Small victories for a Northern San Fernando Valley town, environment

As a result of decisive action taken on Saturday, January 23rd, as it relates to one leaking well out of 115 natural gas injection and withdrawal wells at the Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon storage facility total, it is to be shut down; that is, upon successful plugging of said leak, according to posted Web-site information provided by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). (For more on this, see SCAQMD’s: “Order for Abatement” page here). The Jan. 23rd public hearing is the latest in a line of hearings held, all in regards to helping bring about resolution in terms of addressing the issue at hand.

The SCAQMD states: “Once the leak is stopped, the order requires that SoCalGas permanently shut down the well causing the leak. It also requires enhanced air quality monitoring in the nearby community and completion of a health study on the potential health effects of the well emissions on residents in the Porter Ranch area. And it requires a comprehensive leak detection program for all other wells in the Aliso Canyon facility to help prevent future leaks.”

The identified well (SS-25) has spewed in excess of 80,000 metric tons of methane into the air since the leak was discovered Oct. 23rd last year. In a Daily Kos “Unlucky Town” posting Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was emphatic: “Because methane is such a potent climate pollutant (more than 80 times worse than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame), those emissions are equivalent to the climate pollution produced by more than 330,000 cars in a year. For California, which has the most ambitious emissions-reduction goals in the nation, that’s a colossal setback.”

Then, farther on in the post in question, Brune reproached:

“When, years ago, a safety valve began to fail in the well that is leaking today, the ‘solution’ adopted by SoCalGas was to remove it. Legally, they weren’t required to replace it. Incredibly, they didn’t. You can fix the law, but you can’t fix stupid. Mix stupid with fossil fuels and disaster is always just around the corner.”

And farther into this same commentary still, Brune cautioned: “One more thing: No one saw this disaster coming, but that’s no excuse for letting the next one happen.”

Meanwhile, on a more upbeat note, the environmental group’s chief wrote: “If this disaster does lead, as it should, to stronger safeguards at the more than 400 hundred such facilities around the nation, that’s all to the good.”

That the impacted well has been ordered shut down, and though a small victory, it is still a victory, nonetheless. And, provided efforts to permanently seal the well in question are successful, subsequent to this, residents of the nearby Porter Ranch community displaced on account of incident-associated escaping odorized gas and if given the “all-clear” signal, will then be able to return to their homes.

SCAQMD in its “SCAQMD Hearing Board Orders SoCalGas to Enact Comprehensive Program to Cut Odors and Air Pollution from Aliso Canyon Gas Leak” statement, further added: “Meanwhile, SCAQMD in cooperation with other environmental agencies continues its intensive air monitoring effort in Porter Ranch to measure levels of methane, the chief component of natural gas, along with air toxics including benzene, and sulfur compounds added to natural gas that give it a foul odor.”

For more on air pollutants associated with oil and gas facilities, EARTHWORKS has made available for downloading the publication “THINK AGAIN” here.

GasDepositDiagram[1]Image above: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Published by Alan Kandel