The Porter Ranch Gas Leak Means Everybody Has to Use Less Power

The Porter Ranch Gas Leak Means Everybody Has to Use Less Power
Aliso Canyon via Earthworks/Flickr

Californians love conserving things. Like water. Who doesn't love a brown lawn and a nice, refreshing 5-minute shower.

Well, get ready to conserve power this summer. The state warned today that, due to the massive Aliso Canyon gas leak, Southern California could be facing blackouts on 14 days this summer.

Utilities rely heavily on natural gas to produce power. But with the Aliso Canyon storage field offline, it's possible that there won't be enough power on hot days to keep the lights on.

That means that the L.A. Department of Water and Power, and other utilities, will be urging customers to turn up the temperature on their air conditioners, shut down their computers and take other steps to conserve electricity. 

Southern California Gas Co. operates the storage field, which is above Porter Ranch. A well at the field began leaking in October, and eventually spewed about 100,000 tons of methane into the air before it was sealed in February — making it the largest such leak in U.S. history.

Right now, the field is essentially shut down. SoCalGas has been ordered to inspect and reconfigure its wells to make them safer, which could take quite a while.

In a conference call today, Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said that they're starting to think about contingency plans if the facility is still closed next winter, and are even thinking about the summer of 2017.

"We don't want to rush them," Picker said, referring to the state agencies that are responsible for ensuring the safety of the field. "We want them to take their time and do a good job. I am just planning ahead."

The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that this should not result in higher gas or power rates for customers. Picker said that utilities are tracking their costs, and it should be covered by SoCalGas' insurance policies.

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