On Second Anniversary of Aliso Canyon Blowout, Senator Stern Urges Governor Brown to Close Facility

October 23, 2017

Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr
Governor of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 94814

Dear Governor Brown,

Two years ago today, the residents of the northern San Fernando Valley discovered what became the largest gas leak in US history in their own backyards.  Two years later we are faced with more questions than answers.  The precautionary principle militates towards the resumption of a moratorium on new gas injections and withdrawals until we have answered critical questions about ongoing health and safety risks.  More simply put: don’t start injecting until you finish inspecting.

What was the root cause of the gas leak?  Two years later, we still do not know.  The proximity of this field to residents, major fault lines, and fire risks, make it inherently risky to operate within a reasonable margin of safety.  Recognizing the technical complexities in the analysis currently being undertaken by state agencies and their contractors, deeper underlying questions of negligence, by the regulator and the regulated, remain that must be answered in the root cause analysis as well.  Any conclusions reached in this analysis should take into account the inherent unfairness of forcing ratepayers to pick up the tab for others’ mistakes.

What are the ongoing health risks to those exposed to the leak?  Two years later, we still do not know.  Based upon the research conducted by Senate staff, it is my understanding that our state regulatory agencies have still not obtained a comprehensive sample for the Southern California Gas Company disclosing the chemical makeup of post-withdrawal, pre-processing, raw stored gas.  State funding should be appropriated to facilitate a comprehensive health study through any administrative or judicial penalties, fees, settlements or other court orders.  The community has a right to know what they’ve been exposed to and doctors need to know how to treat their patients.

How much do we still need Aliso Canyon?  While this gas storage field was inoperable during the nearly two-year moratorium, consumers have not been subject to any reliability or affordability impacts despite much industry saber-rattling about blackout risk.  The fact is advanced energy storage technologies are ready for large scale deployment now, and combined with other preferred resources are a lower cost, lower risk method of meeting demand in the long term in the greater Los Angeles basin and statewide.  As we move to decarbonize the grid, and meet the demands of economic growth in housing and heat-intensive manufacturing, new large scale developments in the region can cut demand by embracing forms of heat delivery not fired by fossil fuels.  Any reinvestments in existing gas infrastructure like Aliso Canyon could be unjustly and unreasonably borne by ratepayers as stranded assets.  Such risk must be mitigated by focusing large scale energy infrastructure investments in preferred energy resources.

In light of these and so many other unanswered questions, I urge you to utilize your existing authorities to close Aliso Canyon, and help lead the conversation we need about how to deliver energy to California without putting communities in harm’s way.

 

Thank you for your consideration,

HENRY STERN

State Senate, 27th District

 

cc:        Saul Gomez, Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Office of Governor Brown

Ken Harris, Supervisor, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources

Mary Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Bureau

Michael Picker, President, California Public Utilities Commission

Robert Weisenmiller, Chair, California Energy Commission

Wayne Nastri, Executive Officer, South Coast Air Quality Management District

Honorable Cristina Garcia, Chair, Assembly Natural Resources Committee

Honorable Chris Holden, Chair, Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee

Honorable Robert Hertzberg, Chair, Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee Honorable Ben Hueso, Chair, Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee

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