Yesterday's press release below sums up how Save Porter Ranch, Food and Water Watch, and the Sierra Club feel about the AQMD decision. We will have more soon about moving forward. This decision is only one move in the much bigger chess game.
AQMD Hearing Board Action Falls Short of Community Demands for Permanent Shut-down of Aliso Canyon Storage Facility
Los Angeles — As the gas blowout at Aliso Canyon Storage Facility operated by SoCalGas continues to spew noxious methane, the South Coast Air Quality Management District Hearing Board has issued a decision that fails to adequately protect residents of the surrounding communities. After three weeks of hearings and deliberation, AQMD issued a Stipulated Order for Abatement, but residents and local elected officials say the order, which does not require the permanent closure of the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, falls short of what’s necessary to protect public health. The order also appears to contradict Governor Jerry Brown’s Executive Order to protect public safety.
Gov. Brown’s order, issued January 6, requires state agencies to protect public safety and stop the leak by finding alternate supplies for natural gas and electricity; it also requires SoCalGas to maximize daily withdrawals of gas and to abide by a moratorium on gas injections in the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility.
The AQMD Hearing Board engaged in a lengthy debate over whether a letter in which the executive director of the California Public Utilities Commission ordered SoCalGas to keep 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas in reserve at the facility undermined AQMD’s authority to shut down Aliso Canyon by requiring a complete draw-down of the storage facility
“This move by the California Public Utilities Commission doesn’t protect the health and safety of residents of Porter Ranch and neighboring communities. It protects SoCalGas’ assets and it appears to violate Gov. Brown’s order to withdraw the maximum amount of gas from the field,” said Alexandra Nagy, Southern California Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “SoCalGas has been unwilling protect residents because to drain its facility would harm its bottom line. Absent consistent leadership from Gov. Brown, SoCalGas and the CPUC are working together to keep as much gas in reserve as possible, threatening residents with further exposure to toxic emissions. Gov. Brown needs to clarify his order and demand the drainage and permanent shutdown of the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility.”
The AQMD Hearing Board passed the Stipulated Order for Abatement instead of using its full authority to require SoCalGas to cease and desist operations at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility by requiring the field to drawn down to the maximum extent possible.
“This is an ongoing disappointment and no one is managing this crisis situation. Without strong leadership from Governor Brown, state agencies are passing the buck and letting SoCalGas continue to pollute the air and poison our communities,” said Matt Pakucko, President of Save Porter Ranch after a decision was reached. “Governor Brown needs to step in immediately to require the continued withdrawal of gas from Aliso Canyon until the field reaches equilibrium and is shut down.”
Governor Brown’s Executive Order also calls for a moratorium on gas injection at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility “until a comprehensive review, utilizing independent experts, of the safety of the storage wells and the air quality of the surrounding community is completed.” This process has not been initiated, and residents are calling on Brown to make the moratorium on gas injections permanent.
“SQAMD’s failure to put Californians’ livelihoods first is shameful, and Governor Brown should intervene swiftly,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “There should be no other choice but to shut down the dangerous Aliso Canyon facility and look to close every urban oil and gas facility throughout California and our country, to ensure the health of our communities and our climate is never again sacrificed for corporate polluter profits.”
Thousands of residents have been displaced and sickened by the fumes, which contain carcinogens including benzene and toluene, and the disaster has emitted methane at a rate of 50,000 kilograms per hour, which is equivalent to 25 percent of the state’s total emissions of this heat-trapping gas.
The leak detected on October 23 was caused by well integrity failure and is only the most recent of many such leaks caused in California by aging infrastructure. The leak has forced more than 12,000 residents to relocate, and 1,800 more households are waiting for relocation assistance.
More than 35,000 people have signed a petition circulated by Food & Water Watch calling for the shutdown of the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility.
Save Porter Ranch champions a safe, clean and healthy environment for our communities though community empowerment and engagement.
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. The Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.