Aliso Canyon gas storage site may reopen after public hearings. Photo courtesy of Southern California Gas Co.
A California oil and gas regulator said it could reopen a storage site that was the source of a durable gas leak, but not until after public hearings.
California regulators and the Southern California Gas Co. said a faulty well at the Aliso Canyon storage facility was permanently sealed with cement and taken out of service in mid-February. The site near Los Angeles had been leaking since late October 2015.
The state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources said it completed a safety review of the facility on Tuesday
"A decision about whether injection of gas into the storage facility can resume will not occur until a public meeting is held and the public has an opportunity to comment on the findings of the comprehensive safety review," the regulator said.
Meetings are scheduled for early February. In a letter sent following the safety review, the division said Southern California Gas, known also as SoCalGas, can reopen the site, but capped its capacity at about 20 percent less than the company requested.
In an overview of testing and producers, the state said wells must be permanently plugged or repaired within a year. The methane gas leak from the Aliso Canyon site sickened many of the area's residents.
Methane is a non-toxic greenhouse gas that's more potent than carbon dioxide.
In response to the state decision, SoCalGas said it welcomed the public input on Aliso Canyon, but defended the site as a vital energy asset.
"The state's energy experts and independent third parties have concluded, in three consecutive technical assessments, that Aliso Canyon is needed to meet the region's natural gas and electricity needs," it said.
No cause has been determined for the leak at the site.
California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 signed an executive order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from their 1990 levels by 2030, which the government is the most ambitious target in North America.