The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board has joined the supporters seeking the permanent shutdown the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility near Porter Ranch that was the site of a large gas leak last year.
The board at it’s Nov. 15 meeting voted unanimously to send a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) demanding that the SoCalGas Aliso Canyon gas storage facility be decommissioned.
The Southern California Gas Company, which operates the facility, wants to resume injecting gas into the wells.
SoCalGas officials say the 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 Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the California Public Utilities Commission will decide whether conditions have been met to resume operations.
The leak began Oct. 23, 2015, and forced thousands of residents to relocate temporarily. It was permanently capped on Feb. 11.
By that time, more than 100,000 tons of methane had gone into the air, making it the largest methane leak in U.S. history, according to a study released in February by UC Davis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others.
At its peak, the amount of methane pouring into the air from the damaged pipe was double the rate of methane emissions from the entire Los Angeles basin, according to the study.
Even after the leak was capped, many residents continued to report health problems such as migraines and respiratory irritation.
“The natural-gas leak at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility and the health problems experienced by families living near the site raise serious questions about the safety of the operation, said board member Scott M. Schmerelson in a released statement.
“Given this uncertainty, we simply cannot take chances with the health and safety of the students and staff at the 20 L.A. Unified schools, or with community residents, located within five miles of the facility … Nothing short of closing Aliso Canyon will allow us the security of knowing that its operation will not harm our families, our communities and future generations.”
“We applaud LAUSD’s bold leadership to protect their teachers, students and staff from the dangerous Aliso Canyon gas storage facility by demanding its immediate decommissioning,” said Alexandra Nagy, spokeswoman with the grassroots community organization Food & Water Watch.
According to Nagy, more than 1,800 students at two LAUSD schools, Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Affiliated Charter Elementary School, were relocated due to health risks to students, teachers, and staff. Another 20 district schools were in the five-mile relocation zone of the gas blowout.
The Porter Ranch schools have moved back and reopened. But, Nagy said, children remain in harm’s way because the facility still leaks, and thousands in the surrounding community are still sick.
“This facility still leaks on average twice daily, thousands of residents are still getting sick, and the schools are not safe until this facility is closed down for good,” she said. “We hope that Governor Brown hears the calls from the community and rejects SoCalGas’s application to resume gas injections into the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. Aliso Canyon will never be safe, does not belong near communities and schools, and must be decommissioned immediately.”
Nagy said the LAUSD action will “send a strong message that people’s health comes before SoCalGas profits.”