Aliso Canyon’s Fate – and Ours – Hangs in the Balance

by Amy Knight, SanDiego350

(Originally published in the San Diego Free Press)

Considered one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history, the record-setting release of methane from SoCal Gas’s Aliso Canyon in October 2015 had both long-term climate altering consequences for the world and immediate health consequences for the people of the greater Los Angeles area. The leak went on for 112 days, emitted 65 billion cubic feet of this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, and prompted the evacuation of more than 6,800 households.

Aliso Canyon Leak

Infrared picture of Aliso Canyon gas leak. Photo courtesy of EDF.

Today, the California public can make their voice heard, can be part of choosing the path we will go down from here. SanDiego350 calls on you to phone Senator Ben Hueso (619-409-7690) and ask him to bring SB 57 up for vote in the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communication Committee – and to vote yes on it. The bill prohibits SoCal Gas from injecting any more natural gas into Aliso Canyon until a root cause analysis of the leak is determined. It also calls on the CPUC to finalize by 12/31/2017 its study that will investigate the feasibility of closing the Aliso Canyon facility. [Read more…]

Lessons from Porter Ranch

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on January 28th, 2016

The massive leak at the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility is a stark example of why natural gas is a significant health and safety risk and not a bridge fuel to our clean energy future. The facility, the second largest in the U.S., stores vast amounts of natural gas at high pressure in underground wells once used for oil extraction more than fifty years ago.

On or about October 23rd a rupture in a 60-year old injection well pipe a thousand feet underground initiated the leak. At its peak the leak had an estimated rate of one-hundred twenty-five thousand pounds of methane per hour. To date, the cumulative emissions from this single source is equivalent to 25% of the state’s annual methane emissions from major sources like agriculture and landfills, equivalent to the annual climate pollution of almost half a million cars. [Read more…]

SDG&E: Solar’s Fake Friend

By Hutton Marshall
Originally published in the
San Diego Free Press on December 10th 2015.

San Diego Gas & Electric, our friendly neighborhood energy provider whether we like it or not, continues to prove that their claims to support clean energy are merely superficial. Especially in regards to solar energy, the most efficient, environmentally friendly energy source available to homes and businesses, SDG&E continues to favor policies that diminish the critical financial incentives that allow San Diegans to generate their own clean energy.

Why would SDG&E want to oppose something that benefits its customers?

Why would SDG&E want to oppose something that benefits its customers and the environment?

Multiple actions this year alone exemplify SDG&E’s anti-solar mindset. The first came earlier this year, when the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ruled to change the way California public utilities like SDG&E charge residents and businesses for electricity.

The most significant change to these rules concerned the tiered rate structure that determines the electricity rate many Californians pay. Before the CPUC ruling, there were four different tiers SDG&E customers fell into, depending on how much electricity they used. Customers falling into the lowest tier paid the lowest rate. Others that [Read more…]

Gov. Brown: Honor service of CPUC Commissioner Ferron

Probably the friendliest commissioner on California’s Public Utilities Commission which makes decisions on energy requirements and what kinds of energy we use in California, FerronMarkJannounced this week he is leaving the PUC because of his battle with cancer. He issued a parting statement that is powerful in calling on the rest of the CPUC to buck the utilities and push for renewable, distributed energy. It’s short, worth reading.

Here’s a 5 minute action you can take: send two emails (press & excerpts from the commissioner’s statement are below the 2 requests):

1) To Commissioner Ferron, thanking him for his service and for his statement. Sample:

Dear Mark Ferron,

I am sorry you must leave the CPUC for health reasons and wish you a full recovery. I wanted to thank you for your forward-looking record as a commissioner and for your public parting statement calling on the CPUC to be vigilant in not letting the utilities obstruct California’s goals for clean energy, a green economy, and addressing climate change. As an activist in San Diego County I will try to use your statement effectively. I hope the Governor appoints a worthy successor. Good luck and thank you again.

2) To the governor, calling on him to walk the walk on climate and appoint a worthy successor to Ferron. Sample:

Dear Governor Brown,

I was saddened to see Commissioner Mark Ferron resign from the CPUC this week due to his health. He was a great appointment by you, and his parting statement was spot on in highlighting the CPUC’s responsibility to navigate California to meet its clean energy and climate change goals even as the utilities battle to maintain their fossil fuel monopolies and “strangle” rooftop solar. As the CPUC considers replacement energy for the shutdown San Onofre plant, the timing could not be more crucial to have a strong voice for a clean energy future on that commission. I urge you to honor Commissioner Ferron’s service and commitment – and your own stated commitment to addressing climate change – by appointing a worthy successor to his position. Nothing would honor him more than appointing a commissioner to carry on his vision for advancing clean energy and climate solutions who would replace Mr. Peevey as the President of the CPUC. Thank you for your consideration.

Local press:

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jan/18/utilities-poisoned-chalice/
http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2014/jan/17/ticker-california-public-utilities-commissioner/
http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/node/14759

http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/government/departing-public-utilities-commissioner-has-strong-words-for-utilities-legislators.html

Excerpt from Ferron’s six parting observations:

1. First, there is no better place to be than California when it comes to energy and climate policy. We all know that there is no real Federal energy or climate policy, thanks in large part to the obstructionists in the Republican Tea Party and their allies in the fossil fuel industry. But in California, we have a clear commitment to green-house gas reductions and are taking bold and exciting steps in advancing renewables, energy storage and Electric Vehicles. (Parenthetically, I do believe that California has lost pace with the best in terms of Energy Efficiency and Demand Response.) We are at an inflection point where the convergence of new technologies, changing economics and, I hope, an added urgency to address our deteriorating climate, will combine to create exciting new business and policy opportunities.

2. We are fortunate to have utilities in California that are orders of magnitude more enlightened than their brethren in the coal-loving states, although I suspect that they would still dearly like to strangle rooftop solar if they could. Modern utilities are subject to a rapidly evolving business environment, and I wonder whether some top managers at our utilities have the ability or the will to understand and control the far-flung and complex organizations they oversee. And I am very worried about our utilities’ commitment to their side of the regulatory compact. We at the Commission need to watch our utilities’ management and their legal and compliance advisors very, very carefully: it is clear to me that the legalistic, confrontational approach to regulation is alive and well. Their strategy is often: “we will give the Commission only what they explicitly order us to give them”. This is cat and mouse, not partnership, so we have to be one smart and aggressive cat.

4. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, with the passage of AB327, the thorny issue of Net Energy Metering and rate design has been given over to the CPUC. But recognize that this is a poisoned chalice: the Commission will come under intense pressure to use this authority to protect the interest of the utilities over those of consumers and potential self-generators, all in the name of addressing exaggerated concerns about grid stability, cost and fairness. You – my fellow Commissioners – all must be bold and forthright in defending and strengthening our state’s commitment to clean and distributed energy generation.