Sempra, CPUC Take Heat for Opposing New CA Pipes

Sempra Energy and California regulators were put on the hotseat during a Senate hearing last week for their continued opposition to the new interstate pipeline and expansion projects that have been proposed for the natural gas-hungry California market.

"Am I not correct that the California [Public Utilities] Commission as well as local distribution companies have consistently fought against new pipelines?" asked Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during an oversight hearing last Tuesday, evaluating the need to upgrade the nation's energy transportation/transmission infrastructure.

"Yes sir, that's true," responded Jerald V. Halvorsen, president of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), which represents interstate gas pipelines.

"For example, didn't Sempra, the parent company of Southern California Gas, file at FERC in opposition to the recent Kern River pipeline expansion?" asked Murkowski, who seemed to be both amazed and perplexed by the company's actions.

"As well as the Transwestern [Pipeline] expansion, yes sir," Halvorsen added.

"Am I also...correct that the state of California has steadfastly insisted that all interstate pipelines end at the border of California, with the pipelines inside the border being subject to state jurisdiction?" Murkowski further pressed during the exchange.

"That's right, Mr. Chairman," said Halvorsen.

"Isn't the net effect of this to deny California consumers the benefit of FERC's open-access...program, which has saved consumers elsewhere in the U.S. billions of dollars?" the chairman continued.

"...That's it, Mr. Chairman. That's exactly the right answer," quipped Halvorsen.

Then, "what's the relief...Is the shoe not pinching enough?" Murkowski inquired.

"We tend to speak a different language...We've been trying. Particularly I think it's unfortunate that some of the local distribution companies that need the gas have been opposing new pipeline projects. Again, we're doing our best to communicate that we all ought to work together," Halvorson told the committee.

©Copyright 2001 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.