Pointing to the complexity of issues, California regulators on Thursday extended until late 2021 their investigation of Southern California Gas Co.’s (SoCalGas) role in the nation’s largest ever methane leak at the Aliso Canyon underground natural gas storage facility in 2015-16.

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

Under state law, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has 12 months to complete most proceedings, but the five-member regulatory panel has the power to extend investigations.

Clifford Rechtschaffen, the lead commissioner on the Aliso Canyon matters, said the investigation is still in its first phase. SoCalGas is refusing to pay for the costs of the state’s probe, and “this is a very complex investigation in which a number of parties have asked for extensions” of the deadline, Rechtschaffen said.

By unanimous vote the CPUC set the new deadline at Dec. 24, 2021.

“All of this is taking a lot of time and effort, but It is absolutely critical that we understand how the system works, under what conditions do we use the facility, and what opportunities are there to provide reliability at a reasonable cost,” said Commissioner Liane Randolph.
Last December, the CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division cited 330 violations since the 86 Bcf capacity facility was opened in 1972. More than 240 of them occurred between 2015, when the leak was identified, and this year.