Lawmakers eye their own districts' underground gas fields

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As methane pours out of a leaking underground gas storage field near Porter Ranch, local lawmakers are looking with concern at gas fields in their own districts.

Southern California Gas Company operates three underground storage fields in Los Angeles County and one in Santa Barbara County.

The Honor Rancho field is named for the old county jail work farm off I-5 in the Santa Clarita Valley. Congressman Steve Knight represents the area and says he sought out gas company officials "and talked to them about similar issues at Santa Clarita that happened at Aliso Canyon."

Knight made the comment at a special hearing of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee called by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) at Granada Hills Charter High School Thursday evening. He said he had just come from a tour of the Honor Rancho gas field, but he was not specific about any leak or other incident in his speech, or in response to questions sent to him on Friday.

The gas company has assured Santa Clarita city officials and residents that the gas field is safe.

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, who also attended the utilities committee hearing, said she heard concerns about the management of a similar field in Playa del Rey. 

An explosion there in 2013 rocked nearby homes. Flames from the burning well could be seen in Malibu, 20 miles away.

She told the hearing audience she was "horrified" that gas company executives and others would threaten the community with  rolling power blackouts if the field were to be closed and electrical utilities couldn't get enough natural gas to burn.

SoCalGas had one more gas field in Montebello. It was a long-standing source of controversy and litigation dating from the 1970s over leaks and other problems from the oil field that was converted to gas storage. At least five homes were torn down because of contamination. Several community groups sued, and in a 2000 settlement, SoCalGas agreed to close the field.


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