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Letters against pipeline project sent to feds

February 15, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The four-person Federal Energy Regulatory Commission here has 30 days from today to act on letters of protest sent by Imperial County officials and Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego.

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors, the county Air Pollution Control District and Filner protested the FERC's Jan. 16 approval of plans to bury an 80-mile stretch of natural gas pipeline from Blythe to the Mexican border under Imperial County desert land.

North Baja Pipeline of Portland, Ore., wants to export natural gas to Mexico by burying a pipeline under Imperial County land to connect El Paso Energy's huge Texas-Los Angeles pipeline with an under-construction pipeline running from Tijuana to Mexicali.

Imperial County officials and Filner told FERC it did not take into consideration the potential for air pollution from new Mexicali power plants that would burn the natural gas when it approved plans to construct the pipeline.

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According to a protest letter sent by Imperial County Air Pollution Control Officer Stephen Birdsall, 95 percent of the natural gas exported by North Baja would be burned by four power plants in Mexicali.

He said construction of the plants is dependent on the potential supply of natural gas from the pipeline. Therefore, the full scope of environmental impacts of the plants should have been addressed by the commission.

FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said there are various things the commission could do in the next 30 days. She said it could reconsider its original ruling or deny a rehearing.

"Legally we have to act," she said.

If no person or agency submitted comments in the 30-day period following the Jan. 16 issuance of a presidential permit, the pipeline would be given final approval on the federal level.

Since Imperial County officials and Filner protested, FERC is forced to consider their arguments and the counter-arguments of North Baja Pipeline officials.

When Miller was asked if there was a chance FERC would reverse its earlier decision, she said, "Every case is different I can't speculate on what the commission might do."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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