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CPUC Holds Public Hearings For SDG&E Natural Gas Pipeline

A sign on SDG&E's headquarters appears in this undated photo.
Nicholas McVicker
A sign on SDG&E's headquarters appears in this undated photo.
CPUC Holds Public Hearings For SDG&E Natural Gas Pipeline
CPUC Holds Public Hearings For SDG&E Natural Gas Pipeline GUESTS: Jennifer Ramp, senior communications manager, SDG&E Matt Vespa, attorney, Sierra Club

Our top story. Public meetings are being held in San Diego County this week about a plan to build a new natural gas pipeline running from rainbow to Miramar. San Diego gas and electric says the pipeline is needed to replace one very old pipeline and take the pressure off another existing line. Among the opponents of the pipeline is the Sierra Club which says the hundreds of millions of dollars that they want to spend on a new fossil fuel pipeline would be better spent on renewable energy. 20 me first is Jennifer the senior communications manager with San Diego gas and elect. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. There are existing pipelines so why do they believe we need the when. The first priority is always safety. The safety of our customers and employees. We need to address a pipeline currently in our system that was constructed back in 1949. There are new laws here in California that require that pipeline to either be pressure tested or replaced. We have looked at the different options and alternatives and we believe the most prudent would be to replace the transmission function of this existing line with the new modern pipeline. Is the reason to believe that the existing line is unsafe now. The line is safe even though it was constructed in 1949 with different technology at the time. We have taken immense proactive safety requirements with this line including lowering the pressure and we have also done internal inspections of the line. Surveys and the patrol. We know the line is safe today at the pressure it is that. This 70-year-old pipeline that they are looking to replace transmit just 10% of the region's national -- natural gas. As you know California is shifting from fossil fuels to renewables. So with a greater focus on renewal kept the focus on doing without that pipeline entirely. We do have it over the reliance that you indicated in San Diego. Two pipelines bring gas into San Diego. One has 90% and the pipeline we are talking about today reason the other 10%. There is an over dependence. This is a very large economy and we are talking about renewables. SDG&E is a leader in renewable sustainability and that's what we strive to do it by doing -- bring in more into the system. We were the first utility to reach 33% and we are delivering 43%. To get to these higher thresholds and to get to 50% or beyond natural gas is important. It is critical and actually complements the renewable energy that can be variable at times. The larger existing pipeline brings 90% of the natural gas to San Diego. Coming back to my last question since we are going to be relying more on renewables can't that larger pipeline that already exist absorb the 10% capacity if we turn off the smaller existing pipeline? On a given day it might but what we are trying to do is look at long-term reliability. For instance if something happened to that line or the compression -- compressor station that Martha pushes itself. Then we have a situation on our hands and reliability is that take. This is a $640 million project. SDG&E wants consumers to pick up the cost. Attorneys for the Sierra Club believe there is another reason SDG&E and its parent company want to build the pipeline which is to help semper export natural gas to Mexico. Is there any truth to that? That is a very good question. When you look at the purpose of this project first and foremost it is about safety. Something needs to be done about mine 1600 at this new proposal would comply first and foremost with the pipeline safety laws we need a new larger capacity line that we will be able to have a more even balance of natural gas coming into San Diego. There is really no gas to push self we need it here in San Diego. So the answer to that is no. There are no plans at the gas we is in San Diego would come from this pipeline. If it is approved when Mike construction start. We are hoping for a decision as soon as possible. I believe the timeline might have a decision by 2019 that is the case. If that is the case construction would start 2020 and we would hope to have that line in service in 2022. I've been speaking with Jennifer the senior communications manager with SDG&E. Thank you. Thank you. For an opposing viewpoint we are joined by Matt Vesper. Will come to the program. Thank you for having me. What is the main reason the Sierra Club is opposed to the project. This is a $600 million investment new fossil fuel infrastructure that will expand fossil fuel infrastructure in San Diego at a time when our gas demand is rapidly declining. We do not feel like we need to spend all this money on a new pipeline when we don't need it anymore. The deadly gas pipe explosion in San Bruno prompted lawmakers to approve new regulations that require utilities to replace or test existing gas pipelines. One of the pipelines they are talking about here in San Diego is 70 years old. For the sake of safety when that be wise to retire that line and added new one? We have no issue with retiring this mind. It only serves 10% of gas demand. We agree it is appropriate to reduce the pressure. That is not an area of dispute. Whether we do not agree with is whether we have two repay -- replace the pipeline with a much newer and larger and costly pipeline. There's already another one that does not have safety issues that is serving the region and serves 90% of its need and because gas demand is declining so rapidly due to California's decarbonization efforts and investments in clean energy we are fortunately now at the point we don't have to replace the pipeline we can take it out of service and not have to build anyone at all. SDG&E counters they say been so dependent on a single line would not be a good idea because the region would then be vulnerable if we had an outage. What is your response to that. There is no dispute that the current existing larger pipeline can serve San Diego. What they want to do is to create a completely redundant gas pipeline system where you will have this huge new pipeline which is just there on standby. That is not a planning standard that is accepted anywhere in the country because it costs a fortune and provides nominal benefits. The current pipeline that serves the Legion has had an outage once in 1985 single day that they want to build a whole new pipeline just in case something like that would happen when in fact there are other options to improve resiliency in the system. For example we can import gas through Mexico if there was such an emergency to reduce impacts provided testimony showing that from the electric standpoint if the pipeline went out you could still keep the lights on by importing power from outside of the region and not having to rely on the gas plants that are located inside San Diego. There are ways to reduce this risk. Speaking of Mexico why has this theory developed that the line you want to go through San Diego is really geared toward export of natural gas to Mexico. San Diego gas and electric and SoCal gas which other sponsors of this pipeline the parent company is semper and they have a number of fossil fuel center investments in Mexico including a liquefied national -- natural gas terminal. Cimpress shareholder reports have indicated they would like to move this liquefied natural gas terminal which is the only one on the West Coast to export to access Asian markets. This particular pipeline could be one piece in a larger system that will help create additional capacity to enable gas export to Mexico. Thank you Matt. The public scoping meetings about the pipeline takes place is afternoon and evening in Escondido at the Park Avenue community center. And tomorrow afternoon and evening in San Diego at Alliant international University on Pomerado Road

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is holding public meetings in San Diego County this week on a plan to build a new natural gas pipeline running from the Rainbow Metering Station to Marine Corps Airs Station Miramar.

SDG&E natural gas transmission line project proposed route.
SDG&E
SDG&E natural gas transmission line project proposed route.

A spokesperson for San Diego Gas & Electric said the new 47-mile pipeline is needed to replace a nearly 70-year-old pipeline and take the pressure off another nearly 60-year-old line which also originates at the Rainbow Metering Station and runs south near Interstate 5.

The Sierra Club is an opponent of the pipeline. Members of the nonprofit environmental conservation organization believe the hundreds of millions of dollars SDG&E wants to spend on a new fossil fuel pipeline would be better spent on renewable energy sources.

The CPUC will ultimately decide if the project is built.

Jennifer Ramp, senior communications manager for SDG&E and Matt Vespa, an attorney with the Sierra Club, discuss the pros and cons of the natural gas pipeline project Wednesday on Midday Edition.

Public Meetings

Wednesday

2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Park Avenue Community Center, Auditorium

210 East Park Avenue, Escondido

Thursday

2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Alliant International University, Green Hall

10455 Pomerado Road, San Diego