Sups. Seek Study of Exide, Aliso Canyon Health Effects

September 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors called Tuesday for studies of the long-term health effects of the massive Aliso Canyon gas leak and lead contamination from the now-shuttered Exide battery-recycling plant.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich recommended the study related to the natural gas leak that began Oct. 23 at the Southern California Gas Co. storage facility and was shut down 16 weeks later, on Feb. 11.

Supervisor Hilda Solis asked that Antonovich’s motion be expanded to include a similar study for the neighborhoods surrounding the Exide plant in Vernon.

The board’s vote was unanimous in asking staffers to work with the South Coast Air Quality Management District to develop a study.

A SoCalGas spokesman said the utility has agreed to spend up to $400,000 to fund the Aliso Canyon study but is waiting for AQMD officials to propose a plan.

Thousands of residents were displaced from their Porter Ranch homes due to the gas leak. Once the well was sealed and residents returned, some continued to complain of headaches, respiratory and skin irritation.

County health officials reported surface dust in many homes contained “low levels of metal contaminants” consistent with those found in well-drilling fluid. They suggested that the contaminants could be the source of symptoms but said the metals did not pose long-term health risks.

The utility stepped in to clean roughly 1,700 homes of those metals.

Tuesday, some residents told the board they are still suffering and the interim director of the Department of Public Health reminded the supervisors that the “gas leak was unprecedented in the history of this country.”

In the case of the Exide Technologies battery-recycling plant, soils tests in surrounding communities have found significant levels of lead contamination.

State officials have set aside $176.6 million in funding for environmental testing and cleanup work in neighborhoods within a 1.7-mile radius of the closed plant.

The facility permanently closed in March 2015 after years of failing to meet state standards for operating the plant.

After the board meeting, Solis hailed Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of Assembly Bill 2153, which charges a fee on lead-acid car batteries to help fund clean up contaminated areas.

“We celebrate a victory for communities surrounding the Exide and Quemetco facilities,” Solis said. “AB 2153 will provide much needed clean-up of lead-contaminated soil from thousands of homes surrounding these facilities.”

 

SoCal Gas Responde a Preocupaciones Acerca de Su Instalación en Montebello

March 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Tila Gregorian ha vivido cerca de las instalaciones de SoCalGas en Montebello durante años y siempre se ha preocupado por la posibilidad de fugas de gas. Cuando se enteró de las miles de familias que viven cerca de las instalaciones del almacenamiento de Aliso Canyon que se han enfermado y han sido desplazadas de sus hogares por una fuga de gas en esa instalación temporal, sus preocupaciones crecieron.

“Siempre ha sido una inquietud, pero ahora que sabemos lo que puede suceder se confirma nuestra preocupación”, dijo Gregorian.

Read this article in English: SoCal Gas Responds to Concerns About Montebello Facility

Con la esperanza de aliviar temores de los funcionarios de la ciudad y los residentes, SoCalGas estaba programada para hacer una presentación pública al ayuntamiento sobre el estado de sus instalaciones en Montebello el miércoles después de la hora del cierre de EGP para salir a prensa.

La instalación está ubicada en 831 Howard Ave y está rodeada por casas que componen la comunidad residencial Racquet Mountain.

De acuerdo con la empresa de servicios públicos, la instalación ya no se utiliza para almacenar el gas y esta en la etapa final para ser dada de baja. Sin embargo, en los 48 pozos que aún están activos, “el aceite se extrae para eliminar el gas amortiguado en función del proceso de desmantelamiento”, la compañía de servicios públicos le dijo a EGP.

“Aliso Canyon es un campo de almacenamiento de inyección-extracción de gas activo”, explicó SoCalGas en un correo electrónico, mientras que “Montebello ya no es un almacenamiento de gas y se encuentra en proceso de desmantelamiento”, dijo la compañía.

La instalación de SoCal Gas en Montebello esta en el proceso de ser desmantelada. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

La instalación de SoCal Gas en Montebello esta en el proceso de ser desmantelada. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

“En el 2000, SoCalGas presentó documentos ante la Comisión de Servicios Públicos de California (CPUC) para desmantelar las instalaciones. En 2001, la CPUC aprobó la solicitud de desmantelamiento de las instalaciones” y 280 pozos en el lugar ya se han cerrado de forma permanente, de acuerdo con SoCalGas.

Las instalaciones en Montebello y Aliso Canyon pueden ser mundos aparte en la forma en que operan actualmente, pero para algunos residentes de la zona, la tranquilidad no vendrá hasta que el proceso de desmantelamiento este completo y Montebello sea asegurado de que no habrá riesgo de fugas de gas.

“No voy a creer lo que dicen hasta que tengamos pruebas independientes verificando que no hay gas almacenado”, Margot Eiser, activista ambiental local, le dijo a EGP.

Dijo que estaba preocupada por la instalación de Montebello incluso antes de que se supo la noticia de la fuga de gas en Porter Ranch, que muchos creen que fue el resultado de las regulaciones de mantenimiento insuficientes.

“Estamos hablando de algo muy volátil, muy tóxico”, dijo. “Las empresas tienen que estar más preocupadas por la seguridad que por los beneficios”.

Linda Nicklas le dijo a EGP que los residentes se sentirían más seguros si SoCalGas instalara cámaras de luz infrarroja en el sitio como lo hicieron en Porter Ranch después que se detuvo la fuga de gas para demostrar que no hay fugas en Montebello. Si la utilidad pública de verdad tiene en mente la salud de los residentes, van a establecer un sistema de alerta para notificarles en caso de una fuga, aseveró.

“La compañía de gas se ahorrará dinero a largo plazo”, dijo Nicklas, señalando los millones que le ha costado a SoCalGas para hacer frente a la fuga en Aliso Canyon.

El proceso de desmantelamiento ha estado sucediendo desde hace 15 años. Una vez que se retira el gas amortiguado, los representantes de SoCalGas le dijeron a EGP que la empresa de utilidades planea salvar el equipo en el lugar, abandonar los pozos de manera permanente y potencialmente considerar la venta del sitio.

“Se debió haber tomado de 2 a 3 años, no 15 años”, dijo Yvonne Watson, un miembro de Sierra Club y residente por mucho tiempo de Montebello.

Watson dijo que ha estado monitoreando el estado del sitio de Montebello ya que fue convertido en una instalación de almacenamiento de gas en 1958. Según Watson, la instalación tenía un historial de fugas de gas cuando estaba en funcionamiento.

“No nos han proporcionado una evidencia concreta o un calendario de cierre definitivo”, se quejó Watson.

“Cuando no escuchas nada de la compañía de gas, a excepción de lo que está pasando en Porter Ranch, simplemente no inspira confianza”.

De acuerdo con SoCalGas, el incidente de Aliso Canyon no ha dado lugar a “preguntas de nuestros vecinos Montebello”, e históricamente la compañía ha tenido un registro consistente de abordar las preocupaciones ocasionales de los residentes con respecto a mantenimiento estética y el ruido de inmediato.

SoCalGas hace hincapié en que la instalación en el área de Racquet Mountain no está siendo utilizada para almacenar o producir gas natural, explicando que hay “cero capacidad de almacenamiento de gas en la instalación de Montebello”.

“Hay una gran cantidad de respuestas que se nos tiene que dar”, dijo Gregorian, quien planeó asistir a la presentación de SoCal Gas el miércoles.

“¿Qué tanto podemos creer sin supervisión, no lo sé”.

—-

Twitter @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

SoCal Gas Responds to Concerns About Montebello Facility

March 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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.”

State Officials Propose New Regs in Wake of Porter Ranch Gas Leak

January 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A group of state legislators unveiled a package of proposed legislation Monday in response to a continuing gas leak in Porter Ranch, calling for an immediate moratorium on injecting any more gas into the well and calling for stepped-up inspections of aging wells statewide.

“We need to have more inspections, more pro-active inspections,” said Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. “We need to have a plan as infrastructure ages out – some kind of policy and timeline for replacement. Always err on the side of caution, not hoping with your fingers crossed that there won’t be a problem.”

Pavley and other legislators noted that while seven state agencies are involved in monitoring or investigating the leak at Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility, there is no single agency with responsibility for oversight of such facility. Such oversight is called for in one of the bills the legislators plan to introduce. The bill would also require a utility responsible for environmental damage to bear the full cost of remediation without passing the bill to ratepayers.

The senators also plan to introduce a bill that would ban new injections of gas into Aliso Canyon and bar the use of aging wells at the site until they can be inspected to determine they do not pose any public safety risk.

The proposed legislation will also include requirements for inspections of storage facilities across California, mandating such inspections over the next 12 months, then at least once a year afterward.

The senators noted that more than half of the roughly 420 gas storage wells in the state are more than 40 years old. They said 48 of the 111 storage wells at Aliso Canyon were drilled in 1953 or earlier.

Gas Co. spokeswoman Trisha Muse said the company appreciates the lawmakers’ “interest in the topic” and looks forward to taking part in the public discussion around them.

No injections are being made in the field at this time, though gas is still being withdrawn, Muse said.

Muse said the Aliso Canyon facility is “the largest of four natural gas storage fields that SoCalGas operates in Southern California” and provides fuel to “homes, manufacturers, hospitals, universities, small businesses and all customers who rely on a ready supply of energy from natural gas.”

Similarly to water reservoirs, “we need to maintain the gas reserves at Aliso at a functional level to ensure we can meet the demand,” Muse said.

“Aliso is unquestionably a strategic asset that is vital to the region’s economy and the people who depend on a reliable source of energy from natural gas,” according to Muse.

The Aliso Canyon leak was discovered Oct. 23, leading to hundreds of complaints from residents about negative health effects. Thousands of residents have been temporarily moved out of the area, and thousands more are looking to move.

Two schools in the area have also been shut down, with students being transferred to other campuses when classes resumed Tuesday.

Southland air quality regulators are proposing an order that would require the Gas Co. to install equipment to capture and incinerate natural gas leaking from the well.

A Gas Co. official said the utility has submitted permit applications to begin installing the equipment, but it’s unclear how long it will take to process them. Hundreds of Porter Ranch-area residents packed a South Coast Air Quality Management District hearing Saturday to discuss the mitigation measures.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich compared the problem with one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

“This is a critical problem. This is a mini-Chernobyl. This is a problem,” he said to applause. “They’ve had their Thanksgiving, they’ve had their Hanukkah, they’ve had their Christmas, they’ve had their New Year, they’ve had their family celebrations all disrupted because of irresponsible actions, from the state to the gas company.”

Gas. Co. attorney Robert Wyman of the firm Latham & Watkins LLP stated at the meeting that the leak was “being addressed as safely and expeditiously as possible.”

“This is SoCalGas’s highest priority,” he said.

Multiple lawsuits have already been filed against SoCalGas over the leak, including one by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. He announced Monday that Los Angeles County has joined that litigation.

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