A proposal that’s bad for business

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Few will forget the dramatic impact that the Aliso Canyon gas leak had in the region.

The clear skies above Porter Ranch became permeated and the nation’s second largest natural gas storage facility released what was widely reported to be the worst natural gas leak in U.S. history.

After the leak was discovered In the fall of 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency. People had their lives put on hold or turned upside-down for months, forced to relocate while Southern California Gas Co. staff worked to plug the leak. Dozens of residents reported illness related to the exposure.

And going even further back, the worst-case scenario, a tragedy like the deadly San Bruno explosion that killed six people in San Francisco, serves as a deadly reminder of what can go wrong with natural gas.

However, while recognizing we’re talking about a dangerous element, our elected officials have already rejected legislation in Senate Bill 57, proposed by our own state Sen. Henry Stern, D-Chatsworth, who proposed a moratorium on Aliso Canyon operations, which would have shut down Aliso Canyon.

Lawmakers, in rejecting SB 57, essentially OK’ed Aliso Canyon’s continued operations, with the current regulations in place.

That’s why we can’t understand why the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, is calling for a moratorium on new commercial and industrial gas hook-ups until the end of March. CPUC officials explained to the Signal that the anticipated demands and current regulations on Aliso Canyon are part of what prompted the concern, but it’s our opinion that they’ve failed to justify such a decision.

After an outcry from those concerned on how the move would impact communities throughout the region, the CPUC decided Thursday to push back its decision another month, so we can talk about this again in the second week of February, when the CPUC is expected to look at the move again.

The Signal has heard loudly and repeatedly from business groups who are concerned and from health care providers like Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and the Northeast Valley Health Corp., both of which are planning to bring much-needed facilities to service the Santa Clarita Valley. Visiting an urgent care or emergency room in the last few weeks will easily demonstrate the need.

However, this discussion is leaving them with serious questions about plans that have been in place for months. Actually, we should say pending decision, because, as we noted, there hasn’t been much discussion by the CPUC.

The Southern California Gas Co., for its part, called the blanket denial of service “unreasonable, unnecessary, contrary to the public interest and inconsistent with established… applicable Commission decisions,” which, again, without a proper explanation, seems not far off-base.

This is another instance where, instead of using concern or fear to make a blanket decision, we hope that Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointees will roll up their sleeves and do the job which they are tasked – responsible regulation of the public utilities that residents rely on for our health and safety.

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