The California Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted 4-0 to approve an increase in the capacity at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility to 41.16 billion cubic feet.
The decision was made after 100,000 metric tons of methane were emitted into the atmosphere in 2015 and a $1.8 billion settlement was reached this year.
Commissioner Guzman Aceves presented the approved plan, which differed from another proposal by administrative law judge Zhen Zhang capping storage to 68.8 billion cubic feet, which was shared with commissioners in October.
The vote was made after an analysis presented to the commissioners, which stated a shortfall in the natural gas supply of 395 million cubic feet per day by 2027.
In an October news release, Commissioner Guzman Aceves, the commissioner assigned to the proceeding, stated a need to transition to a clean-energy economy and ensure energy reliability.
“The 41 Bcf limit is safe and reliable, and it will allow us to get through this winter while we continue our progress toward planning how to reduce or eliminate our use of Aliso Canyon by 2027 or 2035, or anytime in between,” said Aceves.
Zhang’s proposal cites an economic analysis report stating natural gas prices were volatile in 2017 and 2018. The same report notes a 25% increase in same-day natural gas prices previous to the restrictions and an increase of $2.25 per customer bill.
The CPUC Energy Division’s 2021 Modeling Report simulation states that “storage at Aliso Canyon between 41.2 Bcf and 68.6 Bcf levels is necessary to maintain reliability.”
Not everyone is supportive of the decision made by the CPUC. State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas, is the author of Senate Bill 1320 requiring a California-specific climate change assessment. Stern also sponsored SB 463 in 2019, requiring the monitoring of chemical emissions from gas storage wells and increased oversight of gas storage facilities because of the Aliso Canyon gas leak.
In a letter to the CPUC before the vote, Stern said, “There are feasible, zero carbon, safer and more affordable alternatives in the near- and medium-term to a more pressurized Aliso. The faulted facility can and must be closed altogether.”
Stern continued to emphasize the importance of moving away from gas and move toward zero carbon alternatives, stating the Aliso Canyon facilities face seismic risks and unresolved ongoing well integrity issues.
Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, said the expansion of gas storage is “unnecessary and irresponsible.”
Valladares reiterated the same concerns Stern had in regards to Aliso Canyon’s facility leaking into the air for 112 days in 2015.
“Tens of thousands of Porter Ranch residents, including thousands of children, had their physical and mental health horribly impacted by this leak,” Valladares said. “Many were forced to move from their longtime homes. Increasing methane storage at the site of this disastrous leak is irresponsible and insulting to our community and to the families that were forever impacted.”