Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The communal commission approves the gas storage plan in the Aliso Canyon, despite the objections of the residents

The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday unanimously voted in favor of a controversial plan to increase the amount of natural gas that can be stored at the problematic facility in Aliso Canyon.

The plan allows for the storage of up to 41.16 billion cubic feet of natural gas at the facility, where the catastrophic 2015 release was the largest methane leak in U.S. history.

This represents about 60% of the capacity – a compromise between the ultimate goal of fully decommissioning the facility and using all available storage at 68.6 billion cubic feet, said Commissioner Marta Guzman Aceves, who proposed the measure.

The volume of the facility was limited to approximately 34 billion cubic feet – less than half of the available space.

“We are again witnessing very strong fluctuations in our changing climate,” she said. “The drought affected the availability of hydropower and increased our short-term dependence on natural gas.”

Guzman Aceves said she understands that residents and activists will not be happy with Thursday’s vote.

The storage proposal is not permanent and “does not in any way diminish the possibility of decommissioning Aliso,” she said.

The vote of the four commissioners in the absence of President Meribel Battier came after nearly two hours of public comment, dominated by residents and activists who opposed any expansion of gas storage in Aliso Canyon.

“This is a betrayal,” Matt Pakuko, president of Save Porter Ranch, told The Times after the meeting. “Is the CPUC ignoring everything? As if nobody represents us. They just do whatever they want. ”

Many residents said they would not feel safe until the facility was completely decommissioned and gas was no longer stored there.

Patty Gluck, co-founder of the Aliso Moms Alliance, said she opposes any increase in methane storage.

“The increase in capacity will increase the risk for the 1.5 million residents of the northern part of the San Fernando Valley,” Gluck said. “Highly toxic emissions continue to flow from wells that have caused too many cancers in our area.”

Storing more gas in Aliso Canyon is also dangerous during natural disasters such as earthquakes and fires, she said.

Gluck, like many others, urged the commission to reject the proposal.

“The Public Utilities Commission voted today for fossil fuel interests, not taxpayer welfare in California,” Alexandra Nagy, California director of Food & Water Watch said in a statement released after the meeting.

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Any increase in gas storage is “dangerous” and “unnecessary,” Nagy said, adding that the only beneficiaries are the shareholders of Southern California Gas Co.

Several speakers at the meeting noted that politicians, including Governor Gavin Newsom and US Senator Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, support the closure of the Aliso Canyon section.

“The way forward is after Newsom,” Pakuko said. “From the moment he took office, in a very short period of time, the use of [Aliso] has grown by 3000% under his supervision, ”Pakuko said, citing statistics compiled by Food & Water Watch.

A Times article published in June 2020 revealed that while Newsom pledged to shut down the site during his campaign, its usage skyrocketed after he took office.

As residents battle Thursday’s vote, many questions remain about the long-term impact of the emissions on public health.

The leak began on 23 October 2015 and did not stop until mid-February of the following year, releasing more than 100,000 metric tons of methane and other compounds into the air.

More than 8,000 families were forced to move as many complained of headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath.

The study, funded by a $ 25 million gas company and monitored by the Los Angeles County Health Department, took many years.

A leak in Aliso Canyon released mostly methane gas, as well as toxic pollutants including cancer-causing benzene, odorants called mercaptans, which are added to the gas to give it a rotten egg smell, and other sulfur-containing compounds that can cause health problems.

Residents not only inhaled air pollutants, but were also exposed to toxic chemicals, metals such as barium, and oil residues that settled inside their homes, dust sampling showed.

Before casting their votes, several panelists spoke of their view of balancing the competing interests of Porter Ranch residents with the broader energy needs of Southern California.

Guzman Aceves said it could take up to a year before the commission has enough information to determine the best way to close the Aliso Canyon site and meet the energy needs of consumers.

Residents such as Pakuko said that another year of waiting for gas to be stored at the site was unacceptable.

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