Sen. Henry Stern, Environmentalists and Aliso Canyon Survivors Hold Press Conference to Mark Sixth Anniversary of Blowout

Meanwhile, CPUC considers industry-backed proposals to increase gas storage at SoCalGas Aliso Canyon facility.

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – At a press conference marking the sixth anniversary of the worst natural gas blowout in U.S. history at Aliso Canyon’s SoCalGas facility, Senator Henry Stern (D-27) joined survivors and environmentalists to oppose a proposed expansion of the site’s natural gas storage capacity currently being considered the California Public Utilities Commission. Up for consideration are two separate proposals: one would increase the storage capacity limit to 80 percent full at 68.6 billion cubic feet (Bcf) and the other would set the limit at 47 percent at 41.6 Bcf. In 2019, Governor Newsom directed the CPUC to expedite the closure of Aliso Canyon. In the interim, the L.A. City Council as well as the L.A. Board of Supervisors have also voted in favor of shutting the facility down immediately. 

At the end of September, SoCalGas proposed a settlement payout of $1.8 billion to the 36,000 plaintiffs involved in litigation against the company related to the blowout, but denied any wrongdoing.

“It’s good news for the victims of the tragedy but the risk remains,” said Senator Henry Stern (D-27). “But to assume that that’s the end of the problem is a big mistake. It’s not just for the people of the North Valley, it’s for the entire state of California and the future of climate policy. This CPUC decision will just be one more test of our will to actually shut Aliso Canyon down. I don’t want to see the public utility commissioners further add weight to the lie that we depend on fossil fuels and we will be lost without them. Because we know that we can move forward and I think the Public Utilities Commission knows that, too.”

 

The day before the press conference, Governor Newsom announced the country’s most ambitious health and safety setbacks, mandating 3,200 feet between new fossil fuel drilling operations and sensitive community sites. The rule made no mention of fossil fuel infrastructure like Aliso Canyon’s storage facility. 

“We saw Governor Newsom take momentous action yesterday to address fossil fuels in California, but there’s so much left to be done,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “Clearly our governor understands that protecting our public health, safety and climate is more important than fossil fuel profits. And let’s be clear: SoCalGas has a financial incentive to increase the storage limits at Aliso. So my question is really for the Governor: are you signing off on this increase at Aliso Canyon despite your promises to shut this place down? Or is it a failure of leadership to hold the PUC accountable for siding with SoCalGas?”

Tyson Siegele, Energy Analyst with the Protect Our Communities Foundation: “The fossil fuel industry is pushing a false narrative. An increase in the storage cap is not needed for reliability. The current storage limit or lower storage limits have provided for reliability for six years since the blowout. The 68.6 Bcf limit would only be required if one were to assume major outages on transmission pipelines, disappearance of gas supply limitations at other storage facilities, or zero adjustment for local generation and the coldest day in 35 years all occurring at the same time. Unless the PUC votes down both proposals on November 4, then SoCalGas and its allies will be granted unneeded storage in a prioritization of profits over people.”

”It’s extremely sad that we still have to be here fighting after six years,” said Kyoko Hibino, co-founder of Save Porter Ranch. “I look back every year on this date with the clear memory of the worst gas blowout in U.S. history. It’s still haunting. Last year’s anniversary was the hardest year. From my cancer diagnosis to the cancer journey to recovery to the passing of my cat. Every time I smell gas, I fear another gas blowout. I fear cancer reoccurring. It is a mental and emotional trauma.”

President and co-founder of Save Porter Ranch and 14-year resident of Porter Ranch, Matt Packuko: “So many people have permanent and ongoing health problems. The state’s own commissioned analysis of the root cause of the blowout was so damning that the CPUC themselves opened a separate safety investigation of SoCalGas’ safety culture. That’s yet another reason this facility’s usage should not be increased until this safety investigation is complete. Governor Newsom, it’s time to exercise your executive authority and keep your promise to shut down this facility.”

From Andrew Krowne, President and Cofounder of Environmental Health Research: “Today marks another sad and disappointing milestone. The community has taken the lead since Day 1. It took a local physician to start looking at patients during and immediately after the blowout. It took a member of the community to start a symptom tracker rather than wait years for the government to catch up. Why is the community needed to take the lead? Because of complete regulatory failure.”

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]