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A state Senate bill that would stop the reopening of the Aliso Canyon gas-storage facility until the root cause of the 2015 blowout at the facility is thoroughly investigated by state regulators has passed its first Legislative hurdle.

The Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee on Thursday voted 7-2 in favor of SB57, an urgency measure authored by Sen. Henry Stern and co-authored by Sen. Scott Wilk.

Stern, a Democrat and a member of the committee, and Wilk, a Republican, both represent areas of Santa Clarita.

The blowout in October of 2015 caused a massive methane leak that lasted nearly four months and caused some 8,000 families living in Porter Ranch to be displaced from their homes.

“SB 57 is about restoring the public’s trust in government and delivering on the basic promise of health and safety to all Californians,” Stern said.

“The root cause analysis will provide clear answers to what caused the well failure, and that is critical to providing certainty to the public that all steps have been taken to prevent a future incident like the one my constituents experienced.

“Until they finish that job, we can’t bring comfort back to Porter Ranch or to ratepayers.’’

SoCal Gas, which operates the facility, maintains that, “as a result of comprehensive testing, physical changes, and the establishment of tubing flow only, SoCalGas has demonstrated that Aliso Canyon storage facility is safe to resume injection operations.”

Those tests were conducted by the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) in conjunction with various independent technical experts.

Among those to testify before the committee on Thursday was Issam Najm, president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council, as well as representatives from the Los Angeles County fire and public health departments.

“Our community has paid its dues 10 times over,” Najm said. “No one should have the audacity to ask this canary to go back into that mine before they at least know what almost killed it the first time around.”

Chief John Todd from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said, “What’s the rush to reinject this gas?”

Angelo Bellomo, deputy director for Health Protection for L.A. County Public Health, told the committee, “What’s often missing when we describe this facility is the impact it’s had on the population. We can’t afford to take chances with the uncertainties, we have to fill those data gaps, and this measure will help fill one of them.”

SB57 made it to the committee on Thursday because of some across-the-aisle cooperation between Stern and Wilk.

Stern’s original motion to stop the Aliso reopening was introduced as SB146 on Jan. 17. But because a bill cannot get a hearing until it has been in print for 30 days, Stern’s language added to a Wilk bill, SB57, which was introduced Dec. 8.

That enabled Thursday’s hearing to be expedited.

The original contents of Wilk’s SB57 – which would look to prevent Cemex from opening mining operations in Soledad Canyon – was moved into Stern’s SB146. That bill will get a hearing at a later date.

The next step for the bill halting the reopening of the Aliso Canyon facility is the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. Stern’s office said that could come as early as next week.

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Kevin Kenney
Over 30-plus years, Kevin Kenney has been a writer and editor for United Press International, the New York Post and Fox Sports, among other outlets. He joined The Signal in 2016.
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