Lawmakers consider moratorium on gas operations after leak

AP News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2016 4:05 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A bill to extend a moratorium on operations at the natural gas storage facility that had a massive leak for almost four months goes before a legislative committee Monday.

The bill would require Southern California Gas Co. to test all wells at its Aliso Canyon facility near Los Angeles before it can resume storing gas in a massive underground reservoir.

A leak reported Oct. 23 that spewed uncontrollably for 16 weeks was permanently sealed last week. The gusher of invisible natural gas sickened residents living nearby in the San Fernando Valley and uprooted 6,400 families, mostly in the Porter Ranch community.

Senate Bill 380 by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, would require that all 114 wells remaining at the SoCalGas facility pass tests to show that they are safe before gas can be injected deep underground.

Similar rules were put in place last week by state oil and gas regulators, but Pavley's bill would provide the certainty of a statute requiring action and not be left up to regulatory discretion, spokesman Timm Herdt said.

Pavley's bill would require the state Public Utilities Commission to determine if it's feasible to shut down or minimize use of the Aliso Canyon facility.

Many residents who live nearby and had their lives disrupted by the leak, along with environmental groups, want the facility permanently shut down.

The gas company said it has no intention of shutting down its primary storage facility — the largest one of its kind in the West.

The commission and other agencies are investigating what would happen to energy supplies in the region if the storage facility doesn't resume operations.

Pavley's bill would also require that dozens of wells drilled before 1954, the same vintage as the one that leaked, would not be able to withdraw gas until they meet specific conditions.