View Mobile Site

PG&E: We’ll sue to block CEQA

SSJID refuses to rubber stamp pipeline without review

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED January 30, 2010 3:13 a.m.
PG&E is threatening to sue the South San Joaquin Irrigation District over a 24-inch natural gas pipeline project in rural South Manteca that the SSJID board refused to rubber stamp.

The pipeline in question runs from Woodward Avenue to West Ripon Road about midway between Union Road and Oleander Avenue.

Issues that PG&E has not addressed publically that the California Environmental Quality Act process would include:

•Soil conditions. The sandy soil has an extremely high water table – in some places around Woodward Avenue three or so feet below the ground. PG&E’s solution is simply to dewater the area and dump the water into SSJID lines without identifying what they’d actually be dumping into the lines. State law is tough on cities and farmers that send water into drainage canals and ultimately out into the San Joaquin River and the Delta. Nestles in Ripon, for example, was prohibited from dewatering its site into either storm drains or the river due to issues with the quality of the water.

•Identify the quality and quantity of the water. Again, SSJID  - nor does PG&E for that matter – know anything about the quality of the water that PG&E wants to pump into the SSJID system.

•City of Manteca storm run-off. The city has existing rights to use the SSJID storm system for its runoff. It is unclear how that would impact Manteca  if a large volume is moved into the lines at a time of heavy or steady downfall, it could potentially back up the Manteca system and cause flooding in residential and commercial neighborhoods. The city has the required federal and state permits needed to discharging water into the SSJID system and ultimately the Delta. PG&E does not.

•Crossing under a key irrigation canal. To avoid undermining a major canal, PG&E plans to take the pipeline down from 10 feet beneath the surface to 42 feet at one point. Given issues that PG&E had in Rancho Cordova over a year ago where a resident was killed and members of his family severely injured in a natural gas pipeline explosion, SSJID wants assurances that the “dip” is safe.

•The integrity of the SSJID facilities. PG&E has not developed any plan – timing or otherwise – to assure the integrity of district facilities that carry irrigation water that the new pipeline will parallel or the various T-offs to various farms used to irrigate orchards and other crops that are in the path of the PG&E project. An interruption of service on the main line or to specific farmers due to bad timing or other issues arising could spell a crop disaster.

•The wisdom of leaving the existing 16-inch pipeline in the ground and abandoning it while the new 24-inch line is in place. Pipeline that is not being used in the area south of the Highway 120 Bypass – a segment of the Manteca municipal sewer system is one example – has water in it from ground water seeping through the unused pipe. The potential for residue in the pipeline to mix with water and create environmental problems has not been identified through a study as either a non-concern or a possible concern.

SSJID had only days to review pipeline plans
The SSJID contends it not only got the plans just days before PG&E wanted an OK to use an easement controlled by SSJID but they didn’t receive them until after PG&E awarded a contract to construct the 2.5-mile pipeline.

in a letter from PG&E counsel Mark H. Penskar dated Jan. 27, 2010, “PG&E demands that SSJID withdraw any demand that it submit CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) documentation for the Line 108 pipeline project as a special condition of the project.”

The board  rejected approval of the PG&E request to run the new pipeline across SSJID facilities at eight separate locations as well as running parallel to a couple of district water laterals on Tuesday. On Wednesday, PG&E attorneys were threatening to sue unless SSJID gave into their demands by 5 p.m. Friday.

On Friday in a letter from SSJID General Manger Jeff Shields, PG&E was informed the Manteca-based water agency would diligently review PG&E’s request as required by the encroachment agreement that they have with SSJID “but SSJID is not willing to prematurely offer its consent until SSJID is assured that its statutory duties are satisfied and SSJID’s concerns are addressed.

The PG&E attorney contends CEQA “applies to discretionary decision-making by government agencies. There is no EIR or other CEQA document for PG&E Line 108 project for the simple reason that the project did not trigger any discretionary permit requirements under applicable law. There is no agency to prepare an EIR for the Line 108 project.”

The attorney goes on to note that “the California Constitution vests on the California Public utilities Commission exclusive jurisdiction over the sitting, design, and location of gas transmission facilities controlled and owned” by utilities such as PG&E.

PG&E says they don’t need permission from anyone or any agency
In other words, once PG&E services an area they do not need permission from anyone to move forward with any new pipeline.

At the same time, the SSJID points out that the master encroachment agreement that PG&E signed with SSJID gives SSJID “at least two weeks” for review” and if it can’t be completed within that time frame, it must diligently work to complete the review as soon as possible. The actual plans were not submitted to the district until a few days before the board meeting.

Shields also pointed out that SSJID now has crews working on several of the irrigation lines that PG&E simply assumed they had the right to use to dewater the soil they need to remove in order to place their pipeline in the ground. Shields said there are real concerns that the PG&E project – that is scheduled to start Monday – could seriously infringe on SSJID’s need to complete their work before the start of the irrigation season on March 15 or run the risk of having inadequately prepared irrigation lines for an entire irrigation season.

“SSJID cannot approve PG&E’s plans without first ensuing the safety of its personnel and verifying that PG&E’s construction activities will not interfere with SSJID’s ongoing maintenance and construction,” Shields also wrote in his letter.

PG&E paid SSJID $400,000 for pilfering data
Shields on Friday also said it was important the financial viability of impacted farmers – those whose access lines will be interrupted by the trenching and/or boring – are protected through proper timing of the project at various locations which PG&E has not explored with the SSJID.

Shields in his letter also said the SSJID is working to determine whether additional approval from the CPUC may be appropriate under the circumstances. “There are several potential grounds for CPUC review and approval of PG&E’s proposed project, regardless if whether or not a new Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity is required,” Shields wrote. “SSJID will analyze these alternatives as part of it review of PG&E’s project application.”

It is not the first time SSJID has been drawn into a potential lawsuit concerning PG&E’s day-to-day operations.

Several years ago the SSJID sued and secured $400,000 plus in a settlement from PG&E after their agent pilfered data electronically from the SSJID computers.

PG&E contended they had no knowledge that the consultant they hired would do such a thing although PG&E came in possession of confidential SSJID documents.
Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...