Soapbox

State must close Aliso Canyon permanently

A protester holding a photo of Gov. Jerry Brown joins others demanding a shutdown of the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility near Porter Ranch on Jan. 16.
A protester holding a photo of Gov. Jerry Brown joins others demanding a shutdown of the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility near Porter Ranch on Jan. 16. Associated Press file

My community, Porter Ranch, is still recovering from the largest gas blowout in U.S. history, which was discovered at Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon gas storage facility last October and continued for 119 days.

The disaster displaced more than 15,000 Los Angeles residents from their homes, caused obvious and unseen health impacts, hurt local businesses and wreaked havoc on our climate. Despite the documented health problems and continued emissions from the facility, most everyone, including me, has moved back home. The fight between residents, regulators and SoCalGas over the future of Aliso Canyon continues.

We will be rallying at the Capitol on Wednesday to insist that Gov. Jerry Brown step up as the climate leader he aspires to be, put public health and safety first and close Aliso Canyon permanently.

Our community will never again trust SoCalGas. It has put its bottom line ahead of public safety, beginning decades before the crisis. They made us navigate their unnecessarily complicated relocation and reimbursement system and refuse to properly clean up our homes, despite a Health Department directive.

Government agencies have been equally neglectful, allowing SoCalGas to determine critical issues, even taking the company’s word about the need to reopen the facility. As the summer heats up, Angelenos repeatedly hear SoCalGas threaten 14 days of blackouts without Aliso Canyon. Yet, a close examination of the facts shows that there is little evidence to back its claims. Despite a cold winter and several summer heat waves, there were no blackouts related to the shutdown.

A recent state study made it appear that regulators support reopening Aliso Canyon. But according to emails obtained under the Public Records Act, regulators allowed SoCalGas to write the most critical piece of the report, which exaggerated concerns about gas shortages and summer blackouts.

SoCalGas inflated the projected demand for electric power and underestimated the capacity of its other gas storage facilities and pipeline capacity to substitute for Aliso Canyon, according to a report done for Food & Water Watch.

SoCalGas is rushing to complete state-mandated safety tests and reopen Aliso Canyon, but these inspections revealed that the situation is far bleaker than we might have imagined. Of the 114 remaining storage wells, 67 had to be plugged and isolated and only 15 passed integrity tests, and only after being fixed. So far, not a single storage well could pass all required integrity tests without being repaired. All the failed wells were in service for years before the blowout.

My neighbors and I challenge Brown to consider these facts when deciding whether to allow Aliso Canyon to reopen and make the entire area vulnerable to a future disaster at this deteriorating, dangerous facility. Nothing short of the permanent closure of Aliso Canyon will protect our health and our climate, now and for future generations.

Matt Pakucko is president and co-founder of Save Porter Ranch, a Los Angeles community group. He can be contacted at info@saveporterranch.com.

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