Without discussion or comment, the head of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Thursday pulled from consideration a last-minute item to launch an investigation of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal plans for Long Beach Harbor. The issue is to be considered at the regulators’ next regularly scheduled business meeting April 22.

The proposal, which surfaced when the CPUC released its agenda for Thursday’s meeting earlier this week, cited a sense of urgency and importance in getting the CPUC directly involved in the review of LNG terminal plans.

A draft order awaiting CPUC action cites significant public policy and safety considerations for the state, and the CPUC was expected to launch its own investigation in the proposed siting, construction and operation of a LNG receiving terminal in Long Beach Harbor, a little more than a week after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled that it — not the CPUC — has exclusive jurisdiction over the proposed project.

Included in the proposed CPUC action is language seeking to require the Long Beach site developers to make a filing to the CPUC for approval of their plans. The CPUC has concluded that to build and operate the LNG terminal, a terminal developer must necessarily become a “public utility,” subject to the CPUC’s jurisdiction, too.

Mitsubishi Corp.’s Sound Energy Solutions (SES), proponents of the project, has argued that it is only subject to the jurisdiction of FERC and the Port of Long Beach, both of which the firm submitted applications to earlier this year after almost a year of preliminary work with both agencies’ technical staffs.

In the draft order going to the CPUC at its meeting Thursday, a statement was made that the California regulatory panel is a “responsible agency” under the state environmental protection law (CEQA), and thus, the regulators’ interpret this to mean they have “certain obligations to protect the public.” The draft CPUC order further states that LNG operations, while improved in recent years, present “significant environmental and safety hazards.”

LNG facilities continue to present “significant risks to the public,” the CPUC said, citing the fact that the proposed Long Beach Harbor site lies in what it described as a “high seismic activity” region with 27 active earthquake faults within 100 miles, three within five miles, and high-density residential/commercial neighborhoods within two miles.

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