Instead of shutting down Aliso Canyon gas storage under California neighborhood, SoCalGas is expanding

  • Published on June 10th, 2020

Remember the infamous SoCalGas Aliso Canyon gas storage facility – home to the largest gas blowout in U.S. history in 2015? Well, Food & Water Action has just analysed data compiled over the last four years and found that the use of the facility has increased by about 3,000% under Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration. The group points out that this comes despite Newsom’s repeated pledges to expedite the shutdown of the facility, according to a press release today from Food & Water Action.

Fossil fuels protest - governor Newsom
Photo courtesy of Food and Water Watch Action

By Dan Bacher

“In contradiction to downward shifts in natural gas use, mild winters with low peak demand, and excess pipeline capacity, data shows that SoCalGas withdrew from Aliso Canyon on 56 days over the winter 2019-2020 season, and 38 days over the winter 2018-2019 season, representing a combined total of 34.668 billion cubic feet (Bcf). This compares to nine days of withdrawals for winter seasons 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, for a combined 1.190 Bcf,” the group stated.

“It seems clear that Governor Newsom is prioritizing SoCalGas profits over public health and safety, plain and simple,” said Alexandra Nagy, California Director of Food & Water Action. “After the worst gas blowout in this country’s history, Newsom granted SoCalGas’s wish to bring Aliso Canyon back to normal use – and much more – despite any logical need for it. Independent studies, including one commissioned by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, show that Aliso Canyon is not necessary for energy reliability and can be shut down immediately.”

“If Governor Newsom truly prioritized health, safety and our environment, he would reverse course immediately and begin the expedited shutdown of this dangerous, polluting facility,” Nagy continued.

Nagy said drastically increased usage of Aliso Canyon is a direct result of the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) weakening of the Aliso Canyon withdrawal protocols, regulations that previously mandated Aliso Canyon as an asset of last resort to meet energy demand under emergency conditions only.

“Under the new withdrawal protocols, Newsom’s CPUC removed the ‘last resort’ and ‘emergency’ restrictions to use Aliso Canyon, essentially giving SoCalGas unrestricted access to withdraw from the facility as the company sees fit. As a result, the data shows that in addition to a huge increase in volume withdrawn form Aliso Canyon, the facility is often utilized as an asset of first resort, supplying more than half of the total gas withdrawn regionally on any given day,” said Nagy.

On June 1st Food & Water Action sent a letter to Governor Newsom, signed by 33 organizations, detailing the failure of Newsom’s administration to hold SoCalGas accountable on Aliso Canyon. It cites the letter Governor Newsom wrote last November to the CPUC directing the agency to study the “expedited” shut down of Aliso Canyon, indicating an interest in a faster shut down timeline than Governor Brown’s previous 10 year shutdown directive. Food & Water Action along with thirty-two organizations call on Governor Newsom to define “expedited” by issuing an Executive Order by the end of 2020 for a one-year timeline for the shutdown of Aliso Canyon.

Organizations also urge Newsom to reverse the withdrawal protocols making Aliso Canyon an asset of first resort, back to an asset of last resort.

“The community surrounding this noxious facility repeatedly flocks to social media to report increases in bloody noses, dizziness, rashes, itchy skin, nosebleeds, heart palpitations, headaches, migraines, nausea and an increase in sulfur odors in their neighborhoods during withdrawal periods at Aliso Canyon, showing a direct relationship between the increase use of this facility and increase public health problems,” Nagy concluded.

More: Why shouldn’t we store highly-pressurized gas under our homes and communities? (Bad idea!)

 

 

About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.

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