By Colleen Cochran / The OB Rag
The California Public Utilities Commission placed the welfare of San Diego County citizens and wildlife ahead of San Diego Gas & Electric’s profits on June 21st.
The five-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, 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:
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.