Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today raised concerns with the California Public Utilities Commission over a proposal to increase natural gas storage at Aliso Canyon on an interim basis.
“Given the history of disaster and risks from continued operations at Aliso Canyon, I continue to support closing the facility on an expedited timeline,” Senator Feinstein wrote. “This Proposed Decision to increase capacity, however, appears to go in the opposition direction.”
The CPUC is considering the expansion in response to an unprecedented spike in natural gas prices last winter. In February, Senator Feinstein called on the CPUC to investigate the causes of the price spike. The results of the CPUC inquiry have not yet been made available.
A methane gas leak at Aliso Canyon in 2015 emitted more than 100,000 metric tons of methane into the air, endangering the health and safety of the residents of nearby Porter Ranch. The leak, the largest in U.S. history, forced more than 8,000 families to vacate their homes for up to seven months while repair work and cleaning was conducted.
Full text of the letter is available here and follows:
August 4, 2023
The Honorable Alice Busching Reynolds
California Public Utilities Commission
505 Van Ness Avenue,
San Francisco, California 94102
Dear President Reynolds,
I write to express my concern with the proposed increase in natural gas storage at the Aliso Canyon facility. For years we have known that the facility poses health and safety risks to nearby residents, and it is critical that any actions taken by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), even on an interim basis, do not impact plans for permanent closure.
The proposal under review would increase the allowed storage at Aliso Canyon from 41.16 billion cubic feet to 68.6 billion cubic feet, which is the maximum safe inventory limit set by the California Geologic Energy Management Division. This would be a dramatic increase from the 34 billion cubic feet limit set in 2020, continuing an upward trend.
I understand that the Proposed Decision comes in response to last winter’s unprecedentedly high natural gas prices, which left consumers with high utility bills and difficult choices around home energy use. I appreciate the work that the CPUC has done to understand the price spike, including a public inquiry into the root causes, and I thank the CPUC for taking steps to avoid a repeat. However, without a final report and full explanation of causes, it may be premature to increase storage capacity at Aliso Canyon.
Given the history of disaster and risks from continued operations at Aliso Canyon, I continue to support closing the facility on an expedited timeline. This Proposed Decision to increase capacity, however, appears to go in the opposition direction. I ask that you provide me with further information on the following questions:
- How will an increase in the amount of natural gas stored at Aliso Canyon impact plans to shut down the facility permanently?
- What is the timeline for shutdown?
- Have alternatives been considered to decrease reliance on natural gas for home heating for the upcoming winter?
Thank you for your attention to this matter, especially the efforts taken to keep surrounding communities like Porter Ranch safe. I look forward to your response.
United States Senator