Gas stor­age re­sumes at Aliso Canyon site

Util­ity moves quickly to restart in­jec­tions at fa­cil­ity near Porter Ranch af­ter court OK.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Nina Agrawal

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Gas Co. an­nounced Mon­day that it had re­sumed in­jec­tions at the Aliso Canyon gas stor­age fa­cil­ity, less than two days af­ter an ap­peals court lifted a tem­po­rary ban on op­er­a­tions.

“SoCalGas must be­gin in­jec­tions to com­ply with the [state’s] directive to main­tain suf­fi­cient nat­u­ral gas in­ven­to­ries at Aliso Canyon to sup­port the re­li­a­bil­ity of the re­gion’s nat­u­ral gas and elec­tric­ity sys­tems,” the com­pany wrote in a state­ment sent to Porter Ranch res­i­dents.

The Aliso Canyon nat­u­ral gas stor­age fa­cil­ity in the north­west­ern San Fer­nando Val­ley was the site of the largest meth­ane gas leak in U.S. his­tory, spew­ing more than 100,000 tons of the green­house gas start­ing in Oc­to­ber 2015. Roughly 8,000 fam­i­lies liv­ing near the area evac­u­ated, with many com­plain­ing of headaches, nau­sea and nose­bleeds.

The leak, which took four months to cap, prompted out­rage among res­i­dents and lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and dozens of law­suits. It also spawned state leg­is­la­tion re­quir­ing reg­u­la­tors to con­duct a com­pre­hen­sive safety re­view, in­clud­ing an anal­y­sis of the root cause of the leak and plans for ad­dress­ing the risks of fail­ure, and to study the fea­si­bil­ity of

phas­ing out use of the fa­cil­ity in the long term.

Deirdre Bolona, who lives just south of the gas field, called the de­ci­sion to re­sume in­jec­tions un­til the safety re­view had been sat­is­fac­to­rily com­pleted “ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

“We are ripe for another earth­quake,” Bolona said, re­fer­ring to the 1971 earth­quake in which a short seg­ment of the Santa Su­sana fault rup­tured slightly. “When the wells get sheared off, my house will be one of the ones that doesn’t make it.”

The news Mon­day came amid on­go­ing le­gal wran­gling be­tween L.A. County and state reg­u­la­tors and the gas com­pany over what the county al­leges was a fail­ure to con­duct le­gally re­quired safety and en­vi­ron­men­tal analy­ses be­fore reopen­ing the fa­cil­ity, and to turn over re­lated pub­lic records.

On July 19, reg­u­la­tors at the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s Divi­sion of Oil, Gas and Geo­ther­mal Re­sources and the Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion an­nounced that Aliso Canyon was safe to re­open, though they said it would op­er­ate at a re­duced ca­pac­ity of 28%, “out of an abun­dance of cau­tion.”

Two days later, at­tor­neys for L.A. County amended their law­suit, ini­tially filed in March, to in­clude a re­quest for an im­me­di­ate stay of that de­ci­sion. They also sub­mit­ted tes­ti­mony from a for­mer South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Gas en­gi­neer who warned of the risk posed by the Santa Su­sana fault line run­ning un­der­neath the gas wells.

On Fri­day, a trial court judge de­nied the county’s re­quest, only to be re­versed on ap­peal a few hours later. The stay was over­turned a day later, and another ap­peal filed on Mon­day failed.

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Gas posted a note Mon­day af­ter­noon on a com­pany web­site about the re­sump­tion of op­er­a­tions.

Chris Gil­bride, a com­pany spokesman, con­firmed in an email that gas in­jec­tions had be­gun on a lim­ited ba­sis.

Scott Kuhn, deputy county coun­sel, said the county was very dis­ap­pointed the ap­peals court did not is­sue a stay, but noted that the courts have yet to rule on the county’s broader re­quest to or­der state reg­u­la­tors to com­plete the safety and en­vi­ron­men­tal analy­ses be­fore con­tin­u­ing in­jec­tions.

“We hope that some court will get to the mer­its and when they do get to mer­its, they will see that fur­ther study of the seis­mic risk and the en­vi­ron­men­tal risk is nec­es­sary be­fore [the util­ity] can pro­ceed with busi­ness as usual,” Kuhn said.

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