Assembly committee approves Senator Pavley's bill to ensure safety at Aliso Canyon gas facility

February 23, 2016

Acting to provide peace of mind to residents of Porter Ranch in the process of returning to a community disrupted by a months-long natural gas leak, an Assembly committee on Monday approved SB 380 by Senator Fran Pavley.

 The bill seeks to place in law a moratorium on new gas injections into Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon gas storage facility until a comprehensive review of all 115 wells is completed and three state agencies affirm activities can safely resume. The bill also bars production of gas from 1950’s-era vintage wells until that action, too, is certified to be safe.

The bill requires that any well found to pose an enhanced risk of failure must be repaired or plugged and abandoned. In addition, it directs the California Public Utilities Commission to determine the feasibility of minimizing use of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, while still maintaining energy reliability for the Los Angeles region. The facility is situated in close proximity to thousands of homes, businesses and schools.

“Now that the leak has finally been sealed, there can be no haste to return to business as usual,” said Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. “Residents are preparing to return home and they’re asking me, ‘Is it safe?' ‘How I do know it won’t happen again?’ They want to make sure we have their back. This is a measured bill and a valid response to the real concerns of real people.”

The Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee approved the bill on a bipartisan, 13-0 vote. As an urgency measure, it requires a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of the Legislature and would take effect immediately upon being signed by the governor. The Senate approved SB 380 last month on a unanimous, 40-0 vote.

“The Legislature must act now to ensure the Aliso Canyon facility is safe for residents,” said Senator Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, a principal co-author of the bill. “Porter Ranch residents and all Californians must be assured that this problem will never happen again. That is what our legislation seeks to accomplish.”

Paula Cracium, president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council, urged passage of the bill, which she said would provide residents “the first real steps to ensuring the safety of this site and the first steps toward restoring our community.”

“It is imperative this moratorium legislation go into effect so that any new injections of natural gas and use of vintage wells for production at the Aliso Canyon storage facility are deemed safe and do not pose a risk to public health,” said Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, a co-author of the bill. “As the 15,000 residents who were forced to be evacuated from their homes begin moving back, it’s important they return to a safe home. I commend Senator Pavley for her hard work on this issue and remain committed to working together to prevent a future incident from occurring again.”

The Aliso Canyon gas leak started Oct. 23 when a well drilled in 1953 failed. During the 16 weeks it was uncontrolled, it forced the relocation of 5,600 families who had been sickened or become concerned about their welfare, led to the temporary closure of two public schools and emitted greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that were the equivalent to the annual emissions of 450,000 cars.

In response to concerns that nothing be done to threaten energy reliability in the region, Pavley noted SB 380 includes a provision that allows production to resume from the vintage wells if the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission direct that it is necessary to maintain regional energy reliability.

In addition, Pavley pledged to further refine the bill to address those concerns.

“How are we going to have a secure energy future if we don’t do a better job of ensuring safety?” she asked. “I get that balance. I think we can do both: protect the residents and ensure energy reliability.”

The bill next moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.