Request to resume gas injections at Aliso Canyon triggers safety review process  

On Nov. 1, Southern California Gas Co. notified state oil and gas officials by letter requesting permission to resume natural gas injections at Aliso Canyon for the first time since the disastrous gas leak that began in late October of 2015.

I believe the request is premature. More than a year after the fact, the well that failed has not yet been excavated from the ground and examined as part of a root cause analysis to determine what caused the leak.

I have contacted the relevant state agencies – the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) – requesting the process be put on hold until the analysis is completed. I don’t believe it is possible to certify in good faith that all necessary safety measures have been taken until it is determined exactly what caused well SS-25 to fail so disastrously.

At this writing, the agencies have not determined whether they will delay their review pending completion of the root cause analysis.

Should the process go forward, SoCal Gas’s request is the first step in a deliberate review, and permission will not be granted until a number of critical steps are taken to determine whether safe operation is possible.

Many of those steps are spelled out in urgency legislation I authored earlier this year, SB 380. They include a requirement that DOGGR certify that all wells have either passed a rigorous regimen of six safety tests or be plugged and isolated from the reservoir before any injections can resume; a requirement that DOGGR determine the maximum safe capacity of gas storage; and a requirement that the executive director of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) personally sign off if DOGGR determines that injections can resume.

In addition, SB 380 requires that a public meeting be held in the vicinity of Aliso Canyon (likely in Woodland Hills) as part of the review process, and that the public be notified of the meeting at least 15 days in advance. DOGGR officials say they intend to conduct two such public meetings on consecutive days, at which they will share the findings of their comprehensive safety review and provide an opportunity for public response. For those unable to attend personally, the second day of the meeting will be webcast on the DOGGR website. Public comment can be submitted at any time by sending an email to [email protected]. Comments can also be directed to CPUC by emailing [email protected].

In addition to those avenues for comment, DOGGR has designated Ben Turner, assistant director for governmental and environmental relations at the Department of Conservation, as the point person to deal with questions from the public about the safety review process. His email address is [email protected].

Beyond the immediate safety review process, SB 380 also requires the CPUC to open a proceeding, no later than July 1, 2017, to determine the feasibility of minimizing or eliminating the use of Aliso Canyon as a natural gas storage facility. The July 1 date is intended to be an absolute deadline, rather than a fixed date to begin the proceedings. I am urging the commission to open its proceeding as soon as possible.

As the safety review process moves forward, both agencies will be posting documents and updates on their respective websites: and


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