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Southern California Gas Company / San Diego Gas & Electric Fiber in Gas Project CPUC A.02-03-061

NOTICE OF PREPARATION

Initial Study / Mitigated Negative Declaration
SoCalGas A. 02-03-061; SDG&E A.02-03-062
INTRODUCTION

This Notice of Preparation (NOP) initiates the preparation of an Initial Study / Mitigated Negative Declaration (IS/MND) under the direction of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

BACKGROUND

Southern California Gas Company (“SCG”) and San Diego Gas and Electric (“SDG&E”) have filed applications with the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) to request CPUC authorization to implement a new service allowing telecommunications carriers and cable television companies (“Communications Companies”) to place fiber optic cable in conduit previously installed by SCG/SDG&E in its active gas pipelines (“fiber-in-gas” or “FIG” technology) using tariffed rates, terms, and conditions under new Schedule No. G-FIG.

With the passing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, deregulation allowed new companies entry into the long distance and data transmission (broadband) markets, which initiated the demand for more capacity, particularly from fiber optic cable. Although long distance networks have been established, the “last mile” connection or that part of the network that completes the final distance from the main communications line to the premises of the end users is largely nonexistent.

The more traditional approach to install a fiber connection requires extensive construction in streets within highly congested metropolitan areas, with subsequent social costs such as traffic delays and the resulting air pollution from idling traffic, and interference with customer access to local businesses. Municipal and State authorities are also impacted due to the continuing permit and restoration issues associated with construction hazards from paving removal and replacement.

The new service SCG/SDG&E are seeking proposes to mitigate the impacts associated with telecommunications service providers constructing new infrastructure in public streets. It alleviates the concerns local governments have regarding the large number of utility trenches that are required to facilitate that installation of traditional telecommunication infrastructure, and the associated public inconvenience and business disruptions. The service also proposes to mitigate the demand for limited available space in the public rights-of-way.

PROPOSED PROJECT

Under the new rate schedule proposed, SCG/SDG&E would offer to allow telecommunication carriers and cable TV companies (“Carriers”) to place its fiber optic cable in conduit previously installed by SCG/SDG&E in active gas pipelines between 4 and 12 inches in diameter that operate at medium or low pressure (60 psi or lower). SCG/SDG&E would provide information about its pipeline system on a confidential basis to potential Carriers so that they may assess the potential for service by SCG/SDG&E in particular areas or routes. Under this service, SCG/SDG&E would install and own all facilities necessary to place fiber optic cable in its pipelines if requested to do so by a Carrier. SCG/SDG&E facilities would include conduit required to house the cable within the pipelines and all necessary and required fittings to ensure pipeline safety. The Carrier would be responsible for installing the fiber optic cable within the conduit and constructing the handholes alongside or on top of the pipeline.

NEED FOR ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

CEQA applies to a discretionary project unless the project is exempt from CEQA.[1] A "project" is defined by CEQA as the whole of an action that has the potential for resulting in either a direct physical change in the environment or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment.[2]

The “project” identified in this application is a request for authorization of a new rate schedule implementation for a new service allowing Communications Companies to place fiber optic cable inside conduit previously installed by SCG’s or SDG&E’s in active gas distribution pipelines (“FIG”). The environmental issues under review are related to whether the proposed service would have environmental or safety impacts and whether, if there are any such impacts, they are justified by the benefits of offering the service. Additionally, whether the new service would have any impact on the quality of gas service by SCG/SDG&E to its customers would also be explored.

PROJECT LOCATION

SCG's service territory is located in 12 counties in central and southern California, consisting of the counties of Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura and includes territory in over 200 incorporated municipalities.

SDG&E’s gas service territory is located in portions of San Diego County, and its electric service territory is located in portions of San Diego County and southern Orange County.

POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS

The IS/MND will focus on the topical areas that could be affected by the project. Temporary impacts from accessing the gas pipeline for conduit installation could result from implementation of the FIG technology. Any disturbances to geology/soils, hydrology, air quality, noise, traffic, and aesthetics would be minimal, short-term, and would primarily occur in areas previously disturbed during pipeline construction. Mitigation measures would be developed on a project-specific basis during construction to reduce any potential impacts to less than significant levels. Additionally, no potential cultural or paleontological resource impacts would be anticipated because the holes needed to access the pipeline would occur in soil previously disturbed during pipeline construction. Thus, impacts would not be expected unless excavation extends outside previously disturbed areas. Any intrusion into undisturbed areas would be de minimis and, therefore, any impacts to cultural and paleontological resources would be minimal and short-term.

The CPUC has determined two areas of potential impacts related to pipeline safety, and potential impacts on operations, existing capacity and future expansion. To address the potential impacts related to pipeline safety, the FIG Technology has been designed to utilize the same procedures and materials that have been safely performed in the industry for many years. Only the fittings have been modified to accommodate the FIG cable, however, they FIG fittings and technology have been designed to conform to all applicable industry standards and regulations. Emergency repairs and procedures, including actions to mitigate potential impacts, would be spelled out in the terms and conditions of the contracts between SCG/SDG&E and the Communications Companies.

Additionally, the proposed project has the potential to reduce the capacity of gas pipelines from 0.50 percent in 12-inch pipelines to 15.66 percent in 4-inch pipelines. Impacts from the reduction in gas service capacity would be mitigated to reduce impacts to less than significant levels. Special conditions that include limiting access to one conduit with a maximum diameter of 1.2 inches per SCG/SDG&E pipeline, and also denying service for a particular location or route if SCG/SDG&E determines that there is now, or will be in the next 60 months, insufficient capacity in its pipelines to accommodate placement of fiber optic cable, (unless arrangements were made for the carrier to pay to increase the pipeline capacity) or that placement of fiber optic cable would create a threat to the safety or reliability of Utility's gas service.

NO IMPACT/LESS THAN SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS

Based on its preliminary review, the CPUC has determined that the proposed project would have a less than significant impact or no impact on land use, recreation, and population and housing. Additionally, because FIG technologies would be employed exclusively in developed urban areas where biological, mineral and agricultural resources are generally limited, significant impacts to these resources are not likely or anticipated to occur.

NOP COMMENTS

This Notice of Preparation has been sent to interested State, local and federal agencies, to the State Clearinghouse, and to parties that have informed the CPUC of their interest in this project. Affected agencies should identify the issues within their statutory responsibilities that should be considered in the Draft IS/MND. Similarly, other interested agencies, organizations and persons should comment on the scope of the Draft IS/MND.

In order to ensure the IS/MND addresses all appropriate environmental concerns, this NOP is intended to seek all relevant comments pertaining to the scope of analysis in the IS/MND. Comments in response to this NOP are required to be submitted no later than October 4, 2002. All written responses must be sent to:

Mr. John Boccio
CPUC Environmental Project Manager
c/o Environmental Science Associates
436 14th Street, Suite 600
Oakland, CA 94612

  1. Cal. Pub. Res. Code §21080 (a). [back]
  2. 14 C.C.R. §15378 (a). [back]