Sacramento, California - State agencies have launched a number of investigations into the natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon underground gas storage field, including demands for records and a directive to pay for an independent, third-party technical analysis.
The leak was discovered on Oct. 23 at the Aliso Canyon Underground Storage Field in Los Angeles County. The Southern California Gas Company, which owns and maintains the facility and is responsible for the situation, has been unable to stop the leak. The company is now attempting to drill two relief wells in an effort to permanently plug the leak.
In response, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (Division) within the California Department of Conservation has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the gas leak and whether any regulatory or statutory violations occurred. This investigation will include studying the inner workings of the leaking well.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which regulates natural gas utilities, has also launched a staff investigation of Southern California Gas Company's actions before and after the incident, including whether proper public notification was provided and maintenance of the gas storage field in general. CPUC staff also requested information from the company on the costs of containing the leak.
The Division and CPUC have also directed Southern California Gas Company to retain an independent, third party to perform a technical analysis of the well failure and its cause. The Gas Company will cover the expenses of this independent analysis at no cost to ratepayers. Analysis results will be shared with regulators and the public.
These investigations build on existing state actions, including two separate orders to the Gas Company, on Nov. 18 and Dec. 10, requiring additional testing and well data, daily briefings, and a schedule for identified pathways to seal the well. The Division has also requested down-hole videos, well logs, pressure surveys and other records from the company. The Division and the CPUC on Dec. 11 also ordered the company to explain how quickly the storage field can be drained to reduce pressure on the leak while preserving reliability of gas for ratepayers.
In addition to all launching these investigations and requesting these records and information, Division and CPUC engineers have been on site at the gas leak every day since the incident was discovered.
Other state oversight efforts related to investigating and stopping the gas leak include:
- The California Air Resources Board is monitoring total methane emissions-a powerful greenhouse gas- over the duration of the leak using measurements from the ground, airplane and satellites. The air board also has directed the Gas Company to provide its data on the volumes of gas within the storage field in order to refine its estimates on total emissions. More information is available here.
- The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment with the California Environmental Protection Agency has reviewed air quality data collected in the community closest to the leaking well to confirm that actions ordered by local public health agencies are adequate to protect public health.
- The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) within the Department of Industrial Relations has monitored the well breach site to ensure worker safety and compliance with workplace safety laws and regulations.
- The California Energy Commission is coordinating with the CPUC to ensure adequate energy supplies for homes and businesses through the winter.
The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has established an incident command structure to enable a systematic, coordinated response by all local, state and federal agencies. This effort includes an incident command post on-site at Aliso Canyon staffed by the Gas Company and other agency experts and representatives. Cal OES also is coordinating information sharing among governmental agencies and it maintains a public webpage with updated information regarding state agency actions that can be found here.