EPA opens probe into Southern California Gas Co. leak above Porter Ranch; San Fernando Valley assemblyman will hold state hearing

EPA opens probe into Porter Ranch gas leak by Gregory J. Wilcox, December 29, 2015, Los Angeles Daily News

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has opened an investigation into the Southern California Gas Co. leak above Porter Ranch, and a San Fernando Valley assemblyman will hold a state hearing on the incident next month.

The federal probe was disclosed in a letter from the EPA to Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman, last week and released by his office on Tuesday.

Sherman requested the EPA look into the matter earlier this month. The agency initially said it did not have authority over gas storage operations, but Sherman pointed out that it did, he said. The agency then began its probe in the middle of the month.

“This leak has gone on far too long, and action needs to be taken,” said Sherman in a statement. “This is about more than just a bad smell; there are serious health and environmental concerns. I’m pleased that the EPA has recognized the urgency of this issue, and I am hopeful that a plan can be worked out with SoCal Gas to put a stop to this leak.”

Sherman said that next year he will start an effort to adopt stronger national standards for the safe storage and transmission of natural gas.

The EPA said that it requested information from the company on Dec. 18 and that agency officials are now participating in daily operational calls with state and local regulators.

“We stand ready to help in any way if our assistance is requested pending the results of our investigation,” the EPA letter said.

SoCalGas says it is aware of the federal action and will respond.

Also on Tuesday, the company said it is withdrawing gas from Aliso Canyon at an accelerated rate to decrease the pressure pushing gas up from the reservoir and out through the leak, company spokeswoman Anne Silva said.

“For several weeks, in consultation with the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission), SoCalGas has been withdrawing natural gas from the storage field at almost double the typical rate for this time of the year by prioritizing the use of natural gas from Aliso Canyon to supply customer demand,” she said in a statement.

As a result of these withdrawals, which are metered, the reservoir has gone from being 93 percent full, before the leak, to at most 58 percent full, as of Monday, she said.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, was appointed chairman of the Assembly’s Utilities and Commerce Committee. He takes over on Monday.

The committee’s jurisdiction includes the state’s Public Utilities Commission, Energy Commission, and natural gas operations.

Gatto said he wants to schedule the committee hearing later next month at a facility in Porter Ranch capable of holding a large crowd.

“I think right now the state of California and certainly the community could benefit from some concrete answers, and that’s what I intend to provide,” Gatto said. “And there are people in California wondering if this could happen in their community.”

Paula Cracium, president of the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council and chairman of the Porter Ranch Community Advisory Committee formed in response to the leak, said Gatto’s action was welcome. But she doesn’t know what impact it will have.

“It’s hard to know what’s going to have an impact. It’s great that both the state and federal regulators are starting to step in and call for investigations,” she said. “Our primary concern is getting the leak fixed and making sure we have a safe community.” …


Tom • 13 hours ago
Actually, if you read the EPA’s letter to Sherman, they basically just blew him off! It’s your standard government boilerplate “yeah, we’ll look in to it, but not really” letter…

Cynical Observer Tom • 12 hours ago
That’s no surprise. EPA blows hot and cold on enforcing the Clean Air Act. As a result their initial claims that they had no jurisdiction over the Aliso Canyon Field should not have been a surprise. EPA had not even bothered to write the air quality standards for oil refineries in the Houston area since the Clean Air Act was enacted decades ago. It took a lawsuit against EPA by some small environmental groups to make that happen. Even then, EPA resisted enforcing the law every step of the way, to such an extent that the judge told the plaintiffs to write the regulations for those refineries.

Cynical Observer • 11 hours ago
It’s interesting to see the discussion in this article about SoCalGas deciding to reduce the quantity of gas they are storing in the Aliso Canyon Field as a means of trying to reduce the pressure and risk created by this intensely leaking well.

The increase in the quantity of gas stored in the Aliso Canyon Field was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2013, on a consent calendar vote by the Commissioners with no public discussion by them of any safety issues. That was during the era when Mike Peevey was President of the PUC. Peevey was significant, driving force in shaping PUC decisions, and it was no secret that Peevey was a “good friend” to all of California’s large utility companies. ….  [Go to link to read rest of comment]

[Refer also to:

2,258 families in temporary housing, 111 staying with family or friends, 3,162 in placement process. Growing environmental disaster in LA: Monster industry-created methane leak revealed in new aerial infrared video. What happens if SoCalGas can’t fix their leak? Was the leaking gas frac’d? Is it radioactive? ]

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