Advocates bring the fight to SoCalGas headquarters.
Chatsworth, CA – At a rally to kick off the campaign to pass SB 1486, Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) joined Food & Water Watch activists and San Fernando Valley residents at SoCalGas’ Chatsworth offices to demand the closure of the natural gas storage facility. The 2015 gas blowout that made Aliso Canyon’s name synonymous with disaster sickened thousands of residents, many of whom are still suffering health effects like cancer and asthma today. Despite this, the Public Utilities Commission voted to increase storage capacity at the Aliso Canyon facility in November 2021.
“I want this to be a nightmare of the past,” Senator Stern said. “This legislation is there to help the Public Utilities Commission who sometimes has a hard time doing the right thing on Aliso Canyon. It was a shame that the Public Utilities Commission decided to reopen this field last winter and to pretend that everything will go down unless this field is on. We know that’s not the case. We saw L.A. operate leaner but smarter and cleaner without Aliso Canyon. This could be done today and we would be fine. Do not let them scare you.”
Despite issuing a mandate to the CPUC to close Aliso down, Governor Gavin Newsom has taken no action to enforce that commitment even as the agency voted to increase storage capacity at the facility. The Clean Energy Jobs, Coordination and Community Safety Through Aliso Canyon Closure Act provides a firm roadmap to closing Aliso Canyon by 2027 — the first piece of legislation to do so. In another first for the site, the bill mandates protections and safeguards for workers who would be displaced from their jobs at Aliso Canyon and ensures their transition to clean energy work. SB1486 will stipulate that the facility cannot be used for hydrogen, biofuels or carbon capture. Stern stressed the importance of SoCalGas transforming itself from a gas company to a renewable energy company.
“We’re here as a protest and also as an invitation,” Stern continued. “It’s a loud invitation.”
“We picked this location because every time we go up to the Aliso Canyon storage facility, we get sick,” said Food & Water Watch’s California Director Alexandra Nagy. “And we’re tired of putting our loved ones and friends in harm’s way. We have a lot of hurt and trauma that we’re working on overcoming, and this is not an issue of the past. It’s still ongoing. This is why we’re fighting. We’re on the tip of a huge paradigm shift. SB 1486 has the potential to lead California to climate action and the equitable transition away from natural gas. Senator Stern will not be alone in this fight.”
Nagy asked the crowd who had experienced health consequences or had to relocate because of the blowout. At least a dozen hands flew up. Aliso Moms Alliance member Deirdre Bolona lost her father to kidney cancer after the blowout. “We were told it was safe,” she said at the rally. “No one cares. Senator Stern cares.”
“We are in a climate crisis,” said Jane Fowler, a Granada Hills resident and member of Aliso Moms Alliance. “I wish everything was fine but it isn’t. I live near this horrible, dilapidated facility and I know what it’s like to breathe toxic air. We have dubbed our cough ‘the Aliso cough.’ We are living in the shadow of Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. We’ve been sounding the alarm for six and a half years. SB 1486 is the beginning. Senator Stern is making this all happen and he’s actually making it easy for Governor Newsom to sign off.”
Matt Pakucko, President and co-founder of Save Porter Ranch, said “It’s a very clever bill. It disarms the opposition right off the bat by transitioning jobs in keeping with California and Los Angeles long term energy plans. And best of all is that it turns Aliso Canyon back into an asset of last resort — that protocol that kept Aliso unused and unneeded for nearly two years.”
The bill faces its first hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in April.