Porter Ranch Response from Capital

Porter Ranch Response from the Capitol

By Kathryn Phillips

(Photo credit: Earthworks)

Since their return to work in Sacramento in early January, legislators have been preparing legislation in response to the massive Aliso Canyon methane gas leak near Porter Ranch in northern Los Angeles County.

The Aliso Canyon leak has been in progress since October 23 and has displaced thousands of people from their homes in and near the Porter Ranch Community. The Governor declared a state of emergency January 6. Recently the South Coast AQMD, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, and the State Attorney General have filed lawsuits against the owner of the storage facility, Southern California Gas Company.

So far, legislators have introduced three bills specifically tied to that leak, and more may surface before the February 19 deadline for bill introductions. The Aliso Canyon methane storage facility is just one of 13 such facilities around the state.

One of those bills, SB 380, by Senator Fran Pavley, would impose an immediate moratorium on injecting natural gas into any well at the Aliso Canyon storage facility until a whole lot of inspection and fixing has occurred. It adds other requirements for restarting old wells there, and it requires the Public Utilities Commission to study the feasibility of eliminating that entire gas storage facility.

That bill was pushed through the Senate with the help of an urgency clause shortly after being introduced and is preparing to go through the Assembly committee process. Two other bills, SB 888 by Senator Ben Allen, and SB 887, by Senator Pavley, address how to monitor and inspect gas facilities, upgrade safety equipment, and better coordinate emergency responses to gas leaks. Those bills will begin their travels through Senate committees in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, on February 4, the California Air Resources Board held a workshop on a new draft of oil and gas regulations for controlling air pollution. The new draft began to address some of the issues raised by the Aliso Canyon leak, but agency staff told workshop attendees that they are continuing to work on additional regulatory proposals that respond to issues raised by the Aliso Canyon leak.

And on February 5th as we put this newsletter issue to bed, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources issued new emergency regulations to respond to the Governor's emergency declaration.

The leak is buried deep underground and Southern California Gas crews are working to reach it and repair it. The exact cause of the leak is still not certain, but the leaking pipe did not contain an automatic shut-off valve that could have gone into action to stop emissions as soon as they were discovered.

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