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California sets new standards for natural gas storage sites

Data visualization shows the methane plume from the Aliso Canyon gas leak in red.

Three years ago, a blowout at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility forced thousands of nearby families to evacuate their homes and leaked over 100,000 tons of methane and other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. The facility’s operator, Southern California Gas, wasn’t prepared for the scope or scale of the disaster that unfolded over four months.

The disaster demonstrated the risks of under-regulated natural gas storage sites, as well as the importance of not being over-reliant on natural gas. Regulators in California and across the country realized the need for better oversight and management.

As a result, California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) recently finalized new rules for managing the risky, industrial enterprise of underground gas storage. These rules are a foray into an underdeveloped policy space, and are the product of collaboration with stakeholders including national laboratories, the environmental community, and the federal government.

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Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, General, Methane, Natural Gas / Tagged | Comments are closed

Looking to the States to Improve Natural Gas Storage Policies

Stories about gas storage rarely make headlines, but the fact is there are hundreds of underground natural gas storage facilities peppered across the country, and when something goes wrong, the impacts can be devastating. For example, in 2015 a leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Southern California ended up displacing thousands from their homes and was considered one of the biggest environmental disasters in modern U.S. history.

Historically, state agencies have been responsible for regulating these facilities – resulting in a patchwork of protections. But after Aliso Canyon, the federal government stepped in to provide uniform safety standards applicable across the country. Read More »

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Smart Policies to Stop Disastrous Natural Gas Leaks

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Infrared footage reveals massive methane emissions from a gas storage facility in California's Aliso Canyon

Last fall, a massive leak from a natural gas storage facility in California’s Aliso Canyon released nearly 100,000 tons of methane pollution into the atmosphere — the largest uncombusted release of this potent greenhouse gas in U.S. history, and seen by many as the industry’s worst environmental disaster since the BP oil spill.

Facilities like Aliso Canyon inject gas pumped in from elsewhere and withdraw it when needed for electric production or heating. Aliso Canyon is the largest field of its kind west of the Mississippi River. There are around 400 such facilities across the U.S., about 14 in California. Until recently, regulatory oversight of these facilities has been uneven at best.

The exact cause of the Aliso Canyon incident is still being investigated, but all signs point to a problem in the aging, corroded casing of one of over a hundred individual wells at the sprawling site. Neither the utility’s maintenance programs nor the state’s lax enforcement of 1980s-era policies were sufficient to prevent this disaster. But now that’s about to change. Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Climate, Methane, Natural Gas / Also tagged | Comments are closed