California regulators Thursday approved two more components of the Southern California natural transmission/storage system restructuring that has been unfolding for several years. Sempra Energy's two utilities got what they asked for from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The CPUC approved a request from San Diego Gas and Electric Co. (SDG&E) to acquire interstate pipeline transportation capacity on the Kern River Gas Transmission pipeline with a pre-arranged capacity release transaction. It fits with the regulators' expressed desire that California utilities add to their supply diversity to avoid facing future gas supply shortages, the CPUC said.

Under recently adopted gas restructuring rules, utilities were supposed to get approvals for diversification from the CPUC's independent consumer branch, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), but in this case SDG&E could not convince DRA of the Kern River deal's merits, so it appealed to the full five-member CPUC.

In taking its action Thursday, the commission agreed with the utility that the Kern River capacity acquisition will "enable SDG&E to continue to meet its identified goal to operate within the CPUC's approved planning range of 140 MMcf/d."

In the other action, the CPUC approved proposed tariffs for SDG&E and its affiliated Sempra utility, Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), to implement a new system of integration, firm access rights, and off-system deliveries on their Southern California transmission pipeline and storage system. The utilities' rates basically were approved with some modifications, the CPUC said.

Generally, the approval recognizes that the SDG&E and SoCalGas transmission systems are now fully integrated; Sempra LNG as the developer of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal in North Baja California will be shipping gas into the state after its start-up early next year; and firm access rights for both utilities' off-system delivery service to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and a "citygate pooling service" are part of the new tariffs.

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