PORTER RANCH (CBSLA.com) — A day after federal officials announced the creation of a task force aimed at bolstering the safety at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, Southern California Gas Co. pushing back by highlighting the steps it has taken since the leak that released more than 100,000 tons of methane into the air.
The utility said in a statement that it has been making comprehensive infrastructure, technology and safety enhancements at the facility and “continues to make significant progress toward completing the Comprehensive Safety Review required by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.”
Additionally, the inner tubing of every approved well has been replaced, and more than 40 miles of new steel piping has been installed.
To date, 27 storage wells have passed all of the tests required under the Comprehensive Safety Review, SoCal Gas said, adding that the remaining wells either have been temporarily sealed off from the storage reservoir until further testing is completed or were permanently plugged and taken out of service. The sealed-off wells have been filled with fluid to provide additional protection against leakage and are being monitored for changes in pressure.
SoCalGas officials said the safety measures being introduced include a methane detection system with eight monitors; around-the-clock pressure monitoring of all wells; twice daily patrols to visually examine every well; daily scanning of each well using sensitive infrared thermal imaging cameras that can detect leaks; and an air quality notification system that provides residents with prompt information via phone call, text message or email in the event of a natural gas release.
Community members can register for notifications via the SoCalGas website. The utility also said that to strengthen communications with the residents of Porter Ranch community, it has formed an advisory committee made up of residents, business owners, and community leaders as well as representatives from faith-based organizations, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Fire Department, and others.
The gas leak has spawned considerable litigation. Lawyers for a group of residents suing the gas company over the leak filed court papers Tuesday asking that the utility’s plea to a misdemeanor charge be set aside.
“None of the victims of the defendant’s criminal acts were consulted about the plea agreement in advance,” the attorneys wrote in a 16-page filing.
Southern California Gas Co. pleaded no contest Sept. 13 to a misdemeanor count of failing to immediately report the gas leak — which began last Oct. 23 and wasn’t capped until mid-February — to the state Office of Emergency Services and the local Certified Unified Program Agency.
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