Sen. Fran Pavley
Tuesday’s assessment by state energy agencies that gas and electricity curtailments may be necessary on about 15 days this summer strongly demonstrates the need for urgent short-term measures to conserve energy in the coming months. It also sounds an alarm for expediting a long-term strategy for California to move away from its over-reliance on natural gas.
The draft action plan released today is based on a sound, safety-first approach that assumes no gas will be injected into the Aliso Canyon storage facility until Southern California Gas completes a battery of safety tests on all 114 remaining wells. We must do everything possible to avoid another disaster. Until that testing process has been completed and high-risk wells are shut down and isolated from the storage reservoir, the moratorium on injections will remain in place.
While testing has begun, progress on making the wells safe has been slow – too slow, given the concerns raised since the beginning of the leak about the current implications of keeping Aliso Canyon out of operation until it is safe.
My bill to extend the governor’s existing moratorium, SB 380, allows for injections from safety-certified wells to resume after the testing regimen is completed and high-risk wells isolated. Today’s assessment shows that the margin of additional natural gas supply necessary to avert future curtailments is relatively small. It shows there is no justification or need for a resumption of business as usual at Aliso Canyon, and SB 380 would require a re-evaluation of the safe level of volume that could be stored in the facility.
Any rush to resume activities at Aliso Canyon could risk another leak, which would have far worse consequences for Southern California Gas, as well as the health and safety of nearby homeowners.
During the public comment period on the draft action plan, Californians should insist that every effort be made to protect ratepayers and also maximize the beneficial effects of voluntary conservation, such as the successful Flex Your Power campaign launched during the 2001 energy crisis. It addition, the final plan must call for more efficient use of energy and the employment of smart, high-technology measures to better match demand with supply during times of greatest need.
The steps to be taken this summer by the California Independent System Operator and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power to provide flexibility to avert curtailments will cost ratepayers tens of millions of dollars. Southern California Gas must ramp up its already delayed policies to enhance and better promote its existing efficiency and demand-response programs.
Coupled with the California Air Resource’s Board draft plan to mitigate the environmental damage from the leak, which Southern California Gas is resisting, today’s report shows the company has much yet to do make residents of Los Angeles and the environment whole in the wake of the colossal failure of its facility.
Over the long term – especially with plans in the works to situate yet more residential development in the vicinity of the largest gas storage facility in the Western United States – the action plan shows the importance of increasing energy production from clean, renewable sources so that ultimately the use of Aliso Canyon can be minimized or potentially eliminated.
Over time, it is possible to achieve that goal without subjecting millions of consumers in the Los Angeles region to the threat of rolling brownouts.