SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com) — A consumer advocacy group wants lawmakers to press California state energy regulators to address what it calls misleading statements about potential blackouts later this year if the Aliso Canyon gas reserves are shut down.
Michael Picker, the chairman of the California Energy Commission (CPUC), said last week that the partial shutdown of the Aliso Canyon storage field in Porter Ranch could lead to short-term power outages for up to 14 days.
A letter from Consumer Watchdog (PDF) addressed to Senator pro Tem Kevin de Leon, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and utility oversight committee chairs Senator Mike Gatto, and Assmbly member Ben Hueso calls for Pickers and other energy regulators to appear under oath and address recent “misrepresentations and omissions”.
“New information, uncovered by engineer Bill Powers for Food & Water Watch and the Los Angeles Times, shows two recent reports by the CPUC, DWP, Southern California Gas and state energy regulators claiming blackouts will ensue if Aliso is curtailed are based on false information and key omissions,” Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court wrote.
According to the letter, the reports make “inaccurate statements” about the feasibility of a storage field located about 10 miles from Aliso Canyon to “serve as an effective substitute for Aliso Canyon for reliability purposes”. The Honor Rancho storage field is located on the same Los Angeles pipeline loop as Aliso Canyon, according to Court.
He also alleges the reports “mischaracterize the capacity and nature of other reserves and power plants as wells” and inflate estimates of demand for electric natural gas generation.
The group alleges the utility is manipulating the public by raising concerns about blackouts, with the goal of getting the Aliso Canyon facility to get back up-and-running faster.
“It appears that Southern California Gas, and its parent company Sempra, concocted these misrepresentations to preserve its investment in Aliso Canyon and that the PUC and energy regulators allowed the false statements to be published without scrutiny under the state seal,” Court said.”The people that control this gas reserve, who are going to make billions if it stays open, are issuing a blackout blackmail to the people of California,” Court said.
The response to the warning of blackouts has been swift, as memories of the rolling blackouts of 2000 are still fresh in the minds of many in Southern California.
“The utility knows that all it has to do is raise the specter of a blackouts and it will get Aliso back,” environmental engineer Bill Powers said.
Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission and Department of Water and Power issued a joint statement on Tuesday standing by their assessment that the threat of blackouts remain if the Aliso Canyon facility is not reopened.
“We have done our part to identify potential risks,” the statement says. “The Powers analysis fails to acknowledge the distinct possibility of electrical outages in Southern California this summer if utilization of Aliso Canyon gas supplies are not implemented.”
SoCal Gas also responded to the allegations on Tuesday with a statement.
“The Aliso Canyon storage facility plays a critical role in ensuring the reliability of power services for Southern California,” the statement said.