SoCal Gas Responds to Concerns About Montebello Facility

Residents worry about the potential for gas leaks.

By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer

Tila Gregorian has lived near the SoCalGas facility in Montebello for years and has always worried about the possibility of gas leaks. When she heard about the thousands of families living near the Aliso Canyon storage facility sickened and temporarily displaced from their homes by a gas leak at that facility, her worries grew.

“It has always been a concern, but now that we know what can happen it’s confirmed our worries,” Gregorian said.

Hoping to ease fears and concerns of city officials and residents, SoCalGas was scheduled to make a public presentation on the status of its facility in Montebello to the city council Wednesday, after EGP’s press time.

Lea este artículo en Español: SoCal Gas Responde a Preocupaciones Acerca de su Instalación en Montebello

The facility is located at 831 Howard Ave and is surrounded by homes that make up the residential community of Racquet Mountain.

According to the utility company, the facility is no longer used to store gas and is in the final stages of being decommissioned. However, at the 48 still active wells, “oil is being extracted to remove the cushion gas as a function of the decommissioning process,” the utility company told EGP.

“Aliso Canyon is an active gas injection-withdrawal storage field,” explained SoCalGas in an email, while “Montebello is no longer a gas storage and is in the process of decommissioning,” the company said.

“In 2000, SoCalGas filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to decommission the facility. In 2001, the CPUC approved the request to decommission the facility,” and 280 wells at the site have already been permanently sealed, according to SoCal Gas.

The Montebello and Aliso Canyon facilities may be worlds apart in how they currently operate, but for some residents of the area, peace of mind won’t come until the decommission process is complete and Montebello is assured there is no more risk of gas leaks.

“I won’t believe what they say until we have independent testing verifying there is no gas being stored,” Margot Eiser, a local environmental activist, told EGP.

 The SoCalGas facility in Montebello is in the process of being decommissioned. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The SoCalGas facility in Montebello is in the process of being decommissioned. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Eiser said she was concerned about the Montebello facility even before news broke of the gas leak in Porter Ranch, which many believe was the result of insufficient maintenance regulations.

“We’re dealing with something very volatile, very toxic,” she said. “Companies need to be more concerned about safety than profits.”

Linda Nicklas told EGP residents would feel more at ease if SoCalGas would install infrared cameras at the site like they did in Porter Ranch after the gas leak there was finally stopped to prove there are no leaks in Montebello. If the public utility truly has the health of residents in mind, they’ll set up an alert system to notify resident if there is a leak, she said. “It will save the gas company money in the long run,” said Nicklas, pointing out the millions it cost SoCalGas to deal with the leak at Aliso Canyon.

The decommissioning process has been going on for 15 years. Once the cushion gas is removed, SoCalGas representatives tell EGP the utility company plans to salvage the equipment on the site, permanently abandon the wells and potentially consider selling the site.

“It should have taken 2 to 3 years, not 15 years,” said Yvonne Watson, a Sierra Club member and longtime Montebello Resident.
Watson said she has been monitoring the status of the Montebello site since it was converted to a gas storage facility in 1958.

According to Watson, the facility had a history of gas leaks when it was in operation.

“We have not been provided concrete evidence or a schedule of decommission,” Watson complained.

“When you don’t hear anything from the gas company, except for what is going on in Porter Ranch, it just doesn’t inspire confidence.”

According to SoCalGas, the Aliso Canyon incident has not resulted in “questions from our Montebello neighbors,” and historically the company has had a consistent record of addressing occasional concerns from residents regarding aesthetic upkeep and noise immediately.

SoCalGas emphasizes that the Racquet Mountain area facility is not being used to store or produce natural gas, explaining there is  “zero gas storage capacity of the Montebello facility.”

“There are a lot of answers that need to be given to us,” said Gregorian, who was planning to attend SoCal Gas’ presentation Wednesday to the council.

“How much of it we can believe without oversight, I don’t know.”

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March 24, 2016  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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