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The California Public Utilities Commission has opened a probe into Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. to determine whether a penalty will be assessed for a gas leak from 2015 that drove several thousand people in Los Angeles out of their homes.
The Associated Press reports the new probe follows an earlier investigation into the accident that concluded the leak had been the result of pipe corrosion and safety failures, as well as regulatory inadequacies. However, the main blame falls on the company, which had neglected several earlier well failures at its natural gas storage facility in Aliso Canyon. It also failed to take precautions against future ones, the first investigation concluded.
Now, Southern California Gas Co. has 30 days to present a case in its defense. The California PUC is also investigating both SoCalGas and Sempra to determine whether safety is a priority in its corporate culture.
The 2015 Aliso Canyon blowout caused the largest known release of methane from a manmade facility, according to a study by the University of California in Los Angeles. The study found the blowout coincided and mixed up with a number of air pollutants that pose a threat to public health. As a result, residents of the area where the methane release was blown into suffered headaches, nausea, and even nose bleeds.
“More than 300 natural gas storage fields within the United States use depleted oil wells, many of them aging, with very little oversight as to how they should be updated,” said the lead author of the study, Michael Jerrett. “Given the potential for future events like the one that occurred at Aliso Canyon, it’s essential that we continue to learn about the health risks both during these active blowout events and as residents who evacuate return to their homes,” he added.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.