The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 4-0 to increase the natural storage capacity of the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility by more than 20 percent. Currently, the facility is capped at 34 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas storage, but the new decision will raise this to 41.16 bcf. Citing the possibility of an exceptionally cold winter season in Southern California, the PUC stated that natural gas demand could constrain supply, despite the stateâ€™s aggressive climate and energy goals.
â€śThis is a big disappointment and a big step backwards,â€ť said Stern. â€śRationalizing away important state climate and energy goals in favor of profits only makes matters worse. Our true goal is the removal of fossil fuels as an energy source. We can and will do better than this.â€ť
Six years ago in October 2015, the Aliso Canyon Gas Storage Facility was the site of the largest known methane gas leak in the nationâ€™s history. More than 100,000 metric tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, along with toxic chemicals were emitted into the atmosphere, forcing more than 2,600 families in the surrounding communities to evacuate in order to safeguard their health.
In a letter sent to the Commission before the vote, Stern stated: â€śThere are feasible, zero carbon, safer, and more affordable alternatives in the near- and medium-term. The Aliso facility can and must be closed altogether.â€ť
Governor Newsom recently announced a rule to require setbacks and increased regulations for neighborhood oil and gas facilities as a first step in shifting away from Aliso and reducing gas demand in the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and the entire state. These efforts will be supported by the federal funding assistance from the Build Back Better plan and help accelerate the stateâ€™s pursuit of 100% clean energy by 2035.
â€śToday was a definite setback for the North San Fernando Valley and all of Los Angeles and California. Iâ€™m still worried about seismic risks and unresolved well integrity issues,â€ť continued Stern. â€śIf this commission is serious about this merely being a temporary decision, then we need to see them make good on the Governorâ€™s bold promise to close Aliso for good.â€ť