PORTER RANCH, CA – Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo and State Senator Henry Stern - who both represent Porter Ranch in the legislature - today denounced the decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to increase gas storage capacity at the Aliso Canyon facility. The site of the worst gas leak in U.S. history, Governor Newsom previously committed to working towards closing the Aliso Canyon facility, a reaction to the health and safety impacts already endured by the community and the potential for continued safety concerns.
While energy security is important, this shortsighted decision by the CPUC to grant SoCal Gas their request comes without enough information on the premise of that request - they have not shown that increasing the storage at the facility would change the cost of gas for consumers or eliminate price spikes. More importantly, this decision could come at the expense of public safety, environmental integrity, and community health, raising significant concerns about the potential risks and impacts associated with such an expansion.
"As a member of the Utility and Energy Committee, I am committed to lowering gas prices, determining why we saw a price spike earlier this year, and ensuring we meet demand. Given the information I was provided at a recent hearing on this very issue, I am not convinced that increasing storage at Aliso Canyon will accomplish any of these goals. I do, however, know that increasing storage may compromise the safety of our community, as it did in 2015 when we had the biggest gas leak in our country’s history," said Assemblywoman Schiavo. "We cannot afford to ignore the lessons learned from the previous leak, which forced more than 25,000 residents and two schools to evacuate and countless neighbors who still face ongoing health challenges related to their exposure.”
Schiavo continued, “Importantly, we know that when SoCal Gas had adequate storage available last winter, they instead bought gas from other sources at astronomical gas prices and passed those painful costs onto consumers, causing the price spikes we all contended with. When SoCal Gas didn’t use the gas they already had in storage to reduce gas price increases, it makes you wonder why they would now claim they need this storage increase for that same purpose – this doesn’t instill trust that SoCal Gas will protect us from high prices in the future or manage their storage appropriately."
The Aliso Canyon facility has experienced a history of incidents that have had serious consequences for the surrounding communities. Thus, any decision regarding its operations should be based on a thorough and comprehensive assessment of the potential risks, as well as a transparent engagement with the concerns of local residents, and most certainly should not be done simply because the entity who has the most to gain financially by the outcome requested it.
Senator Henry Stern added, “The CPUC’s decision to double down on Aliso without completing its investigation into SoCalGas’ price spikes last winter, without any firm commitment to closure, has left ratepayers and residents in a dangerous kind of limbo. It feels like we’ve just handed the reins to the Gas Company and I don’t believe they’ve earned that trust.”
Last winter, SoCal Gas purchased high cost natural gas rather than tapping into the reserves stored at Aliso Canyon, which does not align with the CPUC’s position that increasing natural gas storage will decrease prices for residents. In fact, there are ongoing CPUC and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission investigations into last winter’s price spike, information that would be critical in establishing if increased storage would in fact have prevented price increases last winter. Instead, the CPUC is simply taking SoCal Gas’ word for it, even though their word is in direct opposition to their actions last winter.
Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo and Senator Henry Stern remain steadfast in their commitment to holding the CPUC accountable for their responsibility to protect our community, SoCal Gas accountable for the gas spikes last winter, and in seeking ways to mitigate potential risks while exploring alternative solutions to meet the energy needs of the state.
Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo was elected to the California State Assembly in November of 2022 to represent the 40th Assembly District, representing the Northwest San Fernando Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley. Upon her election, she was appointed as Assistant Majority Whip by the Speaker of the Assembly. Prior to her election, Assemblywoman Schiavo was a Nurse Advocate and Small Business Owner who worked in the labor movement for more than 20 years. Throughout her career, Assemblywoman Schiavo helped deliver healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, to more than one million people. In the Northwest San Fernando Valley, she co-founded an organization that helped secure housing for Veterans experiencing homelessness, has delivered more than 50,000 meals to people in need, and increased resources to help keep our communities safe. Assemblywoman Schiavo lives in Chatsworth with her daughter Sofia where they love to hike in the Santa Susana Mountains.