Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Los Angeles, said Thursday he sent letters to the Department of Water and Power and the South Coast Air Quality Management District demanding answers regarding a confirmed methane leak at the Valley Generating Station in Sun Valley.
"I was outraged to learn that LADWP has been aware of the situation for nearly a year and has no repairs scheduled until later this November," Cardenas wrote. "We know the harmful effects caused by such gas leaks and the health risks it poses for the residents in the surrounding communities as well as the effects on the climate crisis."
Cardenas said the leak was brought to the utility's attention by a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory report, which uses airborne sensors to observe methane sources. It found the station has been leaking more than 10,000 cubic feet of methane per hour for the last couple of years, equivalent to the emissions of 30,000 cars, according to the congressman.
"The delay in both finding the leak and reporting it is unacceptable and is detrimental to the health of our residents and bad for the environment," Cardenas said.
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Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez filed a motion Tuesday to address the gas leak at the Valley Generating Station.
"I am furious to hear about the methane leak at the Valley Generating Station," Martinez said in a social media posting. "It is a slap in the face and another environmental injustice laid on a community that has historically been dismissed, and overburdened with an over-concentration of heavy industry and the health effects that come with that."
The Martinez motion demands a report from the DWP in five days on when the leak began, how much methane was released, how the public was notified and how the leak can be repaired sooner than November, and requests that the facility be shut down as soon as possible until those repairs are made.
The motion also requests information on how the DWP, which owns the facility, intends to mitigate community impacts and previous impacts.
The DWP reported that it is "acting swiftly" to reduce methane emissions from the Valley Generating Station. The utility said it has undertaken emergency, temporary repairs on the compressors where the leak occurred, and one of the compressors was taken offline entirely, reducing the methane leak by 60%, but the DWP said the leak was reduced by 95% as of Wednesday.
"Though the methane emissions are considered low compared to other sources, we are sensitive to your concerns and want to assure you that we are working as quickly and safely as we can to repair the leak while also minimizing usage of the power plant to the extent possible," a DWP statement reads.
The DWP also said the engineered materials needed for the repair are scheduled to arrive in October, with the repairs slated for November, when a shutdown of Valley Generating Station could be done without jeopardizing the electrical grid and potentially causing widespread power outages.
Martinez said the DWP should have alerted people immediately, and that the levels of methane gas coming from the plant was "insulting to a community whose personal burden is the reason the city does not have to go off the grid during heatwaves."
"They do not need the added harms of one more kilogram of polluted or toxic air, let alone 100 kilograms of leaking methane every hour," Martinez said.
According to Martinez's motion, the area around the Valley Generating Station ranks in the top-fifth percentile of most polluted census tracts in the state, based on data from CalEnviorscreen.
"This is something we were aware of, had a plan in place and are executing that plan," DWP General Manager Martin Adams told the Los Angeles Daily News late last week. "Not that a methane leak is good. But it's not something that we were not aware of and not addressing."
During a week in August when excessive heat resulted in blackouts across the state, Los Angeles was largely spared due to its power facilities and portfolio, Martinez said.
Martinez's motion will be first heard by the council's Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee.