Local elected officials on Newsom’s request for speedy shutdown of Aliso Canyon gas facility

Assemblywoman and former Newhall School District Board Member Christy Smith, speaking at the podium is joined by California State Senator Henry Stern, left, and concerned citizens at the one-year anniversary press conference of the Aliso Canyon blowout held at the entrance of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility in Porter Ranch on Wednesday, October 24, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for an accelerated shutdown of the Aliso Canyon natural gas facility, which received commendation from some local elected officials. 

On Tuesday, after Newsom sent a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission to make the request, Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, and State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, released a statement:

“Gov. Newsom’s call to expedite planning for the permanent closure of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility is a positive step for ensuring the long-term safety of our North Valley communities and the reduction of our reliance on fossil fuels. With the ever-growing threat of climate change and wildfires on the rise, the protection of our constituents’ health and well-being is time-sensitive. The shortening of the timeline for closure is a necessity and urgent.”

In October 2015, thousands of residents evacuated their homes in Porter Ranch after a massive natural gas leak was discovered, with about 4.62 billion cubic feet of gas released, according to state regulators. The leak was partially caused by a well casing that ruptured due to corrosion, according to an independent firm’s report issued in May. 

In his letter, Newsom said, “I request that the commission immediately engage an independent third-party expert to identify viable alternatives to the facility and scenarios that can inform a shorter path to closure,” adding that the evaluation “should incorporate assumptions about declining natural gas demand pursuant to state climate change targets” and “consider efforts to reduce the use of natural gas in homes, businesses and power plants.”  

A representative for the commission said Wednesday the group is “fully prepared to launch an expert study of scenarios as requested in the governor’s letter.” 

To take a facility offline, a “realistic alternative,” especially for middle- and low-income customers, is needed, however, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, said on Thursday. “When more and more people switch to electric, it leaves fewer people to pick up the tab for the costs of the gas system. Those that are left to pay tend to be disadvantaged communities who cannot easily afford to convert to electric appliances.”

State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, declined to comment on the matter. 

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