The largest underground natural gas storage field in California, Southern California Gas Co.'s (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon facility, is drawing protests over a proposed expansion project.

Nearby residents are still smarting from a 2008 wildfire that was sparked allegedly by a downed electrical line maintained by the Sempra Energy gas utility for operations at the 100 Bcf, 3,600-acre storage complex in the far north side of the City of Los Angeles.

One homeowner has asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to delay the proposed $200 million Aliso Canyon expansion until lawsuits stemming from the 2008 blaze are settled (see Daily GPI, Oct. 20, 2008).

Upgraded power lines to serve the storage operation would be part of the expansion that was originally outlined for the CPUC in 2009 in which the Sempra gas-only utility characterized the work as part of the "state's forward-looking gas policy," and more specifically a mandate from the CPUC and state legislature to promote more competitive gas storage services in the state.

SoCalGas officials have assured regulators and the citizens living near the site that it does everything possible to keep the storage operations, which represent nearly half of the utility's firm storage injection capacity, safe, efficient and cost-effective. Litigation continues between the utility and property owners who sustained damage in 2008.

The residents through homeowners associations are criticizing the gas utility for not keeping brush cleared in the open hilly terrain of the depleted oil and gas field.

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