Boxer, Feinstein ask Obama to form Aliso Canyon leak task force

California’s two US senators asked US President Barack Obama to form an investigation task force led by the US Department of Energy to investigate the cause and effects of the leak from Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, whether the facility can safely be operated, and necessary steps to protect other communities nationwide.

“We are asking you to create this task force now so that our nation’s brightest minds can get to work right away analyzing this incident and making recommendations,” Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein said in a Mar. 23 letter to the president.

The leak near Los Angeles, which the SoCalGas initially detected in late October, was not contained until mid-February. Residents from the nearby Porter Ranch subdivision were evacuated in the interim.

The Los Angeles Superior Court ruled on Mar. 18 to end SoCalGas’s temporary relocation program on Mar. 25. Los Angeles County appealed the decision on Mar. 21, and a state appeals court issued a stay of the trial court’s ruling through at least Mar. 29, the utility said.

Boxer, who is the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s ranking minority member, and Feinstein said in January that they would propose forming an investigation task force, similar to one that examined the 2010 Macondo deepwater well blowout and oil spill, as an amendment to general energy legislation before the Senate. The amendment eventually became part of a pipeline safety reauthorization bill which the Senate passed a month later (OGJ Online, Mar. 4, 2016).

Letter cites urgency

“Time is of the essence. The people living near Aliso Canyon and the nearly 400 other underground gas storage facilities across the country cannot afford to wait,” Boxer and Feinstein wrote Obama on Mar. 23.

Feinstein separately endorsed a bill which California State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Los Angeles and Ventura counties) introduced on Feb. 24 that would impose a moratorium on new gas injections into the Aliso Canyon storage facility until the state’s review of all 115 wells there is completed, and require the Public Utilities Commission to determine whether using the storage facility could be halted or minimized without disrupting gas reliability in the region.

“Candidly, I believe the facility should be shut down,” Feinstein said on Mar. 23. “The legislation directs California to study the feasibility of doing so while not disrupting the energy system. This study should be done as quickly as possible because it’s clear to me that it’s simply wrong for this facility to be so close to a huge subdivision.”

She said that Pavley’s bill, SB 380, unanimously passed both the full California Senate and the State Assembly’s Utilities and Commerce Committee. “These bipartisan votes don’t happen often, which shows the importance of the measure,” Feinstein said.

Contact Nick Snow at

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