The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) should deny a request from two Sempra Energy utilities plan to construct a natural gas transmission pipeline link in the heart of San Diego County, according to an administrative law judge (ALJ).

In a non-binding decision released Wednesday, ALJ Colette Kersten found that San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (SDG&E) and Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) failed to demonstrate that there is a need for the proposed Pipeline Safety & Reliability Project (PS&RP).

"The proposal issued today by a CPUC administrative law judge finds that the utilities' most recent natural gas supply forecast and the CPUC's reliability standard for gas planning do not demonstrate that there is a need for the proposed pipeline," the CPUC said. "The proposal orders the companies to pursue options for supply that may be needed in smaller amounts and for shorter periods of time in the coming years."

The utilities' $639 million plan, first proposed in 2015, calls for a new 47-mile long, 36-inch diameter pipeline from an existing transmission metering station in the north end of San Diego County to Miramar, CA. The proposed route crosses the cities of San Diego, Escondido, and Poway; unincorporated communities in San Diego County; and federal land.

The pipeline would replace a 16-inch natural gas transmission pipeline, also from Rainbow Station to Miramar. Initial plans were for the existing pipeline to be converted to a lower pressure distribution pipeline. The ALJ also advised denying that part of the utilities' plan. Under state/federal safety/maintenance requirements, the existing pipeline, built in 1949, must be pressure tested or replaced under the utility's ongoing pipeline safety and enhancement program.

The ALJ advised the CPUC to direct the utilities to conduct hydrostatic testing or file a replacement plan for the existing 16-inch pipeline.

The CPUC is scheduled to take up the SDG&E/SoCalGas request at its June 21 Voting Meeting.