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Lives are at stake when funding for the EPA is up for debate.

Can the EPA protect us from Aliso Canyon?

Posted by Barbara Gottlieb on January 21, 2016

Photo by: Earthworks

Will the EPA's proposed regulations protect us from disasters like the massive methane leak from Aliso Canyon?

A lot of people have been asking me that question recently.

Aliso Canyon is the huge natural gas storage facility in southern California that is leaking massively. The leak is so large, its climate impact according to one source is the equivalent of burning 826,610,000-plus gallons of gasoline – and counting. And that doesn't take into account the toxic gases, like benzene, ethylbenzene, and n-hexane, that escape along with the methane.  

Thousands of people have been evacuated, and the governor has declared a state of emergency. 

Not covered by EPA rules

Unfortunately, the EPA regulations now being developed will not apply to storage facilities like Aliso Canyon. Those rules will cover extraction wells and related equipment. It's a start.

Because EPA rules are written in precise technical terms, they can't be applied willy-nilly to other facilities handling gas.

No guarantees

Aliso Canyon is one of those rare but monumental failures that inflict huge costs. We can hope it will be capped soon. Southern California Gas Co. is now saying they will stop the leak "by late February, if not sooner." 

We can hope it never happens again, anywhere, ever. But no one can guarantee that. 

Nor can they guarantee that the industry can fully cap the small but virtually ubiquitous leaks that plague wells, processing equipment, pipelines and compressors across the country. These are the leaks that the EPA rules will begin to address. 

I say "begin," because they don't address pipelines and compressors, which also leak, extending the dangers far from the sites of natural gas extraction.

Replace gas with renewables

As Aliso Canyon demonstrates, natural gas threatens both the climate and human safety and health. What we really have to do is to replace natural gas and all fossil fuels with renewable energy sources like solar and wind. 

Let's get on with the clean energy transition. You can help. Ask for strong implementation of the Clean Power Plan in your state. Tell your governor and state legislators that the future lies in clean, safe, non-toxic, climate-protecting renewable energy and energy efficiency. 

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