The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted 5-0 this week to initiate a rulemaking to update its natural gas reliability and long-term planning. The goal is to revamp the current planning process to ensure gas systems are safe and reliable as California seeks to end its use of fossil fuels.
“The goal of this rulemaking,” CPUC Commissioner Liane Randolph said, “is to provide a forum where the commission can consider the challenge of how do we ensure the safety and reliability of natural gas infrastructure in the state as we consider this long-term strategy to manage the state’s transition away from natural gas-fueled technologies to meet these decarbonization goals.”
The policy specifically calls the CPUC to: “(1) develop and adopt updated reliability standards that reflect the current and prospective operational challenges to gas system operators; (2) determine the regulatory changes necessary to improve the coordination between gas utilities and gas-fired electric generators; and (3) implement a long-term planning strategy to manage the state’s transition away from natural gas-fueled technologies to meet California’s decarbonization goals.”
This is the first significant change in the natural gas rulemaking since 2004, when the natural gas utilities were ordered to have enough capacity to serve all-system demand on an average day in a one-in-ten cold and dry-hydroelectric year. The CPUC believes that the current gas utilities’ capacity is adequate and that the focus should be on the potential for stranded assets as cities, such as San Francisco, are banning natural gas in new construction and calling for renovations on municipal buildings.
This is not the only attack on the natural gas industry. The legislature continues to push for changes in the system, including the potential closures of natural gas storage facilities after PG&E’s natural gas pipeline ruptured in San Bruno in 2010, and the SoCal Gas leak at Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field in 2015.