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Opponents Again Urge California to Close Aliso Canyon Storage Facility

Opponents of California’s largest natural gas storage facility Aliso Canyon, including nearby residents and environmental groups, are repeating their calls for the state to close it down.

During a day-long hearing Friday, opponents testified and held placards calling for the immediate closure of the Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) 86 Bcf capacity, 3,600-acre underground storage facility (see Daily GPI, Aug. 23). A four-month storage well leak that was plugged in mid-February has called into question the safety and viability of gas storage in the state.

SoCalGas expects to open the facility on the northern fringe of Los Angeles as soon as September (see Daily GPI, April 8). But not if opponents have the final say.

"SoCalGas has had 30 years to get this right and has proven incapable of doing it," said one person at the hearing opposed to the facility reopening.

"We're still getting sick, and no one is working with us to study the health impacts,” said Matt Pakucko, head of the Save Porter Ranch group. Pakucko alleged that residents in the area south of the facility are still suffering from headaches, rashes, nosebleeds and respiratory symptoms.

Save Porter Ranch and the nonprofit group Food and Water Watch, which has called for discontinuing use of all fossil fuels, used the forum to urge Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers to shut the facility down.

In contrast, many business, nonprofit and other citizen groups urged that Aliso eventually be reopened to ensure energy reliability and economic stability throughout the region.

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) President Michael Picker said the state’s success in avoiding any major reliability problems this summer during Aliso Canyon's absence has been a combination of hard work and luck. He said it was difficult implementing all 18 of the state’s summer mitigation measures (see Daily GPI, May 12).

"We are facing a whole set of different challenges in the winter," Picker noted.

One CPUC staff member said California should "get through the winter without curtailments, although the margin or safety will be thin, and Aliso Canyon provides a very big margin of safety if there are many colder-than-normal days this winter,"

Various state agency staff members said during the hearing that even if the Sempra Energy utility were to receive permission to resume injections at Aliso Canyon by November, there would still be more than a “normal” level of risk of curtailments this winter. “Significant risk" remains for the last few weeks of the summer as well.

Eventually, if SoCalGas gets the approval to resume Aliso's operations, there must be enough gas in storage to allow up to 420 MMcf/d in the summer, the agencies have concluded.

It is unknown when the testing of Aliso's 114 storage wells will be completed (see Daily GPI, Aug. 17).

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