Gas Withdrawn From Aliso Canyon For First Time Since Leak

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – Southern California Gas Company crews withdrew natural gas Tuesday from the troubled Aliso Canyon storage facility for the first time in more than a year in response to what the utility called increased demand due to cold temperatures in the region.

An Aliso Canyon storage facility methane leak that began in October 2015 and was not capped until February 2016 emitted 109,000 metric tons of methane and displaced at least 7,000 Porter Ranch area residents for months.

This came on the same day that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors endorsed state legislation to extend the prohibition of gas injection at Aliso Canyon until the cause of a massive methane leak is identified.

SoCalGas has been prohibited from gas injection at Aliso Canyon since January of 2016. However, SoCalGas defended its gas withdrawal Tuesday by claiming it complied with a ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission, which authorized such a move to “help prevent service curtailments.”

SoCalGas officials said the gas was taken using “only those wells that have been approved for use by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.”

The withdrawals began Tuesday morning, and were halted at about 11:30 a.m., according to SoCalGas.

About one mile from the facility, the Weinbergs told KCAL9 they were walking their dogs Tuesday morning when they smelled gas.

“We were so surprised, because we haven’t smelled it for a while, and it was really strong,” Porter Ranch resident Daisy Weinberg said.

In response to KCAL9’s inquiry into the smell of gas, SoCalGas released a statement that read, in part:

“Our fence line and other monitoring systems show no indication of methane levels above background. In addition we have not received any reports of odors.”

The utility issued an advisory warning to customers earlier this week, urging people to curtail gas usage when possible to prevent a shortage during the cold snap. That advisory remains in effect, with customers urged to lower thermostats to 68 degrees or lower, delay the use of natural gas appliances and wash clothes in cold water when possible.

SoCalGas officials noted that further withdrawals of gas from Aliso Canyon might be necessary depending on weather conditions.

“SoCalGas will continue to monitor weather regionally and nationally and its potential impact on system conditions, including any need for additional withdrawals from Aliso to maintain the reliability of natural gas and electricity services,” according to the utility.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support a bill by state Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) that would extend the prohibition of gas injection into the Aliso Canyon facility until officials have determined the cause of the leak and publicly released the findings.

SB 146 would also change the deadline for the state Public Utilities Commission to open proceedings about the possibility of minimizing or eliminating the use of Aliso Canyon from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2017.

State regulators earlier this month issued a series of proposed regulations under which Southern California Gas Co. would be able to resume injecting natural gas into the Aliso Canyon facility, but at reduced amounts and lower pressure levels than the company requested.

A final decision on whether the injections can resume will not be made until after a pair of public hearings are held next month, allowing residents to comment on the proposed safety procedures and operating restrictions.

©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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