Fight over Aliso Canyon heads to state Supreme Court

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Los Angeles County has now taken the fight over Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility to the state’s highest court.

“It’s potentially a ticking time bomb out there,” attorney Skip Miller, who is helping represent the county in the case, said Tuesday of the seismic risks. “The county is concerned with one thing: the health and safety” of residents in the area.

The county asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to review the decisions of two lower courts in its bid to ensure an environmental review, a seismic study and an emergency response plan from the company in the event of a major earthquake. The Los Angeles County Superior Court and the 2nd District Court of Appeal have ruled that they don’t have jurisdiction over the matter, something the county disputes.

Limited gas injections recently resumed at the gas storage field above Porter Ranch after state gas and utility regulators gave their approvals, noting safety improvements had been made. A moratorium had been in place following the massive gas leak that sprung there nearly two years ago. It released more than 100,000 metric tons of methane, sickened thousands of people and resulted in more than 8,300 households to temporarily relocate.

The earlier issue of halting gas injections until the environmental and seismic reviews are completed is now a moot point, Miller said. But the county argues they should still be completed as soon as possible, along with an emergency response plan in case of a major earthquake.

The California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, which is named in the complaint along with SoCalGas, has said it believes that earthquake risks should be studied and their effects lessened to the fullest extent possible.

The Santa Susana Fault Line runs through the underground storage facility and experts agree that there’s a high probability of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake within the next 50 years.

DOGGR has requested assistance from the Department of Energy’s National Labs to oversee seismic risk studies to include a seismic hazards analysis and a fault displacement analysis along with an evaluation of mitigation measures, according to the division. A spokesman could not immediately say Tuesday when those analyses would be completed.

DOGGR has until the end of the month to submit its written response to the state Supreme Court petition if needed, a spokesman said. The high court could also opt not to consider the petition.

Separately, at the request of Gov. Jerry Brown, the California Council on Science and Technology is providing the state with an up-to-date technical assessment on all natural gas storage fields in the state by the end of the year.

That study, which is being conducted by the National Labs, universities and the private sector, will include a review of potential health risks and community impacts associated with their operation; fugitive gas emissions; and linkages between gas storage, the sate’s current and future energy needs and its greenhouse gas reduction goals, according to the council.


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