Agreeing that the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak demonstrated the need for a more proactive approach to ensuring safety at natural gas storage facilities, the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality on Wednesday approved Senator Fran Pavley’s bill to accomplish that goal.
“We must have a system in place that will prevent problems from developing, discover leaks as soon as they occur and ensure that emergency plans are in place to promptly respond to a significant leak,” said Senator Pavley. “That is a lesson learned from the Aliso Canyon disaster.”
The leak at the Aliso Canyon facility in the San Fernando Valley spewed about 100,000 tons of methane into the skies above Los Angeles during the four months it raged out of control. About 8,000 families from Porter Ranch were relocated to escape the noxious fumes, and many reported suffering from headaches, nosebleeds, nausea and other maladies.
The massive leak revealed serious deficiencies in the way California regulates its 14 natural gas storage facilities. Prior to February, when the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources issued emergency regulations in the wake of the Aliso Canyon leak, the principal regulation governing storage facilities had not been updated since 1978.
Among the safety features included in SB 887 are requirements that gas storage facilities continually monitor natural gas concentrations to detect the presence of leaks, limit gas injections and withdrawals to the self-contained tubing inside well casings, and establish standards for regular maintenance and inspections of wells. In addition, the bill would establish a minimum distance to separate new gas storage wells and existing sensitive sites such as homes and schools.
The Committee on Environmental Quality approved SB 887 on a bipartisan, 6-1 vote. The bill next goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.