Senate Approves Methane Gas Leak Legislation

Utility fines and penalties must be used to mitigate harm caused by leaks

Friday, June 3, 2016

 

Sacramento, CA – Legislation authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) to

improve the mitigation of methane gas leaks from underground storage facilities passed the state Senate on a vote of 28—10 today.  SB 888 requires gas leak emissions to be fully mitigated and paid for through the fines and penalties assessed against the responsible gas company, not rate payer funds. It also will improve the state’s response to similar gas leaks in the future by designating the Office of Emergency Services as the lead point of contact for the government.

“Given the scale of the disastrous gas leak at Porter Ranch, it is imperative that the emissions be fully mitigated. We cannot let this leak undo all the hard work we have done to combat climate change in our state,” Senator Allen said.

The recent gas leak at Aliso Canyon was the worst in U.S. history.  At its peak, the leak caused climate pollution equivalent to the daily emissions from 7 million cars, or six coal-fired power plants.

The experience at Aliso Canyon shed light on the fact that the state currently lacks a lead agency to oversee response efforts and remediation actions for this type of disaster. Unlike an oil spill, which triggers a rapid, comprehensive response in which various agencies work together to stop a leak and deal with clean up, there is no such comprehensive system in place for natural gas leaks.

In fact, while the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal (DOGGR) was notified of the leak early after it was discovered, the Air Resources Board was not notified of the leak until two weeks later.  State officials might have more quickly understood the severity of the leak if emissions had been measured earlier.  SB 888 seeks to address this lack of communication and coordination by designating the Office of Emergency Services as the lead point of contact for any future gas leaks.

SB 888 is one of three bills put forward in the state Senate in response to the Aliso Canyon leak.  SB 886, which has been signed into law by the governor, imposed a moratorium on new gas injections at the Aliso Canyon underground storage facility.  SB 887 would strengthen laws regulating gas storage facilities by requiring annual inspections, continuous monitoring, and the development of emergency response plans.

SB 888 now moves to the state Assembly for further review.

 

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