The Los Angeles City Council called Wednesday for the permanent closure of the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Facility in Porter Ranch, which was the site of a 2015 methane leak that forced thousands of people from their homes and became the largest methane release in U.S. history.
Council members on a 14-0 vote, with one member absent, passed a resolution introduced by Councilman John Lee that:
— urges Gov. Gavin Newsom to take steps to accelerate a permanent closure plan for the facility;
— shows the City Council’s support for legislation that reduces the need for the facility and leads to its decommissioning; and
— urges all relevant California agencies to give the city of Los Angeles quarterly updates on the status of the closure plan.
The Southern California Gas Co. facility leaked about 97,100 metric tons of methane and 7,300 metric tons of ethane, “resulting in serious environmental damage,” the resolution states.
Lee, who represents neighborhoods impacted by the blowout, also noted additional danger from the facility as it sits on a fault line.
“The natural gas blowout revealed deficiencies in regulatory oversight, including well inspections, emergency preparedness and the responsibility for associated costs including mitigation efforts,” the resolution says.
The gas leak was discovered at the underground storage facility in October 2015 and continued emanating methane until February 2016. Thousands of residents in the northwest San Fernando Valley were forced out of their homes for months due to the leak.
Limited operations resumed in late July 2017 with the blessing of state regulators. Efforts by Los Angeles County officials to block the resumed operations failed in court.
According to a report commissioned by the California Public Utilities Commission and the state Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, the leak was caused by microbial corrosion of a well casing, and SoCalGas did not conduct detailed follow-up inspections of analyses after previous leaks.
The report identified more than 60 casing leaks at Aliso Canyon prior to the 2015-2016 leak, going back to the 1970s, but said no failure investigations were conducted by SoCalGas, which “lacked any form of risk assessment focused on well integrity management and lacked systematic practices of external corrosion protection and a real-time, continuous pressure monitoring system for well surveillance.”
Ahead of City Council’s passage of the resolution, Food & Water Watch, along with San Fernando Valley residents and activists, held a news conference calling for the closure of the facility.
“Los Angeles has the largest public utility in the country operated by LADWP. We already know, thanks to the LA100 study released last month, that a future without gas is achievable,” Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy said. “We need the political will to execute on this mission.”
A photographer also spoke about how she had to move from Porter Ranch, her home of 20 years, to Pasadena due to health concerns that followed the leak.
“I moved specifically because of the health impacts that living near Aliso Canyon for so long — and especially after the blowout — have had on my health over the years. I would say that since moving away, there have been significant differences in my health, a lot of my symptoms that I’d been experiencing back at home in Porter Ranch have been almost night and day just in terms of their severity,” she said.
She added that she believed the chemicals and heavy metals found in the area have impacted her immune and neurological systems, causing her brain fog.
“I remember being at home and walking from room to room and not remembering why I left the room or why I entered into the other room to begin with. And that was on a consistent basis,” she said.
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