WOODLAND HILLS (CNS) — State regulators held the first of two meetings at the Trillium Room of the Hilton Woodland Hills on Wednesday, Feb. 1, to gather public input on a proposal to allow Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) to resume injecting natural gas into the Aliso Canyon public storage facility, site of a four-month leak that led to the temporary relocation of thousands of Porter Ranch-area residents.
The second hearing is today, Feb. 2, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Officials with the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the California Public Utilities Commission have recommended that the injections resume but at reduced amounts and lower pressure levels than those requested by SoCalGas.
DOGGR officials concluded in a letter sent to SoCalGas in mid-January that the utility has either completed or was on track to complete the steps required by state law and the governor’s office before natural gas injections can resume at the Porter Ranch facility — site of the four-month gas leak from October 2015 to February 2016 that spewed 109,000 metric tons of methane into the air.
“We want to hear the public’s thoughts on the testing and inspections, and the steps being taken to ensure public health, safety and environmental protection,” Ken Harris, the state’s oil and gas supervisor and director of DOGGR, said when the conclusions were reached.
“We are responsible for ensuring that if the facility reopens, the wells are safe. The entire facility has undergone extensive inspection and each well has been thoroughly tested with stringent standards that were developed with experts at the Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories.”
Those opposing the resumption of operations at Aliso Canyon, held a video town hall meeting for Porter Ranch residents, claiming SoCalGas has been limiting the gas flow from out of state to create conditions that would justify withdrawing gas from Aliso Canyon.
Bill Powers, who has his own engineering company based in San Diego, and other consumer groups are asking California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer to immediately open an investigation into unfair business practices by SoCalGas and its parent company Sempra.
“At the time the blowout occurred at Aliso Canyon,” Powers said,” there were a number of projects underway that were moneymakers for SoCalGas. One is a major renovation the wells. The wells are quite old at Aliso Canyon; in fact they’re quite old at [all four of the gas company’s] storage fields in Southern California,” some between 60 and 80 years of age.
“There have been increasing leaks in these wells, from 2008 to 2013, this is something SoCalGas used to lobby for additional funds to upgrade and renovate these wells…to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year. But it’s not surprising they are finding more and more leaks occurring.”
He said the gas company had also completed a $200 million compressor upgrade project at Aliso Canyon, “and if Aliso Canyon does not go back online, they cannot recover that money from their ratepayers. So they do have a substantial amount of investment on the line if Aliso is shut down permanently.”
Powers added that you can run a system on pipeline gas alone “with little or no storage” the way other states do like Arizona, “and do it reliably.”
According to state regulators, 34 of the 114 wells at the Aliso facility had passed a series of safety tests by mid-January, indicating they can be safely used to again inject natural gas into the storage facility. The other wells have been taken out of service, and they must pass all safety tests within one year or be plugged.