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Better safety urged for local gas storage fields


A federal task force created following the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak near Porter Ranch issued dozens of recommendations this week aimed at bolstering safety at an underground gas-storage field, including design changes to ensure that a single “point of failure” in a well cannot lead to an uncontrolled leak.

In a nearly 90-page report, the Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety issued 44 recommendations on topics including well integrity, response to a gas leak and reliability of energy supplies.

“No community should have to go through something like the Aliso Canyon leak again,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz wrote in a message included with the report. “The recommendations in this report outline the steps we can take to prevent such an incident in the future. Now, it is up to (the) industry to implement these recommendations in a timely fashion, while state and federal officials develop regulations that enhance the safety of underground storage facilities in the United States.”

The report’s recommendations include a call for new wells to be designed to ensure that a “single point of failure” cannot lead to an uncontrolled flow of leaking gas, and that old “single point-of-failure wells” be phased out. It also called for storage field operators to adopt monitoring programs, integrity tests of wells and leakage surveys.

The document also addresses responses to future large-scale leaks, calling for early creation of a “unified command” structure and advance establishment of emergency air-monitoring plans.

The Aliso Canyon natural gas leak began Oct. 23, 2015, at a Southern California Gas Co. storage facility and forced thousands of residents to relocate temporarily. The leak was shut down 16 weeks later, on Feb. 11.

By that time, the leak had spewed more than 100,000 tons of methane into the air, making it the largest methane leak in U.S. history, according to a study released in February by UC Davis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others.

At the peak of the leak, the amount of methane pouring into the air from the damaged pipe was double the rate of methane emissions from the entire Los Angeles basin, according to the study.

Even after the leak was capped, many residents continued to report health problems such as migraines and respiratory irritation.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) pushed for the creation of the federal task force, and she called the report “an important first step toward protecting our communities from suffering another crisis like the one we saw at Aliso Canyon.”

“The recommendations from this task force would reduce the chance of future gas leaks while also strengthening protections for public health and the environment,” Boxer said.