Plans to reopen Aliso Canyon lead to L.A. County lawsuit

Los Angeles County Seal.

Los Angeles County is taking California to court.

The county is suing the Southern California gas and state regulators, calling for environmental and safety studies to be conducted first, after it was ruled last week that Aliso Canyon could resume natural gas injections.

Last week, the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources announced that the gas company could resume operations.

In October 2015, thousands of Porter Ranch residents had to relocate when the reportedly largest methane gas leak in United States history occurred in Aliso Canyon, then halting use of the facility until a cause was determined and an analysis was completed.

“It’s critical to the health and safety of thousands of people for the seismic study and risk assessment/emergency response plan be completed before reopening, not afterwards when it could be too late,” Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement Monday.

Additionally, the county filed a petition with the Superior Court on Monday to further their efforts against resuming injections.

Today, the @CountyofLA filed a petition w/ the Superior Court to block @SoCalGas from reinjecting gas into the #AlisoCanyon storage facility

— Kathryn Barger (@kathrynbarger) July 24, 2017

A seismic safety analysis would take six months to complete, cited Barger’s office, who said it should be done prior to Aliso Canyon reopening, not after.

Additionally, L.A. County called for the facility to comply with the California Environmental Protection Act, which requires an environmental impact study.

The state department is required to complete a review of the gas storage wells in Aliso Canyon before resuming injections as approved under Senate Bill 380 in May 2016.

In a message to stakeholders on Monday, SoCalGas said the county’s claims that resuming injections could be unsafe were “baseless and wrong.”

“Aliso Canyon is safe to operate,” the email read. “This is not just our conclusion, but the conclusion of the only state regulators with lawful jurisdiction and expertise to oversee the safety of our operations.”

Addressing the county’s claims, the gas company said they “carefully considered” all concerns.

If Aliso Canyon reopens as expected at partial capacity, injections will be completely safe, said Ken Harris, head of the state’s regulatory department.

“This facility will be held to the most rigorous monitoring, inspection and safety requirements in the nation and will store only the minimum gas necessary to supply the Los Angeles area,” Harris said.

Before injections can resume, per state requirements, a leak survey must be conducted and methane emissions must be measured, SoCalGas spokesperson Chris Gilbride said in a statement last week.

If injections do resume, SoCalGas will monitor wells in a 24-hour operations center, have daily patrols examine wells four times a day, scan wells for leaks each day using thermal imaging cameras and require enhanced training for employees and contractors, according to Gilbride.

A Federal Joint Interagency Task Force report in October 2016 said a failure in the outer casing of the storage tank caused the leak.

Last week, the California Energy Commission said they wanted the facility to close permanently in 10 years.

The Board of Supervisors are not the first elected officials to call for analyses to be completed prior to Aliso Canyon reopening.

Senator Henry Stern’s (D-Canoga Park) stalled Senate Bill 57 would have prevented gas injections from resuming until a root cause analysis was completed.

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