For Immediate Release
As US Energy Secretary Arrives in So Cal, Bay Area Climate Activists Launch Daring Protest Occupation of the California Public Utilities Commission
Protestors say Aliso Canyon disaster is tip of the iceberg; call on the agency to shut down all California gas storage facilities
SAN FRANCISCO - As US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz arrives in Southern California to tour the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility where a months-long gas leak crisis has caused the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes in the community of Porter Ranch, two Bay Area residents have scaled the entrance to the headquarters of the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and are occupying a ledge to protest the PUC’s failure to protect the Golden State from the climate and health impacts of methane from underground natural gas storage facilities.
The protesters have deployed a banner under the large Seal of California on the front of the building.
A well blew out at SoCalGas Aliso Canyon facility near Porter Ranch on October 23, 2015. Since then, 96,000 metric tons of methane has escaped into the atmosphere, the equivalent of an additional 505,000 cars on the road for a year. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more climate-intensive than carbon dioxide; While SoCalGas reported last week that the lead had been plugged, the Aliso Canyon leak has been responsible for 25% of the state’s daily greenhouse gas emissions.
Aliso Canyon is one of 12 underground natural gas storage facilities in California, and one of 326 nationwide that use depleted oil and gas wells for storage for urban customers.
“While plugging the leak at Aliso Canyon has been a good step, today we are demanding that the PUC shut down all gas storage facilities; until they do, we are occupying the PUC,” said Christy Tennery-Spalding from Diablo Rising Tide, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Rising Tide North America.
The PUC, is one of two agencies responsible for oversight of underground natural gas storage facilities. The leaking well had not been inspected since 1976. The CEO of SoCalGas reported to the LA Weekly that a safety valve on the well had been removed in 1979.
“It is unconscionable that these regulators are putting people at risk while giving companies a pass. The last time Aliso Canyon was inspected by the PUC was the last time Jerry Brown was governor," said Kelsey Baker, from Occupy San Francisco Environmental Justice, currently occupying the ledge over the PUC’s headquarters entrance.
SoCalGas is a division of Sempra Energy and uses the Aliso Canyon facility to store natural gas for delivery to 12 natural gas power plants and 21 million consumers in Southern California. Since the blowout, ten thousand of Porter Ranch’s thirty thousand residents have fled the community. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, requiring the several state agencies to take urgent action.
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Rising Tide is a grassroots network of groups and individuals who take direct action to confront the roots causes of climate change and promote local, community-based solutions to the climate crisis. Rising Tide was formed in the Netherlands in 2000 to bring a more radical voice to the COP6 (UN Conference of the Parties) climate talks that attempted (unsuccessfully, largely due to the efforts of the US delegation) to salvage what of substance was left of the Kyoto Protocol. Employing popular education and direct action to address the root causes of climate change with a focus on climate justice, Rising Tide now spans three continents.