GUEST COMMENTARY-The State Legislature is undertaking emergency action to address the major natural gas leak in the Aliso Canyon fields – a leak that drove thousands of people from their homes last October in search of relief. Senate Bill 380 builds upon an emergency order issued by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year. It is an urgency measure, which means the Governor can immediately sign it into law once it reaches his desk.
I am a co-author of this legislation, along with Senator Fran Pavley and Senate President Pro-tem Kevin DeLeón. After receiving a personal tour of the Aliso Canyon facility, I have worked with my colleagues across the aisle to find a solution to this problem.
The good news is the leak has been capped. While this is the best of news in the short term, we must take additional steps to ensure the other wells at this facility don’t develop the same problem. Eighteen of the 115 wells at Aliso Canyon have similar characteristics to the problem well and must be thoroughly inspected. Public safety is government’s first priority and SB 380 accomplishes this goal.
The leak started late last October when an older well failed. During the 16 weeks it was uncontrolled, it forced the relocation of more than 5,500 families who reported illness caused by the fumes or became concerned about their welfare. This led to the temporary closure of two public schools and emitted greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that were the equivalent to the annual emissions of 450,000 cars.
The unanticipated and unchecked release of methane into the air also exposed a weakness in California’s oversight. We need a systematic, transparent approach to energy grid stability, with public safety as the first priority. While we are thankful the safety measures in place at Aliso Canyon have resulted in no loss of lives, the remaining wells at Aliso Canyon must also be inspected.
The Legislature must act quickly to ensure the Aliso Canyon facility is safe for residents. Porter Ranch residents and all Californians must be assured that this problem won’t happen again.
The first goal was stopping the leak. The next step must be inspecting the remaining wells to ensure the safety of our community.
(Bob Huff represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties. Follow Senator Huff on Twitter @bobhuff99.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.