The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Thursday delayed until the end of this month a decision on a regulatory judge’s proposed rejection of longstanding plans for a $600 million large-diameter natural gas transmission pipeline link in Southern California Gas Co.’s (SoCalGas) system.

The judge concluded that there are less costly ways to enhance system reliability in the southern end of the state, and the five-member CPUC was slated to consider the project, which dates back years, at its business meeting Thursday in Sacramento.

Administrative Law Judge Karl Bemesderfer’s proposed decision last month denied the Los Angeles-based Sempra Energy utility’s proposal to upgrade a compressor station and build a 65-mile, 36-inch diameter north-south pipeline link (see Daily GPI, April 7). It would traverse a corridor that in parts is highly populated.

The CPUC postponed consideration of the project until its May 26 business meeting.

As proposed by the utility, the project would cost $621.3 million, including a new pipeline between the high desert town of Adelanto and the utility’s Moreno pressure limiting station, along with rebuilding the Adelanto compressor station.

The more cost-effective alternatives to support the utility’s southern natural gas system, according to the CPUC judge, include separate projects to increase links to the southern system by Transwestern Pipeline, TransCanada Corp., and El Paso Natural Gas Co.

Bemesderfer also said that because of the prolonged leak at SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon storage facility (see Daily GPI, Feb. 18), there is little stored gas available on the northern system to support deliveries on the southern system, a situation that significantly reduces the value of a new north-to-south pipeline, particularly in light of lower-cost alternatives.

For a number of years, California’s regulators have examined various aspects of the Southern California pipeline proposal, which at one point carried a price tag of more than $850 million (see Daily GPI, May 7, 2015). It was expected to influence price differentials among the different receipt points on the SoCalGas transmission system.