A pro­posal that’s bad for busi­ness

The Signal - - OPINION -

Few will for­get the dra­matic im­pact that the Aliso Canyon gas leak had in the re­gion.

The clear skies above Porter Ranch be­came per­me­ated and the na­tion’s sec­ond largest nat­u­ral gas stor­age fa­cil­ity re­leased what was widely re­ported to be the worst nat­u­ral gas leak in U.S. his­tory.

Af­ter the leak was dis­cov­ered In the fall of 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown de­clared a state of emer­gency. Peo­ple had their lives put on hold or turned up­side-down for months, forced to re­lo­cate while South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Gas Co. staff worked to plug the leak. Dozens of res­i­dents re­ported ill­ness re­lated to the ex­po­sure.

And go­ing even fur­ther back, the worst-case sce­nario, a tragedy like the deadly San Bruno ex­plo­sion that killed six peo­ple in San Fran­cisco, serves as a deadly re­minder of what can go wrong with nat­u­ral gas.

How­ever, while rec­og­niz­ing we’re talk­ing about a dan­ger­ous el­e­ment, our elected of­fi­cials have al­ready re­jected leg­is­la­tion in Se­nate Bill 57, pro­posed by our own state Sen. Henry Stern, D-Chatsworth, who pro­posed a mora­to­rium on Aliso Canyon op­er­a­tions, which would have shut down Aliso Canyon.

Law­mak­ers, in re­ject­ing SB 57, es­sen­tially OK’ed Aliso Canyon’s con­tin­ued op­er­a­tions, with the cur­rent reg­u­la­tions in place.

That’s why we can’t un­der­stand why the Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion, or CPUC, is call­ing for a mora­to­rium on new com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial gas hook-ups un­til the end of March. CPUC of­fi­cials ex­plained to the Sig­nal that the an­tic­i­pated de­mands and cur­rent reg­u­la­tions on Aliso Canyon are part of what prompted the con­cern, but it’s our opin­ion that they’ve failed to jus­tify such a de­ci­sion.

Af­ter an out­cry from those con­cerned on how the move would im­pact com­mu­ni­ties through­out the re­gion, the CPUC de­cided Thurs­day to push back its de­ci­sion another month, so we can talk about this again in the sec­ond week of Fe­bru­ary, when the CPUC is ex­pected to look at the move again.

The Sig­nal has heard loudly and re­peat­edly from busi­ness groups who are con­cerned and from health care providers like Henry Mayo Ne­whall Hos­pi­tal and the North­east Val­ley Health Corp., both of which are plan­ning to bring much-needed fa­cil­i­ties to ser­vice the Santa Clarita Val­ley. Vis­it­ing an ur­gent care or emer­gency room in the last few weeks will eas­ily demon­strate the need.

How­ever, this dis­cus­sion is leav­ing them with se­ri­ous ques­tions about plans that have been in place for months. Ac­tu­ally, we should say pend­ing de­ci­sion, be­cause, as we noted, there hasn’t been much dis­cus­sion by the CPUC.

The South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Gas Co., for its part, called the blan­ket de­nial of ser­vice “un­rea­son­able, un­nec­es­sary, con­trary to the pub­lic in­ter­est and in­con­sis­tent with es­tab­lished... ap­pli­ca­ble Com­mis­sion de­ci­sions,” which, again, without a proper ex­pla­na­tion, seems not far off-base.

This is another in­stance where, in­stead of us­ing con­cern or fear to make a blan­ket de­ci­sion, we hope that Gov. Jerry Brown’s ap­pointees will roll up their sleeves and do the job which they are tasked – re­spon­si­ble reg­u­la­tion of the pub­lic util­i­ties that res­i­dents rely on for our health and safety.

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