Gas company warned of possible well failure when it sought a rate hike in 2014

In 2014, Southern California Gas Co. asked state officials for a rate hike to pay for an ambitious, "highly proactive" safety program to test all 229 of its active natural gas injection wells "before they result in unsafe conditions."

Wells in four storage fields — including its Aliso Canyon facility near Porter Ranch — were deteriorating, the utility warned, and had been leaking more frequently since 2008. The wells posed a risk of "uncontrolled" failure.

The rate hike request is still pending, and along with it, the safety program.

In the interim, the gas company's warning came true: The failure of one of the Aliso Canyon wells in October released an estimated 5.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas containing methane and noxious odorants.

The leak forced the evacuation of thousands of residents, the closing of schools and emergency regulations requiring testing of all gas storage wells statewide. The leaking well was capped last month, clearing the way for some residents to begin the move back.

Investigators are now trying to determine the cause of the underground blowout and whether anything could have been done to avoid it.

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