The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously called on Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday to expedite the closure of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch — the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said closing the storage field is the only way to ensure the community’s safety.
“We do not know what the long-term impacts of the gas leak will be,” Barger said. “The only way to preserve the health and safety of the residents around Aliso Canyon is for it to close.”
In November, the governor asked the California Public Utilities Commission to hire an independent expert to study energy alternatives and scenarios that could “inform a shorter path to closure.”
The letter referenced a 10-year timeline for closure suggested in 2017.
Southern California Gas Co., which operates the site, has long maintained that Aliso Canyon — which served more than 11 million customers and 17 natural gas-fired power plants — is essential to the region’s electrical energy supply. Closing the site would result in electrical outages, natural gas shortages and potential price spikes if customers were forced to rely on suppliers outside the service area, according to the company.
That conclusion has been borne out by a series of prior studies, a spokeswoman for the company told City News Service.
“So far, all of the analyses — five recent studies, including one by the governor’s own Independent California Council on Science and Technology — have determined Aliso Canyon is needed to keep energy affordable and reliable in Southern California,” SoCalGas spokeswoman Christine Detz said. “In the last two months alone, Aliso Canyon has been needed on more than two dozen days to help prevent spikes in electricity prices and to ensure reliable heat and hot water for millions of families across the Los Angeles region.”
However, some residents say the site’s continued operation puts their health at risk, and a group of Porter Ranch residents pushed the board to do more, including setting a 12-month deadline for closure.
“We’ve been waiting for this for four years,” Matt Pakucko, president and co-founder of Save Porter Ranch, told the board. “Without a deadline, it’s just a dream.”
Several others asked the board to use its subpoena power to force SoCalGas to publish a full list of the chemicals released in the 2015-16 gas leak or during efforts to control the leak. A lawsuit filed last year by a program manager overseeing the CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division alleged that he was exposed to benzene, radon, toluene and formaldehyde.
The board also took aim at another SoCalGas operation.
Supervisor Janice Hahn said she was “nervous” about a natural gas storage facility in Playa del Rey “right in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood.”
She asked that the board’s letter to the governor calling for expedited closure of Aliso Canyon include the county’s opposition to expanding capacity in Playa del Rey as an offset to shuttering the Porter Ranch facility. Based on Hahn’s amendment, also approved by the full board, the letter will also ask the governor to consider the feasibility of closing the Playa del Rey facility.
The gas leak was discovered at the underground storage facility at Aliso Canyon in October 2015 and an estimated 109,000 tons of methane — the largest methane release in U.S. history — were released before the faulty well was capped in February 2016. Thousand of residents in the northwest San Fernando Valley were forced out of their homes for months during efforts to cap the leak and subsequently clean surrounding neighborhoods.
Restricted operations at Aliso Canyon resumed in late July 2017 with the blessing of state regulators, despite a legal challenge by Los Angeles County officials.