In an interview with a knowledgeable syndicated public affairs columnist who understands energy issues, California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who has long coveted the governor’s office, made it clear that he thinks California will not need a liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal following the recent state approval of the 80-mile North Baja Pipeline expansion to allow gas supplies to flow from a soon-to-open LNG terminal in Mexico.

Not surprisingly, Garamendi chairs the state panel — the three-member State Lands Commission — that gave final California approval to the pipeline expansion July 13, and stopped an offshore LNG terminal proposal by BHP Billiton along the Southern California coast in April. Any of the remaining proposed LNG terminals in the state — onshore or offshore — must go through the lands commission.

“All of the estimates I have seen for natural gas indicate that the maximum we will need for at least 25 or 30 years is an additional billion cubic feet-per-year beyond what we have today,” Garamendi is quoted as saying in an interview with syndicated newspaper columnist Tom Elias, a Sacramento-based political/social commentator who has written about on-again/off-again LNG proposals in the state dating back 30 years.

Elias wrote that Garamendi sees the State Lands Commission approval of the North Baja Pipeline as a “unique act, letting in a little bit of LNG so the state’s coast can stay clear of natural gas developments.”

Elias went on to quote Garamendi in a column that appeared in daily newspapers around the state Monday as saying “any other LNG facility [aside from the Sempra Energy terminal nearing completion along the North Baja California Pacific Coast at Costa Azul] is economically problematic.” And in the long run if California needs more natural gas, it can get supplies that may come through one of the proposed Oregon-based receiving terminals, the lieutenant governor said.

Last month, the panel Garamendi heads gave its qualified approval to the pipeline expansion to enhance the state’s ability to receive some of the supplies starting early next year at Sempra’s receiving terminal about 60 miles south of the California-Mexico border. The expansion could boost capacity from the current 500 MMcf/d to 2.9 Bcf/d in the pipeline that serves both North Baja California and the Southwest (see Daily GPI, July 17).

The decision, which adds checks and balances assuring that the heating value of the supplies is compatible when mixed with the state’s other sources of gas, amends the Sempra North Baja Pipeline’s existing lease for bringing supplies across the U.S.-Mexico border. This will permit an additional 48-inch diameter pipeline within North Baja’s existing right-of-way, encompassing a three-phase expansion project between now and into 2009.

Technically, the State Lands Commission was just dealing with the 1,035 feet of pipe crossing state-managed land, but it is a key decision for the 79.8-mile existing route that will get the extra pipeline alongside the existing one.

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