A State Senate bill that cleared an Assembly vote would require Southern California Gas Co. officials and state regulators to adhere to strict safety standards before being allowed to reopen the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility following a months-long gas leak.

The legislation, SB 380, calls for all 114 of the gas field’s wells to undergo testing developed by U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories scientists. The bill now goes back to the Senate, which approved the bill in January, for a concurrence vote.

“This bill holds state regulators and SoCal Gas to their promise that all 114 wells will be thoroughly investigated,” said Sen. Fran Pavley, D- Agoura Hills, who co-authored the bill and represents communities affected by the gas leak on Thursday.

“This is the only course forward that provides maximum protection against another disastrous leak,” she said. “The Assembly today spoke very clearly in asserting that safety must come first.”

Assemblyman Scott Wilk, D-Santa Clarita, who also authored the bill said families in his district who are “affected by the gas leak remain concerned about moving back into their homes.”

“SB 380 is vital to ensuring any new injections of natural gas and use of vintage wells at the Aliso Canyon storage facility are safe,” Wilk said.

The testing required under the bill follows standards set by Gov. Jerry Brown in an emergency order, and calls for the 114 wells to pass two complementary tests and four more structural integrity tests before they can be brought back online.

SoCal Gas Co. officials told a state senate committee last week that leak tests should be completed on all wells by the close of next week.

Gas company officials also said that only some of the wells would be thoroughly tested and certified as safe by summer. Under SB 380, the other wells would be temporarily sealed and isolated before injections can begin.

The bill also calls for the California Public Utilities Commission to explore the possibility of scaling back operations at the storage facility or phasing it out entirely.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander thanked the Assembly today for passing the bill and urged the governor to sign it in order “to send the strong message that negligence of community and environmental protections will not be tolerated.”

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled this week that thousands of Porter Ranch-area residents who relocated due to the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak will be able to remain in temporary housing until at least June 7 at Southern California Gas Co.’s expense.

Residents who live near the gas storage facility have complained of nausea, stomach aches and respiratory irritation since the leak was plugged, which has prompted the county to begin door-to-door visits in hopes of understanding why symptoms were still being reported.

The gas leak was first detected Oct. 23. After a relief well was completed, authorities formally announced on Feb. 18 that the leak was sealed.

–City News Service

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