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Daily Breeze - Gardena says jet-fuel pipeline firm misled city

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  • Brent
    http://www.dailybreeze.com/news/articles/7219241.html?showAll=y&c=y Our friendly neighborhood pipeline company. Today is Monday, April 30, 2007 Originally
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2007
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      http://www.dailybreeze.com/news/articles/7219241.html?showAll=y&c=y

      Our friendly neighborhood pipeline company.

      Today is Monday, April 30, 2007
      Originally published Friday, April 27, 2007
      Updated Friday, April 27, 2007
      Gardena says jet-fuel pipeline firm misled city
      Mayor charges that the company that wants to lay a 24-mile link to LAX
      falsely claimed it has eminent domain-like powers.
      By Sandy Mazza
      STAFF WRITER

      Gardena officials and residents are slamming the company proposing to
      lay a jet fuel pipeline under Rosecrans Avenue for falsely claiming it
      had "common-carrier" status, like a public utility, which would give
      it the power to dig up streets and push through its project regardless
      of opposition.

      WesPac Energy Group of Huntington Beach, unlike such companies as
      Verizon and Southern California Gas Co., has not been granted such
      power, according to Public Utilities Commission records, although it
      has applied for it.

      "We might not be dealing with everything on the up and up," Mayor Paul
      Tanaka said. "One of the representations made by WesPac is that they
      have PUC approval. They're banking on not having opposition to their
      PUC application. In Gardena we are strenuously objecting to the route
      proposed by WesPac."

      The proposed 24-mile underground pipeline would connect fuel-storage
      facilities in Wilmington and Carson with 61 airlines at LAX. It will
      run mostly through Los Angeles, but will also cross Hawthorne, Carson,
      Wilmington, El Segundo, Carson and Gardena on Rosecrans Avenue between
      Vermont Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard.

      City officials and residents said the company deceived them in recent
      community meetings, making them believe it has eminent domain-like
      authority despite city objections to the project.

      "They said they were a public utility," said Holly Park Homeowners
      Association President Tasha Cerda, who hosted an April 5 meeting with
      WesPac officials at Rowley Memorial Park. "It's very upsetting because
      they're giving out false information to make themselves look better,
      and to go forward with their project."

      On Tuesday, company spokesman Rick Taylor told the Daily Breeze the
      company already had PUC common-carrier status ("The reality is that
      we're a common carrier and we can do eminent domain to get access to
      the center or side of a street."), and moments later after he was
      confronted with PUC records showing only an application has been
      filed, denied that he ever said it.

      "Do you have a quote of me saying that?" he said. "I never said that.
      ... We don't expect any problems. There's no question in my mind that
      they will give us common-carrier status. ... I think there's a
      misunderstanding."

      In its application to the PUC, obtained by the Daily Breeze, WesPac
      states that it anticipates "no protests to the application will be
      filed and that no evidentiary hearings are necessary."

      Gardena City Attorney Edward Lee said that statement is presumptuous,
      and Gardena plans to file a protest to WesPac's application in May.

      "I think they want to give everyone the impression this is a done
      deal," Lee said. "I think (WesPac's misrepresentation about its
      utility status) should call into question the credibility of
      everything they say. If you lie about having PUC approval, what else
      are you lying about?"

      PUC information officer Terrie Prosper said the agency received
      WesPac's application on April 3, and is currently reviewing it.
      Prosper said the review process could take as long as 18 months, but
      Taylor, WesPac's spokesman, said he expects it to be approved in early
      May.

      Prosper said the commission will vote on whether the project will
      benefit the public, and will base its decision on that.

      "The hallmark of a common carrier is that it holds itself out as
      offering the use of its facilities or services to all prospective
      customers," Prosper wrote in an e-mailed statement. "Its facilities
      are therefore said to be dedicated to public use."

      Gardena has put up the most resistance to the pipeline project coming
      through the city, Taylor said. City officials and residents who oppose
      the project say it will hurt the city, and offer no benefit.

      The jet-fuel pipeline would not only provide no benefit to the city of
      Gardena, but it also would disrupt the daily business of an elementary
      school, a convalescent hospital and residential areas along Rosecrans
      between Vermont and Crenshaw, where the construction is proposed to
      take place in 2008, said Gardena City Manager Mitch Lansdell.

      WesPac officials said the pipeline will benefit the general public
      because it will help keep airline ticket prices down. Fuel prices are
      currently set by oil companies that own four jet-fuel pipelines to Los
      Angeles International Airport. Taylor said the proposed pipeline would
      provide fuel at market prices. Also, the current pipelines are 40 to
      50 years old. The new one would be safer and more modern, Taylor said.

      Whether the application is approved is still unclear, Tanaka said.

      "There was some talk about the power of eminent domain. There are a
      number of hurdles before WesPac gets to that point," Tanaka said. "We
      are not in a panic mode, but we are definitely in a state of concern."

      What: WesPac Energy Group informational community meetings in cities
      that may be affected by the jet-fuel pipeline, including Hawthorne, El
      Segundo, Carson, Compton, Wilmington and Los Angeles.

      When: The next meeting will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
      WesPac officials will be present, along with representatives from the
      city of Hawthorne.

      Where: The Venus Room at Hawthorne Memorial Center, 3901 El Segundo
      Blvd., Hawthorne.

      More information: Contact the office of Hawthorne Mayor Larry Guidi at
      310-349-2908.
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