Southern California

Opponents of Reopening Porter Ranch Gas Facility Challenge ‘Blackout Risk'

Citing "misinformation and critical omissions," advocacy groups are challenging an assessment by energy officials that Southern California faces electrical blackouts during summer heat waves unless the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility is reopened.

Tuesday morning, the group Food & Water Watch will present what is expected to be a rebuttal of the report that forecast 14 days of electrical disruptions due to temporary fuel shortages at electrical generating stations that rely on natural gas.

Consumer Watchdog will join Food & Water Watch in calling on California's legislature to investigate the energy report and the future of Aliso Canyon, according to a statement issued Monday evening.

Located just north of Porter Ranch, Aliso Canyon is the largest of the Southern California Gas Company's four storage facilities, intended to provide a buffer for fluctuations in demand. However, movement of gas in or out of the facility was ordered halted by state regulators in the wake of the massive leak from a failed well first reported last October and not sealed until February.

Operations cannot resume until all 114 of the remaining wells are inspected and certified safe, or isolated from storage, under terms set by California's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources.

Even since the leak was deemed sealed, hundreds of Porter Ranch residents have reported health symptoms, and some 4,000 residents that moved away have yet to return home.

The residents' group "Save Porter Ranch" and others have called for the facility to be shut down permanently.

Since February, officials with two California commissions, energy and public utilities, have expressed concern that loss of Aliso Canyon could affect energy reliability.

Details were spelled out last week in a "Risk Assessment Technical Report" prepared by staff of the two commissions, along with SoCalGas, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the statewide electrical power grid.

The report also raised the specter of gas shortages during winter cold snaps, but deferred details until a later analysis.  

Last Thursday, SoCalGas announced a plan to complete required inspections in the hope of resuming Aliso Canyon Operations in "late summer." Company officials repeatedly pledged their commitment to doing so "safely."

The plan was presented last Friday in Woodland Hills during an Energy Commission meeting focused on Aliso Canyon issues.

Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller said as long as the storage facility remains offline conservations measures could reduce the risk of summer blackouts, but not eliminate it.

Matt Pakucko of "Save Porter Ranch" contends scare tactics are being used. 

"The books have been cooked," Pakucko said.

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