Commission rejects $639M San Diego gas pipeline

SAN DIEGO — The California Public Utilities Commission Thursday rejected a $639 million proposed San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas natural gas pipeline that would have run from Rainbow to Miramar.

The 47-mile long, 36-inch diameter proposed line would have replaced an existing 16-inch pipeline along the Interstate 15 corridor at ratepayers’ expense.

However, with a 5-0 vote, the commission found that the project “is not needed for safety or reliability,” as SDG&E claimed.

SDG&E will now have to conduct a high-pressure water test on the existing line, due to safety regulations passed after a San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion killed eight people in 2010. SDG&E officials claim the test could take up to four years, and impact as many as 125 homes and structures near the line.

“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,” the utility responded in a statement.

“…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.”

Environmental group San Diego 350 held a demonstration against the pipeline Sunday at Mission Trails Regional Park.

Volunteer campaigner Stephanie Corkran traveled to San Francisco to pressure the commission against approval. She said its decision Thursday sets an important precedent.

“We know that to achieve California’s climate goals we need to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure and leave fossil fuels in the ground,” she said. “Today the CPUC made the same determination, marking this is an important milestone in California’s transition to clean, safe, sustainable energy.”

The vote backs up a May 2 proposed decision by commission Administrative Law Judge Colette Kersten.

In her decision, Kersten said SDG&E and SoCalGas “have not shown why it is necessary to build a very costly pipeline to substantially increase gas pipeline capacity in an era of declining demand and at a time when the state of California is moving away from fossil fuels.”