FERC sets deadline for reconsidering pipeline

March 16, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given itself until April 1 to decide whether to reconsider its Jan. 16 approval of the North Baja Pipeline.

Shortly after Jan. 16, Imperial County officials and Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, wrote FERC and asked it to reconsider approval of the project because natural gas from the pipeline would fuel power plants in Mexicali that would negatively affect air quality here.

The officials and Filner contend the commission did not take the potential for air pollution into consideration when it approved the pipeline.

After Feb. 15, FERC had 30 days to act on the letters from the county and Filner. If FERC had taken no action the requests would have been denied and the project would have been officially approved on the federal level.


Recently, the commission said it would make its final determination on the requests April 1 instead of Monday. This gives the commission two more weeks to weigh the arguments of local officials and counter-arguments from pipeline backers.

On Jan. 16, FERC approved plans of San Diego's Sempra Energy and Bethesda, Md,.-based Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. to bury a 30-inch wide pipeline under the Colorado River, under the streets of Blythe, under the desert washes of east Imperial County and under the All-American Canal to the Mexican border.

The project is called the North Baja Pipeline because the 80-mile stretch of pipeline from Blythe to the border would connect a longer pipeline running from Tijuana to Mexicali with a huge natural gas pipeline running from El Paso to Los Angeles.

Natural gas from the pipeline would fuel at least two power plants under construction in Mexicali.

Recently, Imperial County has sued the California State Lands Commission for its Jan. 30 approval of the pipeline for similar reasons it objected to the federal approval.

County officials contend the state commission did not take into consideration the potential for air pollution when it approved the construction of the pipeline.

Before anything is built, the pipeline must be approved by both California and federal agencies.

Critics of the pipeline have said the offices of Gov. Gray Davis and President George Bush are pushing the project through.

Pipeline backers say the pipeline will improve air quality in the combined airsheds of San Diego, Tijuana, Mexicali and Imperial Valley by allowing Mexican power plants to switch from dirtier diesel fuel to cleaner- burning natural gas.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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