Los Angeles County leaders voted unanimously Tuesday, July 27, to send a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees operations at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, to stop SoCalGas from expanding the site’s storage capacity.
The vote comes after a group of oil companies appealed to the CPUC, asking to raise the allowable gas inventory in Aliso Canyon from its current value.
“The health and environmental impacts from the 2015 blowout are still not fully understood,” according to a motion authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes the Aliso Canyon area. “The findings of the root cause analysis cast doubt on the site operator’s ability to operate the facility safely.”
So far, no gas shortage has materialized despite “numerous reports and statements that the loss of Aliso Canyon as a natural gas storage facility would impact supplies to the region,” according to the motion.
San Fernando Valley communities have been dealing with the aftermath of the gas leak since 2015 when 109,000 metric tons of methane were released into the air. Nearly 8,300 households were evacuated with residents reporting nosebleeds, dizziness and respiratory problems.
“The gas released carried with it an unknown amount of crude oil that was released in the community and the blowout and disaster are feared to have had significant and unknown health impacts on the surrounding community,” the motion said.
In 2017, former Gov. Jerry Brown released an order through the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission to phase out the Aliso Canyon facility within 10 years.
A year later, several government agencies, including the city attorney’s office, the county, the state attorney general reached a $119.5 million settlement with the gas company.
“There is no excuse for what happened,” said Attorney General Becerra at the time. “For over four months, this leak exposed our communities to natural gas emissions that resulted in adverse health impacts and disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of Californians – displacing two area schools and driving residents from their homes,”
The gas company has maintained the facility plays a vital role in California’s energy system and since the 2015 gas leak, the utility installed comprehensive safety measures.
Still, Gov. Newsom has urged the CPUC to expedite its work towards the permanent closure of the facility.
The Board of Supervisors passed a motion last year, calling for the state to accelerate the closure plan of the site.
Following Tuesday’s vote, Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy said in a statement that “the CPUC has neglected its mandate from Gov. Newsom to find a pathway for closing the Aliso Canyon facility, and opted instead for silence as SoCalGas plans to expand this dangerous gas infrastructure.”
She added that “it’s time for the CPUC to step up, speak out, and stop this expansion of the gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon. If the CPUC fails to meet the moment, we urge Governor Newsom to step in and lead.”