County supervisors voted Wednesday to press regulators to deny Southern California Gas Co.’s request to resume injecting natural gas into wells at the Aliso Canyon storage facility, where a four-month leak emitted 109,000 metric tons of methane and displaced thousands of residents.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich recommended sending a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission and the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources asking that no new injections be allowed until regulators complete an analysis of the root cause of the leak.
Antonovich read aloud a letter from Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, who sponsored legislation dictating the hurdles for resuming operations at the gas storage site.
Pavley called the proposed start-up “premature” and questioned how regulators could “in good faith” come to any determination about the safety of Aliso Canyon until the cause of the leak had been settled. That analysis had been expected to be completed in August but is still underway, according to Pavley.
In a letter to the board, a SoCalGas executive argued that Pavley’s legislation, now law, calls for restoring full operations “at the earliest possible time.”
The letter signed by Lisa Alexander, vice president, Customer Solutions and Communications, said the utility has worked with DOGGR, the CPUC and independent technical experts to complete a safety assessment of the storage facility, including its underground storage wells and reservoir.
Wells to be used for injection or withdrawal of natural gas have been reconstructed with new tubing and steel pipe to mitigate the potential for a leak. Other upgrades include around-the-clock pressure monitoring of all wells in a 24-hour operations center and an infrared fence-line methane detection system.
“The Aliso Canyon storage facility is fit for service and safe to resume injections,” Alexander wrote, adding that delays “would increase the risk of energy shortages in L.A. County.”
Antonovich accused SoCalGas of continuing to “say one thing and then do the opposite.”
Antonovich said the Gas Co. has backed away from an earlier commitment to a long-term public health study of the effects of the leak.
The utility countered by saying it supports a prompt study and has already communicated to the Southern California Air Quality Management District that it is ready to commit up to $400,000 to pay for the work.
Other officials have echoed Antonovich’s safety concerns and some, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have called for the facility to be closed.
It will be up to the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the California Public Utilities Commission to determine whether the conditions have been met to resume operations.
The board’s vote was unanimous.
–City News Service