Agreed, Matt Vespa, staff attorney at Earthjustice, deserves infinite praise. I emailed him questions concerning previous articles I wrote on the subject – he was quite helpful to me. Read Judge Kersten’s 147-page proposed decision several times (http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PublishedDocs/Efile/G000/M213/K824/213824449.PDF) Yes, I would like to view the Earthjustice legal brief against the project as well. I will contact you.

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