Will Aliso Canyon open again? Feinstein backs bill to keep it closed – for now

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Monday announced her support for a state bill that would stop the reopening of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility until the root cause of a massive leak that occurred there is determined.

“I believe it is important for state regulators and the public to be fully aware of what caused the disastrous natural gas leak last year before proceeding to determine whether the facility is safe to reopen,” Feinstein wrote in a letter to state Sen. Henry Stern, who co-authored Senate Bill 57, which would continue a moratorium on gas injections and withdrawals at the Southern California Gas Co. facility until an independent study determines the cause of the leak.

A four-month gas leak at the facility near Porter Ranch from October 2015 to February 2016 spewed nearly 100,000 metric tons of methane into the air and displaced thousands of residents.

Officials with the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the California Public Utilities Commission have recommended that gas injections resume but at reduced amounts and lower pressure levels than those requested by SoCalGas.

State regulators held two public meetings last week on a proposal to allow the utility to resume injecting natural gas at Aliso Canyon, and one of the meetings was cut short due to shouting by hundreds of San Fernando Valley residents who want to stop the reopening.

“While well-intentioned, SB 57 does not enhance safety at Aliso Canyon,” SoCalGas said in a statement on Feb. 3. “Instead, it needlessly puts more than 20 million people, thousands of businesses, and critical facilities, like electric generators, refineries, universities, and hospitals, at risk of natural gas and electricity interruption.”

Feinstein’s action comes as the window for public comment on the nation’s largest natural gas leak came to a close.

The comment period ended at the close of business Monday, the same day a dozen public interest and advocacy groups chided Gov. Jerry Brown on what they say is his spotty environmental record and called for the closing of the Aliso Canyon storage field.

Today regulators from the state oil and gas division and the Public Utilities Commission will start reviewing the written public comment and other documents and eventually make a decision on Aliso Canyon’s fate.

The pubic will also get to review the written comments submitted to the oil and gas division, but it is not known when that will happen.

“We will make the comments available to the public after they are compiled and private information redacted, along with our analysis and responses,” division spokeswoman Teresa Schilling said in an email.

And there is no timeline for a final ruling.

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