US-CALIFORNIA-GAS-LEAK

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County lost another bid today to halt operations at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near Porter Ranch, with the state Supreme Court declining to review a lower court decision that allowed Southern California Gas Co. to resume limited gas injections at the facility.

SoCalGas resumed limited operations at Aliso Canyon -- site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history -- in late July after receiving clearance from state regulators and a state appeals court. The appellate court first issued an order blocking operations, but reversed itself a day later.

The Aliso Canyon facility had been largely out of operation since the massive leak of late 2015 and early 2016 that forced thousands of residents from their homes and prompted calls by some residents to shutter the facility altogether. The leak was discovered Oct. 24, 2015, and continued emanating methane until a Feb. 11, 2016, announcement that the leak was capped. The leak poured an estimated 109,000 tons of methane into the air.

At its peak, the escaping gas forced an estimated 15,000 Porter Ranch area residents to temporarily relocate.

On July 19, regulators from the California Public Utilities Commission and the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources ruled that SoCalGas could resume limited injections of natural gas into Aliso Canyon. State officials authorized the facility to operate at roughly 28 percent of its capacity, enough to prevent any power shortages in the Southland.

Attorneys for Los Angeles County went to court, arguing that state regulators failed to meet all of the requirements needed to authorize a re- start of the facility.

DOGGR ``has not addressed the substantial seismic risk of again injecting gas into the Aliso Canyon facility, nor has it conducted a public hearing after completion of its safety assessment,'' the county contended in court papers. ``And, it has not made any effort to comply with'' state environmental requirements.

SoCalGas officials insisted that Aliso Canyon was safe to re-open, contending that the utility has gone above and beyond state safety requirements.

``In fact, DOGGR says Aliso Canyon `has undergone more safety and regulatory scrutiny during this period than any of California's 13 other underground natural gas storage facilities, and likely more safety scrutiny from a regulatory agency than any other gas storage facility in the United States,''' SoCalGas spokesman Chris Gilbride said.

SoCalGas officials also rejected arguments over seismic safety, saying the issue was ``carefully considered'' by state regulators before they decided the facility is safe to resume limited operations.