California regulators on Thursday without discussion approved changes for Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) regarding natural gas producers in the state accessing its pipeline system and, separately, a deal in which SoCalGas provides compressed natural gas (CNG) services to a major bus fleet operator.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the consent agenda terms, conditions and rates for producers accessing SoCalGas’ transmission pipeline system, along with separate approval that allows the gas-only utility to provide CNG to one of its largest customers, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), for fueling its school bus fleet. Non utility natural gas transportation providers opposed the move, as did the CPUC’s independent consumer unit, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates.

For gas producers in the state, the CPUC approved most of what the Sempra gas utility asked for in terms of a new rate schedule, agreement forms, revisions to existing tariff rules and other modifications.

The CPUC acknowledged that the changes could “directly or indirectly” impact the safety of the SoCalGas pipeline system. They could also impact customer safety, particularly related to balancing and gas quality, the state regulators said in a resolution they approved unanimously. Ultimately, the utility must adhere to all of the CPUC’s safety related rules.

ExxonMobil submitted the only comments to SoCalGas’ changes, and the CPUC determined that state regulators did not have to take any actions regarding those comments.

On the new CNG agreement between SoCalGas and the LAUSD, natural gas transportation marketer/developer Clean Energy Fuels Corp. pointed out that the agreement will not be implemented until a pending tariff advice letter by the utility is approved. The deal was approved with the understanding there will be no added cost to existing SoCalGas ratepayers because of the first-of-its-kind CNG agreement

“We will continue to work with the CPUC to place safeguards into the tariff that will prevent a regulated utility from using [its] inherent monopoly powers to unfairly compete in the country’s largest natural gas vehicle [NGV] market,” said Todd Campbell, Clean Energy vice president for public policy and regulatory affairs.

The deal allows natural gas to be provided at higher pressures to compress it for use in NGV buses at the LAUSD fleet facility in Sun Valley, CA.

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