Urgency Measure to Halt Full Re-Opening of Aliso Canyon Clears Key Senate Committee
SB 57 (Stern) moves forward after testimony from safety experts and community residents
SACRAMENTO – The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee today voted in favor of Senate Bill 57 an urgency measure by State Senator Henry Stern to stop the reopening of the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility until state regulators have completed an investigation to determine the root cause of the massive methane leak which took months to plug and displaced more than 8,000 families from their homes.
“Environmental injustice is indivisible,” remarked Senator Stern during his testimony. “The community of Porter Ranch has been aggrieved, they’ve been sick, their kids have been made sick, they had to be kicked out of their homes unwillingly and their lives have been turned upside down. I think the same issue could happen to any of us and it has happened in many of our communities. The goal of this legislation is to bring some comfort to the communities of the north valley without compromising the integrity of the grid.”
Today’s vote comes after weeks of delay and two weeks after the Senate Energy Committee was originally scheduled to hear the bill. Senator Stern was joined by dozens of community members, safety experts, and environmental advocates, many of who traveled across the state to provide personal testimony and stress the need for a full safety analysis of the facility.
“Our family was among the thousands of families relocated last year due to the Aliso Canyon gas leak. I know firsthand the anxiety that many are feeling about the potential restarting of natural gas injections at the facility,” said California Secretary of State and community resident Alex Padilla in a statement in support of SB 57 read during public comment.
“We really need this root cause analysis to be conducted. More than anything for the community to understand what happened and how can we prevent something like this from happening either at Aliso Canyon or at any other natural gas plants,” said Diana Vazquez, Policy Advocate with the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA).
“It just makes sense to require a root cause analysis report and put in place any findings that the report recommends before allowing them to resume normal operations. As the local primary fire and safety department involved with this incident, we have not received any direct communication from either DOGGR or the PUC saying it’s absolutely safe to resume injections and that all safeguards have been implemented to prevent a reoccurrence,” said Chief Bill Jones of the Los Angeles County Fire Department giving testimony.
Senator Henry Stern introduced SB 57 to require the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to complete the root cause analysis (RCA) determining the cause of the leak before considering whether to lift the moratorium on natural gas injections. A lawsuit filed by the County of Los Angeles in early March also seeks to clarify that a completed RCA and an analysis of seismic risks are considered necessary components of the “comprehensive safety review” required by SB 380 (Pavley 2016).
The favorable vote came after Senator Stern accepted an amendment to allow the Governor to authorize incremental gas injections at Aliso Canyon to maintain energy reliability only in emergency circumstances.
Senate Bill 57 will proceed to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then to the full Senate floor for a vote.
Other supporters of SB 57 include U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), State Senators Scott Wilk (R-Antelope Valley), Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), and Assemblyman Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita), the Los Angeles City Council, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and the LA County Board of Supervisors.
**Video of hearing available here.