LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) Southern California Gas Co. asked regulators Tuesday to allow it to inject natural gas supply into approved wells at the Aliso Canyon storage facility, where a four-month leak emitted 109,000 metric tons of methane and displaced thousands of residents.

“Over the last year we have made extensive physical upgrades and deployed advanced technologies to enhance safety at Aliso Canyon,” said SoCalGas President and Chief Operating Officer Bret Lane. “These enhancements
will further strengthen the facility’s infrastructure, introduce real-time pressure monitoring and enable improved communications with stakeholders. As we move forward, we remain committed to a continuous improvement process.”

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The request quickly met resistance from Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who said he planned to get the Board of Supervisors’ support in asking the Public Utilities Commission to restrict operations until the feasibility of closing the storage facility can be assessed.

The leak “cost over a billion dollars to mitigate, compensate and fix,” Antonovich said, adding that the utility’s warning of rolling blackouts this summer never came to fruition.

Antonovich pointed to Senate Bill 380, sponsored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and signed into law in May, which calls for a hearing no later than July 1, 2017, to determine the feasibility of minimizing or eliminating use of the storage facility near Porter Ranch. That law also sets out requirements for resuming operations.

SoCalGas submitted a detailed status report and safety review on all 114 wells in support of its request.

In a statement, the company detailed improvements to the facility, including new inner tubing for every well approved for injection, around-the-clock pressure monitoring of all wells in a 24-hour operations center and an infrared fence-line methane detection system.

That detection system was part of a $4 million settlement obtained by the District Attorney’s Office as part of a plea to a misdemeanor charge of failing to immediately report the gas leak that began Oct. 23, 2016.

At the time of that settlement, SoCalGas issued a statement saying that the Aliso Canyon storage facility “is critical to the reliability of natural gas and electricity services in Southern California. We are diligently working with state officials to complete a comprehensive safety review of the facility and are committed to providing safe and reliable energy to the millions of Californians who rely on us each day.”

Sen. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, issued a statement calling for the strongest possible safety measures to be in place before operations can resume.

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“Until the toughest measures are in place and until the studies of the cause of the leak are finished, the Aliso Canyon facility should operate at the minimum usage necessary to ensure power reliability for the Los Angeles
region,” Sherman said. “Aliso Canyon is not ready to resume normal operations. Starting operations cautiously is the best way to balance safety with reliability.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander echoed those concerns.

“Although SoCalGas may have complied with SB380, I would encourage them to withhold injections until all wells have completed phase two testing,” Englander said. “In order to regain trust, they must go above and beyond to
ensure that this community is safe.”

But residents and some public officials, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have gone further, saying the facility should be closed and Southern California should move toward alternative energy sources.

“Aliso Canyon proved that a leak in a system with so little margin for error poses a serious threat to public safety,” Feinstein said last month.

“Facilities that use similar methods do not belong in close proximity to our communities.”

It will be up to the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the California Public Utilities Commission to determine whether the conditions have been met to resume operation.

(©2016 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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