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SoCalGas Accelerates Storage Well Infrared Inspections; Pays Out $36M to Residents

Sempra Energy's Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) confirmed Friday that it has accelerated its promised inspection of 115 storage wells using infrared technology at its closed Aliso Canyon underground natural gas storage field.

Bucking continued resident and political sentiment for closing the storage facility permanently, SoCalGas said it also has followed through on four other commitments if made to angry, displaced residents from the upscale nearby residential community of Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. The four are:

  • Helping the 20% of the Porter Ranch population who chose to temporarily leave their homes;
  • Operating a special customer resource center in Porter Ranch;
  • Cooperating with state agencies investigating the root cause and other aspects of the nearly four-month gas well leak; and
  • Mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the long-standing leak.

Last week, SoCalGas said daily measurements and monitoring of well pressures were begun. The utility is "in the process of mobilizing equipment to begin well integrity inspections at the facility," according to a SoCalGas spokesperson, who said Sempra and its utility are committed to "restoring trust and continuing support" in the community.

SoCalGas said that as of last Thursday it had approved and processed more than 17,000 reimbursements totaling more than $36 million.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that at least 150 of the returning residents have complained about continuing health problems in Porter Ranch due to the aftermath of the prolonged storage well leak.

"I believe that residents who have concerns and are experiencing health issues should only return home when they have been given confidence in their safety," Garcetti said. Los Angeles County health officials nevertheless continued to maintain that there were no ill health effects from past emissions and no one was in any danger.

The city council member whose district includes Porter Ranch, Mitchell Englander, a vocal critic of SoCalGas' handling of the incident, wrote utility CEO Dennis Arriola Friday urging the utility to work with county public health officials to establish a network of mobile clinics that returning residents can turn to if needed. "A mobile health clinic will allow convenient and free access to medical care," Englander said.

In the meantime, the California Public Utilities Commission safety division and the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) are also onsite at the Aliso Canyon facility overseeing a third-party independent consultant's work to identify a root cause for the incident. SoCalGas said the findings will be made public as soon as they are available.

A DOGGR spokesperson told NGI that the root cause analysis will take several months, "as will testing all of the field's injection wells for competency, a condition of resuming injections at Aliso."

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