The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) next month will consider legally declaring that the 86 Bcf capacity Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility has maintained continuous service even in the wake of the nation's worst methane leak, which occurred there three years ago.

According to a CPUC administrative law judge's proposed decision that was released Monday, the 3,200-acre storage field -- California's largest -- was never out of service for nine consecutive months, a key legal requirement, despite the suspension of gas injections following the discovery of a massive storage well leak March 23, 2015.

"The proposed decision concludes that although there was a temporary moratorium on gas injections, the Aliso Canyon storage field remained available for service supporting system balancing and reliability requirements," said Terrie Prosper, CPUC communications director.

State regulators may eliminate consideration of the value of any portion of a utility facility that remains out of service for nine or more consecutive months, and may disallow expenses related to that facility to be recovered in utility rates.

The proposal directs Aliso owner Southern California Gas Co. to continue to track revenue and costs associated with owning and operating the storage facility, as the CPUC ordered in 2016 in the wake of the storage well blowout.

The earliest that the commissioners can take up the proposed decision is Sept. 27, Prosper said.

A long-awaited CPUC proceeding on the root causes of the Aliso Canyon leak is expected to start next year.