We Need to Stop the Next Explosion or Methane Blowout on LA's Westside
By Faith Myhra
In 2015, I was horrified to see how comfortable SoCalGas was being negligent to folks in the North San Fernando Valley. This community was the home of the largest gas blowout in U.S. history. I later learned that SoCalGas had an even older gas facility in my community sitting on the Ballona Wetlands surrounded by residents in West LA.
SoCal Gas has owned the Playa del Rey gas storage facility since 1953 and the facility has a dangerous history. Since 2003, the surrounding area has experienced oily “mist”, a vent stack explosion, and an oil well blowing open. Since 2007, it has been discovered that gas water has been seeping into the water table, that there is a connection between their gas injections and the leaks, and that the facility has had “massive regulatory failures”. On January 11th, 2019 an oil well on a construction site in Marina del Rey blew open, sending natural gas about 100 feet in the air surrounding a heavily populated area next to the marina. The well was capped after a reported 10 minutes, but not before an estimated 100,000 cubic feet of natural gas was released.
Los Angeles has the most polluted air in the nation and, beyond climate pollutants, natural gas storage facilities are major emitters of nitrogen oxides which contribute to ground-level ozone, acid rain, and smog. Exposure to nitrogen oxides is linked to respiratory irritation and infection, it can cause or worsen bronchitis, emphysema and existing heart disease, as well as cause labored breathing, and reduce life expectancy.
The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) reported in 2018 that Playa del Rey is one of the highest risk gas storage facilities in California due to its proximity to homes, businesses, schools and LAX. It also found the facility is at risk for fire, chemical explosions, earthquakes, floods and tsunamis. The facility is surrounded by fault lines, some within 2 miles. In addition to threatening the nearby ecological reserve, The Playa del Rey facility has around half a million people living within 5 miles of it (the radius in which Aliso Canyon victims were evacuated from), and it represents only 1% of the gas storage in California. This facility is a disaster waiting to happen.
SoCalGas has had 68 years to do right by our communities, proving time and time again that they are not capable of being good neighbors. The cities of Los Angeles, Culver City and Santa Monica, as well as Los Angeles County have called on the Governor to develop a timeline and plan for closing down the Playa facility.
The recent IPCC report found that strong, rapid and sustained reductions in methane emissions are needed to keep a 1.5C warming limit within reach. At the Cop 26, two dozen additional countries have signed up for a global methane pledge vowing to cut emissions of methane 30 percent by 2030. Climate chaos demands immediate and significant investment in clean, renewable energy in order for California to achieve 100 percent renewable energy and zero emissions by 2045.
It is time for Governor Newsom to act like a real climate leader and close these dangerous facilities down, stop any expansions, and hold the CPUC accountable to Californian's whom they are supposed to protect. Click below for calls to action! And if you smell gas, call 1-800-CUT-SMOG or 1-800-288-7664.
Updates and Actions
California Senate Bill 1423 - We support Senator Stern's California bill to close the loophole for Oil and Gas in the Coastal Act. This bill passed through the State Sen Natural Resources and Water Committee and it just passed unanimously through the Sen Appropriations Committee.
California Senate Bill 1486 - We support Senator Stern's California bill to shut down Aliso Canyon. We Thank Senator Allen for Co-Authoring the bill. We need to send a loud message from Los Angeles to Sacramento: we demand a deadline to close Aliso Canyon! Governor Newsom must keep his promise and ensure this dangerous facility is closed. Without Newsom's leadership, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will continue to backslide on this goal and let SoCalGas off the hook!
Senator Stern's bill will 1) put a moratorium on the use of Aliso Canyon returning it to an asset of last resort and 2) require the CPUC shut down Aliso Canyon by 2027. 3) Would prohibit additional use of the Playa del Rey natural gas storage facility as a result of a moratorium on natural gas operations at, or the closure of, the Aliso Canyon facility.
This bill will have its 2nd Hearing which will be heard in the State Sen Appropriations Committee on May 16th, Monday at 10am. We will also be making calls to key legislators on the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, May 12th to urge the following senators to vote YES on SB 1486; Anthony J. Portantino (Chair), Steven Bradford, Sydney Kamlager, John Laird, and Bob Wieckowski.
Gas Infrastructure in the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Request for Qualifications - California Department of Fish & Wildlife released a notice that states they plan on starting permitting and design procedures for a 60-acre portion of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve as part of their overall industrial alteration of this fragile marshland ecosystem.
There is no rationale stated as to why this particular parcel of land, very close to the SoCalGas Tank Farm, has been selected, but they did include information that the project would involve: “removing and relocating an existing gas line.”
So much for the State and the allies of this proposed project continuing to claim that this construction project masquerading as a “restoration” has “nothing to do with the gas storage facility.” We’ve reviewed the background documents, and this latest announcement underscores what we’ve known all along. Click here to sign up to be kept informed of actions needed to stop the installation of new fossil fuel infrastructure through this questionable publicly-funded guise of a “restoration.”
Calls to Action
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