California regulatory safety inspectors on Thursday accused Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) of safety violations that led to the catastrophic 2015 natural gas storage well leak at the Aliso Canyon underground field 40 miles north of Los Angeles.
The Safety Enforcement Division (SED) of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) cited 330 violations since the 86 Bcf capacity, 3,200-acre facility was opened in 1972. More than 240 of them occurred between 2015 when the leak was identified and this year.
The allegations are contained in prepared testimony by SED for the ongoing show-cause proceeding to determine if SoCalGas should be sanctioned. The proceeding is scheduled to take most of next year to complete.
CPUC spokesperson Terrie Prosper said SED's opening testimony alleges "numerous" safety, health and recordkeeping violations, and "multiple instances" in which the Sempra Energy gas-only utility did not cooperate with the investigation, resulting in additional violations.
SoCalGas spokesperson Christine Detz told NGI the company is reviewing SED’s findings. Based on a preliminary review, SoCalGas has found "inconsistencies" in the findings compared to the independent root cause report completed by Blade Energy Partners earlier this year.
The Blade report confirmed SoCalGas "complied with gas storage regulations in existence at the time of the leak, and that the related compliance activities conducted prior to the leak did not find indications of the casing integrity issue that caused the leak," Detz said.
The CPUC said in partnership with the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, it has taken "aggressive steps" to prevent any similar leaks from occurring again.
SoCalGas continues to contend that the facility is safe. In the four years since the leak, the utility has "successfully carried out what state regulators and independent experts have called the most comprehensive safety enhancements of any underground storage facility in the nation."
California Gov. Gavin Newsom last month tasked state regulators with identifying ways to permanently close the facility.