Los Angeles

More Safety Tests Needed at Porter Ranch: City Officials

SoCal Gas withdrew natural gas from the facility in January for the first time in about a year.

Los Angeles County filed suit Wednesday against state regulators, asking a judge to require more safety and environmental review before allowing Southern California Gas Co. to reopen its Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility.

"State regulators must get to the bottom of what caused the Aliso Canyon blowout, provide the public with results of that investigation, and conduct a public environmental review process that considers alternatives and mitigations," Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

She said the county's lawsuit seeks to ensure that the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources "fully complies with its obligation to certify that the Aliso Canyon facility can be operated safely and that a devastating well failure and gas leak can never happen again."

County lawyers allege that DOGGR has violated state law and failed to adequately address well safety and seismic risks.

"(Regulators) have backtracked on this requirement and have accepted an admittedly incomplete risk management plan and an outdated, pre-leak emergency response plan,'' the suit alleges.

The county is calling for an environmental impact report before the facility is reopened and seeking a court order banning any gas injections until the root cause of the gas leak is determined.

A DOGGR spokesman said the department does not comment on pending litigation. SoCal Gas has repeatedly maintained that the facility is safe.

"The ability to resume injections at Aliso Canyon is critical to the reliability of the region's natural gas and electricity systems," according to the utility's published updates on Aliso Canyon. "There is no dependency on or need to wait for the results of the root cause analysis. SoCal Gas has demonstrated that the field is safe to resume injection operations."

In February, SoCal Gas settled a suit with the South Coast Air Quality Management District for $8.5 million, including $1 million in funding for an SCAQMD-sponsored health study on the impacts of the leak.

Barger has said that settlement did not go far enough in providing funding for a long-term health study or additional safety analysis.

The county has separately sued the utility in connection with the four-month gas leak at the Porter Ranch facility that spewed 109,000 metric tons of methane into the air from October 2015 to February 2016, displacing thousands of residents.

SoCal Gas withdrew natural gas from the facility in January for the first time in about a year. The utility said the withdrawals were needed to maintain service levels in the face of stepped-up demand prompted by cold weather that gripped the region. Critics, however, contend the move was made in an effort by the utility to sway state regulators to allow the utility to resume operations at Aliso Canyon.

According to SoCal Gas, 38 of the 114 wells at the facility have passed a series of tests indicating they can be safely used to again inject natural gas into the storage facility. The other wells have been temporarily and mechanically sealed off from the storage reservoir awaiting safety tests.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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