A woman walks past a Porter Ranch sign at the entrance to Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage field. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A woman walks past a Porter Ranch sign at the entrance to Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage field. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The state Public Utilities Commission next month will consider whether use of the troubled Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch can be reduced or eliminated altogether.

The CPUC will consider the issue at its Feb. 9 meeting. According to the commission, a first phase would involve a “thorough analysis” of whether the storage facility — site of a massive four-month gas leak that forced the temporary relocation of thousands of residents — can be taken out of use or reduced “while still maintaining electric and gas reliability for the region.”

The second phase would involve a review of the phase-one investigation, a decision on whether reduction or elimination is feasible and development of conditions and parameters if such a move is approved.

A final decision by the commission is not expected until mid-2018.

CPUC officials said the review is mandated under recently approved state legislation, which calls on the commission to begin the process no later than July 1.

The Aliso Canyon storage facility has been largely out of use since the four-month leak spewed about 109,000 metric tons of methane into the air and led to the temporary relocation of about 7,000 residents. The leak began in October 2015 and was capped in February 2016.

Southern California Gas Co. withdrew natural gas from the facility on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for the first time in about a year. Utility officials said the withdrawals were needed to maintain service levels in the face of stepped-up demand prompted by cold weather that gripped the region. Critics, however, contended the move was made in an effort by SoCalGas to sway state regulators to allow the utility to resume operations at Aliso Canyon.

A pair of public hearings will be held next week on a proposal to allow the restart of the facility, but at lower capacity and lower pressure levels.

According to SoCalGas, about 14.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas is still stored at Aliso Canyon.

— City News Service

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