By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Protesters in Santee and Mission Trails Regional park opposed the pipeline; Preserve Wild Santee
June 22, 2018 (Santee) – By a unanimous vote, the California Public Utilities Commission has denied SDG&E/Sempra Energy’s request to build a 47-mile, three-foot diameter gas pipeline known as Line 3602, which would have replaced the aging Line 1600. The new line would have run through neighborhoods in San Diego’s North County and could also have impacted Mission Trails Regional Park and Sycamore Canyon preserves.
Activists reacted with joy, while SDG&E voiced disappointment. The utility had argued that the pipeline was necessary for safety and reliability. But the CPUC rejected those arguments, based on the utility’s projections for natural gas supply and the CPUC natural gas reliability standards, 10 News reports.
On Facebook, Preserve Wild Santee posted, “We did it! SDG&E’s fracked gas pipeline defeated!” Other project opponents included Save Mission Trails, Protect our Communities Foundation and SanDiego350.org.
Activists contended that the line could have devastated Sycamore Canyon, Fanita Ranch and Mission Trails Regional Park, also arguing that th application was “cover for a plan to increase export of American fracked natural gas to a facility Sempra Energy is planning to build in Mexico to export liquefied natural gas to Asia.”
Protect Our Communities Executive Director and lead attorney on the case, April Maurath Sommer, called the CPUC decision a “rare victory over investor owned utility greed.”
If approved, Line 3602 was would have cost ratepayers at least $639 million.
Safety of the existing line was a key concern, given the damage and loss of life caused by explosion of a gas line in San Bruno, California. The decision orders SDG&E/SoCalGas to complete safety pressure tests on Line 1600 and directs PUC staff to conduct an independent audit of the utilities’ pipeline safety records for Line 1600.
SDG&E issued the following statement:
Safety is SDG&E’s highest priority. We are disappointed with the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) denial of the Pipeline Safety & Reliability Project application to upgrade and modernize our natural gas system to enhance safety for our customers.
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. Our proposal would have utilized city streets to locate a modern new pipeline, providing far less impacts to private property and natural resources, is safer and more cost-effective.
Because the CPUC has refused to evaluate these alternatives and costs and closed the application prematurely, customers living along the existing pipeline route and the public will not have the benefit of reviewing a full evaluation of alternative routes to determine the most cost-effective and least disruptive solution.
Nevertheless, we will work with CPUC safety staff to implement a construction plan that addresses the pipeline safety requirements as quickly as possible. We will also work to design construction so that impacts to private property and the public are as minimal as possible.
Operating a safe natural gas system is critical to providing safe and reliable energy to our customers, which fuels our economy. More than 880,000 homes and businesses in San Diego rely on natural gas for their heating and cooking needs today and will decades from now.