Following news that the California Public Utilities Commission had voted to approve an increase in the capacity at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, Sen. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, has rolled out a roadmap to close the facility by 2023.
The Porter Ranch facility was involved in a 2015 blowout and leak that is considered the largest natural gas release in American history, resulting in 97,000 metric tons of methane and 7,300 metric tons of ethane being released into the atmosphere, some of which reached the Santa Clarita Valley.
By the time the well was sealed in February 2016, accompanying toxic and noxious chemicals had spewed into the atmosphere.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors and local lawmakers have sent multiple letters to the CPUC to oppose any increase in natural gas storage at the facility to no avail.
A $1.8 billion settlement was reached earlier this year in September for those impacted by the gas leak. However, the CPUC is still contemplating the “feasibility” of closing Aliso Canyon as late as 2035, according to a news release issued by Stern, who represents some western portions of the SCV.
“We cannot wait another decade or more to close Aliso. This is our home,” Stern said in a prepared statement. “We can close Aliso, and in the process, reduce the impacts of burning gas for energy across L.A. This plan will actually create more union jobs locally than the status quo and make customers’ bills more predictable and affordable.”
Stern met with community advocates last week to roll out a roadmap to close Aliso Canyon. While still in development, the plan covers four primary areas:
- Ramping up local clean energy generation and storage.
- Reduce demand for natural gas, including efficiency measures and replacement of leaky furnaces and water heaters with new heat pumps and tankless water heaters that can also serve a dual purpose of improving cooling during extreme heat events.
- Establish a reliability plan for extreme weather events by targeting solutions that meet the reliability needs for just a few days of extreme weather through smart planning and coordination between the California Independent Systems Operator, the L.A. Department of Water and Power, Southern California Edison and other large local gas users.
- Uplift and expand union jobs through the deployment of additional gigawatts of clean energy generation, energy storage and transmission.
“Even though I vehemently disagree with the recent decision to allow SoCalGas to pressurize the field with more gas before a proper seismic review has been completed, I believe the California Public Utilities Commission wants to do the right thing here… but they need help assembling a plan that may exceed their scope of authority,” Stern added in the statement.
Stern said he believes the task can be completed between a collaboration of multiple local and state organizations, as well as other local gas users and environmental justice and consumer groups.
“The California Public Utility Commission has ignored numerous directives to shut down the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility,” Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy said in the statement. “Community members still suffer daily from the health impacts of poisonous gases released into their neighborhoods then and now. Every day of inaction by the CPUC is a denial of justice and healing for these communities. Nothing other than the immediate closure of Aliso Canyon will prove the commission’s respect and commitment to the well-being and safety of their constituents.”
If necessary, legislation addressing the closure will be introduced when the Legislature returns in January, according to Stern.
For more information on the roadmap, visit senatorhenrystern.org.