FILE - This Jan. 12, 2017 file photo, shows a gas gathering plant on a hilltop at the Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon storage facility in Los Angeles. The California Public Utilities Commission fined SoCalGas $10 million on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, for improperly using ratepayer money on advocacy work around energy efficient building codes. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Porter Ranch community members are organizing a rally next week in response to a proposal to expand the gas storage at the Aliso Canyon facility that previously leaked tons of methane into the atmosphere.

The rally will come not long after a $71 million settlement was reached on Aug. 10 between the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas). The money will go into the Aliso Canyon Recovery Account, which was created by the state legislature to address issues due to the leak.

Planned for Tuesday, Aug. 22, the rally is meant to bring attention to a proposal by the CPUC to increase natural gas storage at the Aliso Canyon facility to the maximum safe inventory limit of 68.6 billion cubic feet in response to a spike in natural gas prices last winter. Currently, the facility’s storage capacity is 41.16 billion cubic feet. The commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Aug. 31.

The Aliso Canyon facility, which is operated by SoCalGas, has been highly controversial and for surrounding residents a safety concern. From Oct. 15, 2015, to Feb. 11, 2016, more than 100,000 metric tons of methane was leaked into the atmosphere — the largest gas leak in US history. More than 8,000 families had to vacate their homes for up to seven months while the facility underwent repairs and cleanup.

High levels of methane can reduce the amount of oxygen breathed from the air, which can result in health problems including slurred speech, mood changes, memory loss, vision problems, nausea, vomiting, headache and facial flushing. In severe cases, there can be changes in breathing and heart rate, balance problems, numbness and unconsciousness.

Those who live near the facility say that, as long as it remains operational, they can never again feel at ease.

“That place is deteriorating, despite what SoCalGas is trying to do, or allegedly trying to do when they’re supposed to increase the safety,” said Matt Pakucko, a member of the group Save Porter Ranch. “And the CPUC has no business increasing the storage of that facility. It’s insane.”

Pakucko’s biggest concern about the facility is that it continues to emit harmful chemicals years after the gas leak.

Data from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) shows, by at least 2021, that the facility has been emitting benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride, naphthalene and ethylene dibromide — all of which are listed as either known or possible human carcinogens.

And the list of toxic chemicals goes on and on.

“This is all after the blowout and after that facility was supposedly overhauled,” Pakucko said. “So now after all that overhauling, the years have gone by, with these additional monitoring and safety things that were imposed on them, that place still has been increasing emissions.

“Now, the CPUC and SoCalGas want to increase the pressure and the storage volume even more. They want to put it up to the maximum. Now that’s insane.”

He said that the facility’s closure is the only way to protect the northern San Fernando Valley. Pakucko said that he and other Porter Ranch residents have noticed that, over the past few weeks and months, people have reported symptoms and illnesses similar to when the gas leak first occurred.

They later found out, through notices sent by AQMD, that SoCalGas was going maintenance on their wells, and one of the chemicals they used as part of the maintenance was hydrofluoric acid — which is highly corrosive. Due to the maintenance, which was done around late 2022 to early 2023, some of the chemicals leaked into the air. It was after that time that people started reporting these illnesses.

“This is an ongoing problem, the fact that that facility exists. It needs to be shut down,” Pakucko said.

Pakucko doesn’t think too highly of the settlement, either.

“It’s meaningless drivel compared to the real problem that’s going on here,” he said.

And he’s not alone in his feelings regarding the continued operation of the facility and the settlement.

“[That facility] will never be safe,” said Patty Gleuck, co-founder Aliso Moms Alliance, a group formed in 2019 to inform the community of the harm the site had brought to the area. “No matter how much they reinforce those wells, there’s an earthquake fault that runs right through every well there. That’s been proven.”

Gleuck also pointed out the high possibility of a fire causing damage to the facility. She remembers the Saddle Ridge fire of 2019 and seeing on the news how the fire seemed to get close to the facility.

There have been attempts to close the facility. Senate Bill (SB) 1486 was created to close the site by 2027, but after getting gutted of its key components, it failed in a 5-12 vote in May 2022.

Gleuck has also heard the response from neighbors about the $71 million settlement, who seem to be in agreement that it doesn’t address the main problem.

“I was talking to more community leaders that I know of, and they want what’s best for the community, which is closing down this hazardous place,” Gleuck said. “Increasing capacity there means more gas, which means more danger to us.

“My community has been seeing a rise in cancer rates and other conditions that we have to think could be caused by Aliso, so we are also in danger if there is a major event that happens with an earthquake or fire. We don’t know how far down something [like that] will happen.”

She’s also concerned about how the money from the settlement will be used, as that will be decided by the State Senate Assembly. Gleuck hopes that the money helps all communities in the northern San Fernando Valley, not just Porter Ranch, that were affected by the gas leak, and not used for some pet project by SoCalGas.

“Just imagine what good can be done with $71 million,” she said. “It can go to green energy projects in LA County and can produce jobs for people in this county … there’s a whole laundry list of projects that could help the environment and help the economy of this area.”

For more information, go to