[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
67°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
September 22
1969 - College of the Canyons opens with first class of students in temporary quarters at Hart High School [story]


By Matt Reynolds, Courthouse News

SoCalGas personnel at the Aliso Canyon storage facility. Source: SoCalGas

SoCalGas personnel at the Aliso Canyon storage facility. Source: SoCalGas

LOS ANGELES (CN) – After a massive methane gas leak at SoCalGas’s Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility displaced thousands of families and took more than 100 days to plug in 2015, many residents in surrounding neighborhoods felt the energy company had gotten off lightly with a $4 million fine and tightened outside oversight.

But now Southern California Gas, a subsidiary of energy giant Sempra, says Los Angeles County’s attempts to prevent another environmental disaster of that scale go too far.

In a federal lawsuit filed against Los Angeles County and state regulators on Wednesday, SoCalGas claims that the county’s attempts to impose stricter safety standards on its pipelines and underground storage facilities violate a federal law called the Pipeline Safety Act, or PSA.

“Defendants include a state agency and a county that are attempting to impose and enforce safety standards for SoCalGas’ natural gas pipeline facilities, including SoCalGas’ underground gas storage facilities. Defendants’ actions violate the PSA, which expressly preempts all state and local safety standards for natural gas pipeline facilities and precludes state and local authorities from imposing or enforcing safety standards on natural gas pipeline facilities except as permitted under federal law,” the 25-page lawsuit states.

According to SoCalGas, only the California Public Utilities Commission has the authority under federal law to regulate the energy company’s facilities, and the company says that it is in compliance with the regulations the agency imposes.

The county and defendant California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, on the other hand, have no such authority to regulate the company, according to the filing.

“Clear and consistent regulation by agencies with authority and expertise is key to safety,” SoCalGas spokesman Chris Gilbride said in an email. “SoCalGas is committed to complying with the safety standards and regulations established by those agencies, in this case, PHMSA (US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration), the CPUC [California Public Utilities Commission] and DOGGR [Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources].”

This past March, L.A. County sued the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources in state court, petitioning for a review of what caused the largest natural gas leak in the nation’s history before SoCalGas is allowed to resume high-pressure injections.

And before that, the county sued SoCalGas in July 2016 in the same court seeking an order requiring SoCalGas to install subsurface safety valves on its wells. The county said that the largest natural gas distributor in the country uses an aging infrastructure that puts the public at risk of another massive gas leak.

“It puts corporate profits before public safety and fails to make necessary repairs and improvements to its decades-old gas system,” which constitutes an “ongoing and impending risk” of leaks at Aliso and the company’s other gas fields, the county said.

SoCalGas says the “Strike Team” the county assembled to monitor health and safety risks at the company’s natural gas facilities has interfered as the California Public Utilities Commission decides if the Aliso Canyon facility can begin new natural gas injections.

The state has also hit the energy company with citations that violate federal law, according to the suit.

“Unless enjoined by this court, the county will not cease its attempts to unlawfully insert itself into the regulation of safety standards for SoCalGas’ pipelines and underground storage facilities,” the lawsuit states.

SoCalGas discovered a ruptured gas well at its Aliso Canyon storage field in the northwest San Fernando Valley on Oct. 23, 2015. After initial efforts to stop the leak failed, the energy company drilled a relief well to intercept it.

The leak displaced thousands of people in the nearby communities of Porter Ranch, Chatsworth, Granada Hills and Northridge. Residents said they suffered from headaches, dizziness, skin conditions, nose bleeds and nausea, aches, pains, and fatigue following the leak. Although SoCalGas insisted that the leak was not harmful to residents, more than 20,000 people have filed legal claims related to the leak, according to the Mercury News.

One hundred thousand metric tons of the potent greenhouse gas, unseen to the naked eye, spewed into the environment before SoCalGas finally plugged the well. That was almost equivalent to the carbon dioxide pollution from burning 1 billion gallons of gasoline, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board.

SoCalGas operates 200 natural gas wells at storage fields at Aliso, Playa del Rey, Honor Rancho-Santa Clarita and Montebello. Its gas wells at the storage fields are an average of 50 years old, according to court records, and some were built more than 80 years ago.

The Aliso Canyon facility provides energy to 21 million people and 500 communities, with the capacity for 86 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Of the 111 natural gas wells at Aliso Canyon, 48 were drilled in 1953.

The ruptured well at Aliso was built in 1979, and the utility knew that the subsurface well was damaged and needed to be repaired, the county said in last year’s public nuisance complaint. But despite the “relatively minimal” cost of replacing or repairing the valve, SoCalGas left the aging well “vulnerable to the catastrophic leak,” the county said.

SoCalGas knows it needs to install new subsurface valves to avoid leaks but delayed repairs to its aging infrastructure because it hoped to pass on the cost of a $236 million repair program to customers through higher rates, the county said last year.

The energy company wants the court to declare that the PSA preempts the defendants’ attempts to regulate it and to block the county from doing so. It also seeks attorney fees and costs.

It is represented by David Schrader of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

Named defendants are the county of Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Counsel Mary Wickham; the California Department of Industrial Relations; the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and its Chief Juliann Sum; and the California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board.

Los Angeles County counsel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

0 Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


LOS ANGELES COUNTY HEADLINES
Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
The most prestigious recognition for government assessment agencies has been awarded to the Office of the Assessor in Los Angeles County.
Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017
The Santa Clarita Valley Service Center has moved from its previous location in Newhall to a new location in the Santa Clarita Plaza, and will host a grand opening celebration Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger is hosting the inaugural Santa Clarita Valley Transportation Summit.
Friday, Sep 15, 2017
Here are agenda highlights for the next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, set for Tuesday, September 19, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Friday, Sep 15, 2017
The city of Los Angeles Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously supported a proposal that limits where and how cannabis stores can operate in the city.

Keep Up With Our Facebook
Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Gatorade made misleading “anti-water statements” while pushing the benefits of its sports drinks in a video game marketed to teenagers, according to a settlement announced Thursday by California’s attorney general.
California Fines Gatorade $300K for ‘Anti-Water’ Ad Campaign
John Gasparyan, an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer and Canyon Country resident, died when his motorcycle crashed in Porter Ranch around 6:50 p.m. Thursday.
LAPD Officer from Canyon Country Dead in Motorcycle Crash
1969 - College of the Canyons opens with first class of students in temporary quarters at Hart High School [story]
The most prestigious recognition for government assessment agencies has been awarded to the Office of the Assessor in Los Angeles County.
County Awarded Prestigious Government Assessment Award
The Dodgers, who have clinched a postseason berth for the fifth consecutive year, return home tomorrow to open their final homestand of the regular season against the San Francisco Giants (Sept. 22-24) and San Diego Padres (Sept. 25-27).
Dodgers Back Home Friday; Last Homestand of 2017 Season
Auditions for the the upcoming Canyon Theater Guild's production of A Christmas Story are just around the corner.
Sept. 30-Oct. 1: Christmas Story Auditions at CTG
Now that the formerly great state of California is a sanctuary, I’ve got to compare that action with the actions in the early 1860s of the Confederate States of America. They decided what laws they wanted to follow and what ones they didn’t.
No Home for Me | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
Santa Clarita Valley residents have known the family-owned Italian restaurant, Sisley Kitchen, since 1993 when their doors first opened at the top of Valencia Town Center Drive in Westfield Valencia.
Renovations Complete at Sisley Kitchen
The Women's Soccer team will be finishing up their non-conference matches this weekend.
Sept. 22-24: CSUN Athletics Roundup
David Wolfram will demonstrate pastel-over-watercolor painting at the Santa Clarita Artists Association (SCAA) meeting on Monday evening, Nov. 20 at 6:30 pm. This event is free, open to the public and meets at Barnes & Noble, 23630 Valencia Blvd.
Nov. 20: Pastel-Over-Watercolor Demonstration at SCAA Meeting
Beginning October 1, all 23 California State University (CSU) campuses will accept applications for admission to the fall 2018 term.
Oct. 1: CSU Accepting Fall 2018 Applications
College of the Canyons launched its First-Year Promise (FYP) program this fall, and to ensure the future of the FYP program, which offers full-time freshman students waived tuition and fees during their first year of study, the COC Foundation has committed to fundraising $500,000 over the next two years
COC First-Year Promise Fundraising Campaign Underway
The city of Santa Clarita is inviting our younger residents to take part in the 30th anniversary celebration.
City Launches, “30 Things for 30 Years” Contest, Students Invited to Take Part
California State University, Northridge’s Friends of the Oviatt Library welcomes members of the community to nominate their favorite stories about the San Fernando Valley for consideration of the San Fernando Valley Award for Non-Fiction.
CSUN Library Group Invites Community to Nominate Favorite San Fernando Valley Story
The Los Angeles Dodgers today announced sellouts for all seven potential postseason home games in the Division Series and League Championship Series just hours after tickets went on sale to the public at 10:00 a.m. It’s believed to be the quickest that the club has sold out of postseason tickets in Dodger Stadium history.
Dodgers NLDS, NLCS Tickets Already Sold Out
Sales of existing single-family homes increased 7.4 percent throughout Santa Clarita during August while the median price of homes that changed owners rose 6.6 percent, the Southland Regional Association of REALTORS® reported today.
Increase in SCV August Home Sales, Prices
Mountainview Elementary School parents were greeted with a voicemail Thursday morning informing them of a break-in on campus believed to have occurred the night before.
Vandals Trash Library, Computers, Classrooms at Mountainview
Hans' family did not know too much about his childhood or the country he had grown up in. About all the family knew was that Hans and his wife were born in Germany but had lived in this small Minnesota town for the last 60 years or more.
Lesson from History | Commentary by John Windsor
A gang sweep targeting Newhall 13, a well known Santa Clarita criminal organization, netted three arrests Thursday.
Three Arrests Made in Newhall 13 Gang Sweep
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is proud to announce the launch of our new LASD Facebook Español.
LASD Facebook Español Now Online
Autumn Gratitude, Santa Clarita Artists Association's new show will be open on Sept 28th and run to November 4th, with a free artists’ reception on Friday October 6th, 5 to 9 pm.
SCAA’s Newest Show, “Autumn Gratitude,” Opens
September is for seniors. Businesses around Santa Clarita are taking part in the following SCV Senior Center New Building Campaign events and asking the community to show support.
SCV Businesses Holding End-of-Month Events to Support New Senior Center
Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center will kick-off its no-cost flu shot clinics this Saturday, September 23, 2017 in the Atrium of Medical Offices 2 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Kaiser Permanente to Hold Flu Shot Clinics Saturday
Starting September 23, Santa Clarita residents can get a flu shot at no cost — no appointment needed.
Sept. 23: SCV Flu Shots
The College of the Canyons Athletics department is inviting all staff and students associated with a Santa Clarita Valley school district or campus to attend Saturday's Cougar football game free of charge.
Sept. 23: COC Football Game Free to SCV School District Staff, Students
There is a common insect that most people are not aware of because you never see it. It is mostly active underground. However, if you know what you are looking for, its traps are in many places and are very obvious.
You Won’t See Them | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
1974 - COC's new Cougar Stadium opens for first game of football season; Harbor beats COC, 26-21 [story]
A “fabulist” coming-of-age novel about a queer mixed-race boy in the bayous of Louisiana, written by California State University, Northridge English professor Martin Pousson, has won the 2017 PEN Center USA Fiction Award.
CSUN’s Martin Pousson Wins PEN’s Literary Award for Fiction
Public notification that the Santa Clarita Community College District (College of the Canyons) Early Childhood Education Center on the Valencia campus is participating in the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program.
COC Valencia Participates in USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program
Public notification that the Santa Clarita Community College District (College of the Canyons) Early Childhood Education Centers are participating in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.
COC Canyon Country Participates in USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program
The Santa Clarita Valley Service Center has moved from its previous location in Newhall to a new location in the Santa Clarita Plaza, and will host a grand opening celebration Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sept. 21: SCV Service Center Grand Opening, Resource Fair
The Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, known internationally as USA-2, has been deployed to Mexico to assist with the aftermath of a 7.1 magnitude earthquake near Mexico City.
L.A. County Fire Sends Search and Rescue Team to Mexico
The city of Santa Clarita invites nonprofit organizations interested in learning more about the city's 2018 Community Services and Arts Grants Program to a meeting on Wednesday, September 27 at 12 p.m.
Sept. 27: Info Session for Nonprofits Seeking City Grants
The Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation has published an ebook free to entrepreneurs titled '10 Characteristics of a Successful Startup.'
SCVEDC’s 10 Characteristics of a Successful Startup