LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – A state Senate committee approved a bill Tuesday that would prevent the reopening of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility near Porter Ranch until an investigation is completed into the cause of a four-month methane leak.
The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, however, amended the bill to authorize the governor to declare an emergency and temporarily allow gas injections at the facility to prevent interruptions in Southland energy supplies.
The bill will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee before reaching the full Senate.
The Aliso Canyon storage facility has been largely out of use since the four-month leak spewed about 109,000 metric tons of methane into the air and led to the temporary relocation of about 7,000 residents. It was the largest single methane leak in U.S. history.
The leak began in October 2015 and was capped in February 2016. It also led to mass complaints of health issues ranging from headaches to cancer.
“I personally have had rashes, headaches, nosebleeds, different things like that,” Lauren Seymour told CBS2 Monday. “My sister’s had horrible welt rashes all over her body. My mom had chemical burning down her throat, and of course headaches, everybody had headaches.”
A new leak was discovered last month in an above-ground pipeline at the storage facility, prompting more concerns from residents.
“They continue to have problems, and I don’t think they are open with their disclosures, nor have they ever been,” resident Diane Sabitz told CBS2 at the time.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health conducted air and dust inside more than 100 homes around Aliso Canyon, but found nothing that could explain any long-term health effects from the leak.
With more than 100 deep underground wells, Aliso Canyon is the largest natural gas storage site in the West.
State regulators are reviewing proposals that would allow the Southern California Gas Co., which operates the facility, to resume injecting gas into Aliso Canyon. The state Public Utilities Commission is also investigating whether use of the facility can be reduced or eliminated altogether.
SoCalGas officials issued a statement saying the company is reviewing the legislation and amendments, but it remains convinced “that Aliso Canyon is safe and any legislation that prevents injections from resuming until the root cause analysis is completed is unnecessary.”
“SB 57 is unnecessary because a federal report has already determined that the leak occurred in the outer casing of the SS-25 well,” according to SoCalGas. “Regardless of what the root cause analysis finds, the state’s comprehensive safety review has already demonstrated that the outer casings of every well approved for use are safe.”
Tony Bell, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, countered that a recent independent study showed there is no urgent need to re-inject gas at the site before a root cause analysis is conducted.
EES Consulting was hired by the county to study the utility’s claims that consumers might experience blackouts if Aliso Canyon was out of service. The study concluded that even state regulators may have overestimated the need for Aliso Canyon to meet demand over the next 12 months.
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