PORTER RANCH (CBSLA.com) — Officials say Southern California Gas will be allowed to reopen the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field despite no cause having been determined as of yet for the 2015 blowout, it was reported Tuesday.

State regulators told SoCal Gas the troubled site near Porter Ranch can be reopened, but at only a fraction of its original size, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Two public hearings on reopening the facility will be held the first week in February, after which regulators are expected to decide on a timeline, The Times reported.

The 2015 four-month natural gas leak, which scientists called the largest in U.S. history, displaced at least 7,000 Porter Ranch residents for months because the toxic fumes were making them sick.


Since then, redundant safety systems – from multiple layers of pipes to sophisticated pressure monitors at each well – have been put in place at the site, along with infrared cameras that can detect tiny amounts of methane gas and infrared instruments that keep watch along the borders of the facility.

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According to Ken Harris, State Oil & Gas Supervisor and head of the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, 34 of the 114 wells at Aliso Canyon had passed rigorous safety inspections.

The natural gas storage facility will remain empty and offline until each of the wells either passes inspection, is temporarily sealed and placed off line or plugged and abandoned altogether.

Immediately following the announcement, State Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) cautioned against reopening Aliso Canyon until investigators determine a “root cause”.

Stern introduced SB 146, which would will clarify that the investigation required by legislation passed last year after the leak, must be completed before the Aliso Canyon facility can be re-opened.

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“If we don’t know what went wrong, how can we prevent it from happening again?” remarked State Senator Stern. “We need to get to the bottom of this before we even think about re-opening this facility, to do otherwise would be putting the safety of Porter Ranch and surrounding communities at risk.”