Sempra Energy's liquefied natural gas plant near Ensenada (Google Maps image)
  • Sempra Energy's liquefied natural gas plant near Ensenada (Google Maps image)
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The Agrarian Tribunal of Baja California has ruled that the government wrongly issued the title to land on which Sempra Energy's liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant sits. The land in Baja California belongs to a rancher, and a phony title was awarded to Sempra eight years ago, said the court. Mexican media began reporting the decision yesterday, December 21, and stressed it again today.

The rancher is Ramón Eugenio Sánchez Ritchie, who lost a case in a San Diego federal court in 2010. The judge then said Ritchie's complaint was against Mexican authorities, not Sempra. The court battle has been going on for several years.

A negative outcome could sting Sempra, which owns San Diego Gas & Electric. In March of this year, it raised $574 million by selling stock in its Mexican operations. In the offering materials, Sempra warned, "We also are engaged in disputes regarding our title to the properties on which our LNG terminal is located and and our title to the property on which our Termoelectrica de Mexicali power generation is located….

"In the event that we are unable to defend and retain title to the properties on which our LNG terminal is located or on the property on which our power generation facility is located, we could lose our rights to occupy and use such properties and the related facility or terminal, which could result in breaches of one or more permits or contracts that we have entered into with respect to such facility and/or terminal. If we are unable to occupy and use such properties and the related facility or terminal, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of our operations, cash flows, prospects and/or the market price of our shares."

Sempra gave a similar warning in its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the year ended December 31 of 2012.

San Diego attorney Gary Aguirre, who represents a whistleblower in a related civil suit regarding Sempra's activities in Mexico, says, "The decision of a Mexican agricultural judge to give Sánchez Ritchie back his home again puts the high beam on Sempra's questionable circle of influence in Mexico."

Doug Kline, spokesman for Sempra, said he could not answer questions about the decision and suggested I contact the company's international operations tomorrow, December 23, which I will do.

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MURPHYJUNK Dec. 23, 2013 @ 2:29 p.m.

looks like someone was there in time with their hands out when all the pay offs took place


Don Bauder Dec. 23, 2013 @ 2:36 p.m.

Murphyjunk: There are charges of payoffs by Sempra in the civil suit in which Gary Aguirre is an attorney. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Dec. 23, 2013 @ 2:39 p.m.

PART OF RITCHIE'S U.S. FEDERAL COURT CASE GOING FORWARD. Kirk Hulett, lawyer for Ritchie in the case tried in U.S. federal court, points out that while some of Ritchie's claims were dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, the court has allowed his malicious prosecution claims against Sempra to proceed. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Dec. 23, 2013 @ 3:17 p.m.


The following statement came from Sempra International, whom I asked for comment this morning:

In late November, Mexico's Agrarian Court in Ensenada issued a ruling that the Agrarian Reform erred in refusing to issue a title to property adjacent to the Energia Costa Azul (ECA) LNG terminal in Ensenada to Sanchez Ritchie, and closing the file on his application. Sanchez Ritchie initially made his application in 1993, and the file was closed in 2006 for inactivity. Both IEnova and the Agrarian Reform disagree with the ruling, and the Agrarian Reform has appealed it to the Agrarian appellate court, and ECA has challenged it in the Federal Circuit Court. (Agrarian Courts are established by Article 27 of the Mexico Federal Constitution and they resolve matters pertaining to the Federal Agrarian Act.)

This is Sempra International's perspective:

The property that is the subject of the Agrarian Court ruling is not required for any of Energia Costa Azul's (ECA) permits or for its operations. After a five-year permitting and construction process, the Energia Costa Azul (ECA) LNG terminal was completed and commenced operations in 2008. ECA is built on land that was acquired by Sempra as required by the federal and state permits. After the permitting process was completed, Sempra also purchased adjacent land from the legal owner and after a thorough review of the title's history to create an environmental greenbelt as well as a security zone.

After the property was purchased in 2006, Sanchez Ritchie, a squatter, claimed to be the owner without property title or documentation and notwithstanding that Sempra is the registered titleholder. We disagree with the ruling by the Agrarian Court and have challenged it in Federal Circuit Court. The Agrarian Reform also disagrees, and it has appealed the ruling.

The ruling does not invalidate ECA's title. That could only be done by the state Civil Court in Ensenada. Although Sanchez Ritchie has claimed he owns the property, he has never brought a legal challenge to the validity of ECA's title because he has never held a title. In contrast, ECA has filed two cases in the Civil Court to confirm the superiority of its ownership and possessory rights. The civil cases are still pending.


shirleyberan Dec. 23, 2013 @ 6:48 p.m.

Don - thank you for all of that usable info - this is the second anniversary of my Beloved Husband's passing. You have been generous in kindness and everything important.


Don Bauder Dec. 23, 2013 @ 9:57 p.m.

shirleyberan: Some scamsters in San Diego don't think I am kind or generous. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan Dec. 23, 2013 @ 7:27 p.m.

I Love You So Much Don Bauder - I will never be the same after knowing your words.


Don Bauder Dec. 23, 2013 @ 9:58 p.m.

shirleyberan: Those words don't flow out as easily as they did a few years ago. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Dec. 23, 2013 @ 9:59 p.m.

shirleyberan: Some rascals in town think I belong on Pluto. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Dec. 23, 2013 @ 10 p.m.

shirleyberan: Platonic is what you meant but I rather liked plutonic. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Dec. 29, 2013 @ 7:33 a.m.

viewer: SDG&E is one of the most publicly-hated utilities in the country. This has been true for several decades, as you point out. Best, Don Bauder


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