Antioch Council splits, denies extending franchise agreement for low-pressure natural gas pipeline through city

Map of the natural gas pipeline that runs through Antioch. Source: City of Antioch

Torres-Walker switches vote from August meeting

Could result in price increases for restaurants, residences; follows lead of Brentwood council

“We believe there are legal protections in place that prevent an arbitrary and immediate shutdown” – CRC spokesman. “The pressures are 50% below the allowable pressures.”

By Allen Payton

What was expected to be a non-controversial matter, turned into a denial on a 2-3 split vote by the Antioch City Council for the extension of a franchise agreement for an existing low-pressure, natural gas pipeline that runs through the city, during their meeting on Sept. 28, 2021. The 35-mile long, 12-inch pipe carries 1.8 million cubic feet of natural gas daily which is enough to supply about 9,000 homes. The result is the city will no longer be paid the annual franchise fee of $16,871.90. Pipeline franchise agrmt extension ACC092821

“I’m appalled that it took three meetings to be here,” said Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson.

“We have been working with the city staff in this manner and we have been prepared to speak on it. The format for the council meetings…have not allowed for that,” a California Resources Corporation (CRC) representative explained. “This is the first time we’ve been given the opportunity to speak.”

“Still, and no disrespect, after the process you went through the City of Brentwood, I would think you would have heard the concerns from council, heard from the concerns from the public,” Wilson continued. “I would think if you went through one city, and it was voted down you would have heard from the council in the next city.”

She added, “it’s a no, for me.”

“This is gas going to restaurants,” someone interjected.

“Environmental injustices exist all around us and they impact frontline communities the most,” Torres-Walker said. “We should also acknowledge that there are dangers under our feet. Moving forward with this extension is dangerous for any community. We need a just transition away from fossil fuels and for that reason I will be voting no on this, today.”

District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock asked about the $2 million not being enough.

“The pressures are 50% below the allowable pressures,” a CRC representative explained. “This is not like San Bruno. The volumes are very low. The natural gases are from sources that are flat and declining. If you believe in a transition…this is declining.”

“We assumed this would be non-controversial to continue doing what we’re doing,” he continued. “If there’s a movement to eliminate fossil fuels in Antioch, I suggest you cut off everyone, restaurants, schools.”

“I’m very concerned but at the same time, we turn our furnaces on, we cook with it,” Barbanica said. “It heats our schools, when we go to restaurants, etc. I’m not happy about it any more than anyone else. But there is a need for it every day.”

“What refinery do they go to?” Wilson asked.

“The Chevron refinery in Richmond,” one of the presenters replied.

“Do we get mitigation for that?” Wilson asked City Manager Ron Bernal.

“This is a lease agreement. We do get compensated for it,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe responded.

“Never mind,” Wilson said.

“On August 24, council listened to staff for an initial reading…extending the term for the franchise agreement,” Thorpe explained. “That was a three-two vote. Councilwoman Wilson and I voted no. The rest voted yes. This is now the third time we’ve heard this. Staff has given us ample time to do this. So, this is where we’re at, today.”

“Thank you for that reminder, mayor and not that many people showed up that day than showed up, today,” Torres-Walker said. “I believe I made the right vote, the first time.”

Barbanica made the motion to introduce by title only for reading only, and to receive public comment for the extension of the lease franchise agreement. Ogorchock seconded.

There was no further discussion and it failed on a 2-3 vote, with Wilson, Torres-Walker and Thorpe voting no.

Brentwood Council Also Votes Down Franchise Agreement Extension

In May 2021, the Brentwood City Council, on a 2-3 voted down that city’s franchise agreement extension. According to a May 14, 2021, report by CBS BayArea the Brentwood council also denied the renewal of a lease for the same long-operating natural gas pipeline even though only a small portion of the line runs through their city.

Questions for City Staff Go Unanswered

Bernal, Attorney Smith and Antioch’s Director of Public Works John Samuelson were asked, what are the implications of the council’s decision to oppose the extension to the franchise agreement for the California Resources Corporation’s natural gas pipeline? Does that mean CRC will have to route the products through another, existing line, or build a new one around Antioch? But they did not respond.

Pipeline Owner Has Rights

In addition, CRC was asked, “What are the implications from the votes by the Antioch City Council, tonight and that of the Brentwood City Council opposing the extension of the pipeline franchise agreement? Will you have to reroute your products through another pipeline or build a new one around Brentwood and Antioch?”

“CRC meets the financial and technical requirements necessary to continue operating the pipeline,” Richard Venn, Communications Director for California Resources Corporation, responded. “We look forward to continuing to work with the city and its staff on how we can continue to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy.”

Follow-up questions were asked of Venn, “how do you get around the council’s vote, last night?” and asked, again, “when the current agreement ends, does that mean CRC can no longer pump their products in the pipeline that runs through Antioch and the same for Brentwood?” In addition, Venn was asked, “or do PUC regulations allow you to continue to do so without the franchise agreements with the cities?”

“We believe there are legal protections in place that prevent an arbitrary and immediate shutdown, and we will continue to work with the city and its staff on the best solution,” Venn responded.

No Responses from California PUC

In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission was asked similar questions, “what are the implications of those decisions?” and “Does that mean CRC will have to route the products through another, existing line, or build a new one around Antioch and Brentwood?” In addition, they were asked, “does the PUC have the authority to overrule the councils’ decisions?” But no one from the agency responded prior to publication time.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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Pipeline franchise agrmt extension ACC092821


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