Lawmakers Consider Moratorium on Gas Injection at Aliso Canyon Facility

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Despite the fact the well spewing noxious fumes into the atmosphere for four months was finally capped last week, there’s still a lot of work to be done before the Porter Ranch community regains a semblance of normalcy.

Lawmakers in the state Assembly are considering a bill that will place a moratorium on gas injections at the Aliso Canyon storage facility until all 114 remaining wells are inspected.

The state senate already passed the bill unanimously last month.

Safety Concerns Behind Moratorium Bill

Many have called for the wells to be inspected, including environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who advocated for a full inspection of the facility in an interview last week. He voiced concerns over the movement of the Santa Susana fault line that intersects with all the wells in the facility, and the stress this movement has put on the well casings.

The author of the bill, Senator Fran Pavley, says her bill considers the delicate balance between the safety of Porter Ranch’s residents that are beginning to return home, and the potential for an energy crisis for the whole region. According to Sen. Pavley, the purpose of the bill is to prevent any future gas leaks.

SoCalGas has said natural gas from Aliso Canyon is needed to fuel power plants, and if it were out of service, gas would have to be brought in from elsewhere. State agencies are conducting a study to determine how the energy system would handle such a shutdown, but results are not expected until April.

The gas company also confirmed it is ready to comply with whatever the government decides.

SoCalGas Vice President Mitch Mitchell announced the company is “not in opposition to the bill, contrary to what has been reported publicly.” The Vice President for Customer Solutions, Roger Schweke, issued a similar statement, saying “We will not put that facility in operation until it’s made safe.”

Despite support for the moratorium from all the parties involved the impact on the energy grid is still unknown.

What Does This Mean for Los Angeles Area Residents?

Although the moratorium seems like a sound decision in the wake of an historic disaster, a decision like this will have far-reaching consequences for millions of people. The Aliso Canyon storage facility is the main provider of natural gas for the entire Los Angeles basin. Any moratorium on gas injection could lead to energy shortages as the area begins to approach the warmer months.

Mark Rothleder, of the California Independent System Operator that manages the power grid, said that whether or not the power grid could handle this would depend on the weather and if they can accurately predict the daily energy use for the affected region.

“I wish it was a simple answer,” Rothleder said. “I can say because of what we understand of the integral use of the Aliso Canyon storage facility, the level of reliability in the Southern California area will not be the same level of reliability that has been maintained up to this point. Will there be brownouts? I don’t know.”

The California State Assembly is set to vote on the moratorium soon, making the final decision on whether the bill will pass. The prospects are bright as the bill passed its first test by passing the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee with 13-0 vote in favor on Monday. It now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee before it will be ready for a vote before the entire Assembly. Residents of the entire LA basin await the outcome.